Hotels in tourism hotspots shelter vulnerable people during pandemic

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by The CMA Foundation staff

Niagara Falls and Quebec City are both cities usually inundated by tourists. But with COVID-19 keeping many vacationers at home, hotels are providing much-needed temporary housing for vulnerable people in their communities.  

“We’ve really seen a surge of demand within homelessness services as a result of COVID-19,” said Margaret Penca, manager of homelessness services for Niagara Region.

She explained that collaborating services such as corrections, mental health services and shelters for women fleeing domestic violence are under strain. In addition, increased pressures on hospitals and strict social distancing requirements in shelters have left many people with no place to go.

The CMA Foundation’s $10 million COVID-19 Community Response Fund for Vulnerable Populations is helping 73 communities across Canada. Learn more.

With funding from the CMA Foundation, several cities have been able to keep vulnerable people safe by converting unused hotel rooms into housing. These include:

  • Quebec City: A small portion of the $226,000 in funding for the city is providing overnight stays for people who cannot find accommodation.
  • Peel Region: $98,000 in funding is helping create overflow space at local hotels so regional shelters can adhere to physical distancing protocols by limiting their capacity to 50%.
  • Niagara Region: $62,500 in funding is being used to provide emergency shelter in hotels until March 2021.

Penca said the program is about more than housing; by helping to isolate people with underlying health conditions, who are more susceptible to COVID-19, it is also keeping them healthy.

“Our ultimate goal is to end chronic homelessness and establish permanent housing,” said Penca. “This has to be part of a broader strategy.”