When word hit the news that the first cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in Winnipeg, it left Winnipeggers wondering what would happen next. Would our families be safe? Would there be enough supplies? How many people would fall ill?
For those of us who work and volunteer in the Point Douglas neighbourhood area, we also wondered how it would affect our community. Would people find the supplies and resources that they require? Would people be able to access the supports they need to stay healthy?
Many of these questions still remain unanswered, as only time will tell how the pandemic will play out in Manitoba. One thing is for certain though – non-profit organizations based in Point Douglas have responded and adapted to the current situation at a swift and steady pace, in order to continue to provide the best possible care for families.
It’s been a process for The Winnipeg Boldness Project to find its place in the midst of a pandemic, as we’re not a direct service provider, yet we still play an important helping role in the neighbourhood. How do we view our greatest skills and assets—community collaboration and knowledge mobilization—playing a part in helping navigate the current situation our society is facing?
One of the ways we will positively contribute is by sharing some of the great work that our partners are doing; both for the purposes of building awareness, and also to demonstrate the resiliency of Point Douglas. As you’ll read in our first article, it’s no surprise to anyone that our community has responded in the way it has – selflessly and dependably working to make sure that families are supported when they need it most.
We’ll be interviewing and profiling a different community organization, group or individual each week with the intent to share a different viewpoint than you’ll find in the mainstream media – a community perspective on the current situation surrounding COVID-19, and beyond.
We decided to start with Mount Carmel Clinic, a community health centre based in the Point Douglas neighbourhood that was also the first of its kind to open in Canada. They have been serving the community for almost 100 years, providing person-centred health care and a wide-spectrum of community resources from a harm reduction lens.
We had the opportunity to chat with Bobbette Shoffner, Mount Carmel Clinic’s executive director, who has been leading the organization for close to a decade now. Up until a few days ago, Mount Carmel Clinic was acting as a community screening site for COVID-19, a role that the clinic did not hesitate to fill in order to help prevent the spread of the virus. This meant shifting resources and modifying or cancelling much of the clinic’s regular programming to meet this new need and follow provincial social distancing guidelines.
“When we engage in a relationship it’s inclusive, we get together, we eat together, we do all of those things. And we have just completely cut that off. ‘How do we support our folks in [this] new way?’ is really the biggest question. And I think we’ve found some new ways, but I just don’t know if we know yet that it’s working.”
What Shoffner is referencing here is a fundamental shift in the way that services are delivered, due to the necessity of keeping people safe. The Winnipeg Boldness Project often highlights a promising practice for direct service work: the Child Centred Model—a way of working that is shared amongst organizations in the Point Douglas neighbourhood, including Mount Carmel Clinic—which prioritizes values such as inclusivity, flexibility, and self-determination. In a COVID-19 world, following these best practices becomes extremely difficult and requires some creative and innovative problem solving.
Some of the rapid and novel adjustments to programming at Mount Carmel Clinic include: setting up a counselling-by-phone line for community members to speak directly to a social worker, sharing video teachings from the clinic’s resident Elder through Facebook, and leaning on the clinic’s outreach teams to provide care packages, harm reduction supplies, and other needed supports to families in the community. On the primary health side of things, the clinic is focusing on over-the-phone care, but appointments are still happening for urgent matters.
Shoffner notes that staff have been steadfast in their commitment to the clinic’s patients and the community’s needs.
“This is a disease that is killing people, and the amount of courage that I’ve seen from people, both from a show-up-everyday perspective, and from a stay-away perspective. Because it’s equally as hard to stay away sometimes, as it is to come in. […] People are so willing to walk into the fire for each other.”
In addition to a coming together of staff to innovate and modify services, Mount Carmel Clinic has seen much adjustment from the community as well. Residents of the neighbourhood have largely adapted to this new way of delivering services and are acclimating to the changes just as quickly as the organization itself. Shoffner, however, still worries that we might not yet be seeing the full effects of the pandemic on the community.
“I’m worried about what is happening that we don’t know about in our communities. […] We’re not in touch with our communities as much as we used to be. They can’t walk in the door like they used to. […] From a broad community perspective – what’s happening, and what do they need now, and what are they going to need when this is over?”
This is an important question, and one that we may not be able to answer for some time. As members of a community who are concerned for the wellbeing of our families, friends, and neighbours, you may be asking yourself what you can do to help those in need. According to Shoffner, the best way to help is to pay attention to what’s happening in the community, and check-in on each other.
“Our folks have a lot of things going on in their lives, and I’m not sure where COVID-19 ranks on that, but at the end of the day it could affect them too. Our families are already isolated often, and it’s even more of a time to check-in on each other, talk to each other, text each other, call each other, Facebook each other, and help each other stay away, but [stay] connected.”
To learn more about Mount Carmel Clinic, please visit their website at www.mountcarmel.ca