Rural Homelessness and COVID-19: Assessing Needs, Mobilizing Resources, and Facilitating Collaboration

Macdonald, Terri-Lynn | $50,000

British Columbia Selkirk College 2020 NSERC College COVID-19 Grant

People experiencing homelessness are disproportionately affected by the COVID‑19 pandemic. Impacts stem

from the vulnerability of this population to the novel coronavirus-as crowded living conditions and underlying

health issues increase the risk of both contracting the virus and suffering complications-but also from the effect

of health agency directives on the availability of services related to housing, food, health, finances, and

emotional/social needs. Social service organizations in the rural West Kootenay region of British Columbia

have expressed a need for Selkirk College to assist in developing a detailed understanding of service gaps

affecting people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic, as well as help to design and deliver

programs or policies that respond to those gaps. Our region which, like many rural areas, is characterized by

low-capacity organizations and fragmented geographies, also needs help to coordinate responses across

organizational and community lines, thereby facilitating peer learning, reducing duplication, and improving the

overall impact of local efforts. Our project responds to these needs by rapidly mobilizing College-based

capacity to 1) assess the state of well-being among the target population and identify critical service or

information gaps, 2) conduct research on best, promising, and emergent practices to identify innovative

solutions to these gaps, 3) expand street outreach services offered by the College’s Bachelor of Science in

Nursing program, adapt these services to the evolving landscape of the pandemic, and use them to assist with

delivery of new information or programs, and 4) building a regional network of stakeholders to facilitate peer

learning and coordinate a regional response. We will work alongside our partners to undertake this work with

the overall goal of improving the well-being of West Kootenay residents experiencing homelessness during the

COVID‑19 pandemic.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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