New "Rural Homelessness and COVID-19 Project" Launched

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 10:58

Rural Homelessness and COVID-19

The Columbia Basin Rural Development Institute, in collaboration with Selkirk College's Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, undertook a project that aimed to improve the well-being of people experiencing homelessness in West Kootenay communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Working in partnership with community-based social sector organizations, the project had three primary objectives: 

  1. Mobilize college resources to enhance the impact of regional COVID-19 response efforts targeting vulnerable populations.
  2. Conduct research that allows partner organizations to make evidence-based decisions on how to prioritize and structure services, programs and policies designed to help the target population meet its health, housing, financial, emotional and social needs during the pandemic.
  3. Facilitate collaboration between organizations and communities to transfer lessons, avoid duplication, and make best use of limited resources.

The project ran from June 2020 to June 2021 and was made possible through funding provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. Project activities in the summer and fall of 2020 included providing street outreach services, conducting research to learn more about service user needs during the pandemic, and facilitating a flow of information and capacity between West Kootenay communities. Activities in the winter and spring of 2021 were informed by needs discovered through the initial research process. Those involved the gathering and communication of health information specific to at-risk populations, supporting activities of project partners that reduce isolation and stigma that have been exacerbated through COVID, and conducting additional research to help social service providers recover from COVID-19 in a way that builds resilience for future emergencies. 

Project Reports and Resources

Service User Survey Results

This report presents the results of a survey conducted in September 2020 by this project's street outreach teams. The survey asked users of social services about their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, including how their access to services changed, how those changes have affected their well-being, and whether new or modified services offered during the early stages of the pandemic were helpful. Results will inform future project activities, including Selkirk College’s efforts to work alongside community partners to develop and deliver services that respond to the evolving context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Summary of Educational Session: Addressing Vaccine Hesitancy on the Front Lines

In March 2021, Selkirk College partnered with the Nelson Committee on Homelessness to provide an online educational session to social service providers in the West Kootenay region. Drawing on the expertise of a Selkirk College Nursing instructor and a local Nurse Practitioner, the session provided objective information on COVID-19 vaccines and offered tips for communicating with vaccine-hesitant clients. 

Service Provider Survey Results

This presentation summarizes results from a survey of social service providers in the West Kootenay region. The survey aimed to understand the success of various organizational adaptation strategies adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the intent of informing how agencies deliver services during the ongoing pandemic, as well as how they plan for future emergencies. 

REDUN Online Art Gallery

This component of the project was delivered in collaboration with the Rural Empowered Drug Users Network (REDUN), an initiative of project partner, ANKORS. REDUN peers gathered to create art and share their experiences as a member of a vulnerable group navigating the pandemic. An online gallery was developed to share results. The initiative addressed findings from the Service User Survey which indicated that people experiencing homelessness and addictions were challenged as a result of higher rates of isolation and stigma during COVID-19.