Homeless with COVID-19: How a global health grad is helping
Eilish Scallan, who is currently on a break from her medical school clinical duties due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has been involved with a number of local organizations and initiatives aimed at supporting frontline workers and vulnerable communities during this crisis. Specifically, the MSc Global Health graduate has been helping to recruit student volunteers for an isolation centre in Hamilton which has set up for people experiencing homelessness who test positive for COVID-19.
“People experiencing homelessness are particularly at risk during this crisis,” says Scallan. “Many foodbanks have closed, and shelters are increasingly crowded, making social distancing an impossibility,” she says. “These challenges compound the fact that people without stable housing often have underlying medical conditions that place them further at risk.”
Scallan says she has also seen cases of police ticketing people in the community for not observing social distancing rules – which she says is not an adequate solution.
The isolation site has been set up to provide emergency shelter at a community centre, for people who are homeless and test positive for COVID-19. Supported by city staff and volunteers around the clock, the centre offers space for men, women, and families, with beds adequately spaced so people can adhere to proper distancing measures.
Staff from the City of Hamilton are leading this effort, with Scallan supporting recruitment of volunteers across a range of health professions including nursing, medicine, midwifery, and social work.
Scallan is working with organizations including the Shelter Health Network, the Hamilton Social Medicine Response Team, and Keeping Six to engage medical students in their community response.
“There’s been a lot of passion from students,” she says. And, while this isolation centre is an incredible response, she explains that the challenge of preventing transmission remains.
“People need to be supported with the means to socially distance with dignity,” she says, explaining that the city has been working to provide hotel rooms and needs to continue to do so.
Scallan has also supported the recruitment of volunteers for a rest/hygiene centre that has been set up at St. Patrick’s Church. This centre supports people in the community who are not displaying symptoms but need a warm place to use the washroom and have a snack.
“It’s been incredible to see our community come together so strongly in this time,” says Scallan. “Public health crises always disproportionately affect our vulnerable communities, and I’m hopeful that we will learn from this challenge and make some real systems changes.”
In addition to her outreach work, Scallan is completing a research elective, looking at pandemic planning for people who are experiencing homelessness, by examining past outbreaks (SARS, influenza) and doing a jurisdictional scan of current responses to the COVID-19 crisis across Canada.
Interested in getting involved with outreach efforts in Hamilton?
Scallan encourages the people of Hamilton to use social meda to share how they think #HamiltonStandsTogether, to make financial donations to community services if they are able, and to keep staying home.
Download the Keeping Six poster, which people have been printing and hanging in their windows in Hamilton.
Connect with Eilish Scallan directly at email@example.comStudent and Alumni Profiles