COVID spurred greater cooperation between orgs in Burnaby: advocate

A Burnaby homeless advocate says she’s seen exceptional levels of cooperation between service providers, as the coronavirus pandemic adds more and more pressure on the organizations.

Carol-Ann Flanagan, coordinator of the city’s task force to end homelessness, said she’s been seeing more people seeking services during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has locked down or significantly hampered large chunks of the economy.

“One thing that warms my Burnaby citizen heart is how all the different service providers – how we’re all working together, like really working together,” Flanagan said, particularly speaking of the newly added services at the outreach resources centre (ORC).

One particular service Flanagan highlighted was the addition of a wireless internet hotspot at the ORC, provided by the Burnaby Public Library – the library has also beefed up the Wi-Fi at library branches to be accessible from the outside.

After the first week, one patron brought a “little, pretty old” computer to the ORC and plugged in.

“He was able to power it and send emails back east. He hadn’t heard from his relatives for almost three months,” Flanagan said. “This was a way for him to communicate and find out if everybody was well. They were, but they had no word from him, either.”

Flanagan also noted other services that have been made available at the ORC, from a nurse practitioner from the Burnaby Divisions of Family Practices to haircuts every couple of weeks to a foot care nurse once or twice a month to housing assistance.

“So everybody has come together,” Flanagan said. “It was at week one, when things closed. Everybody was calling each other and working with each other. We’re all, ‘OK what can you do. OK, what can we do?’”

She added politicians from the provincial and federal governments, and city council have come to the ORC to help make or serve meals.

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