Expo Centre makeshift shelter running smoothly after ‘hectic’ start

EDMONTON — It has been two weeks since the Edmonton Expo Centre was turned into a makeshift shelter to protect the homeless from the COVID-19 threat, and things are running smoothly following a chaotic start, the doctor in charge said.

The Alberta government, in partnership with the city and Homeward Trust, opened the Edmonton Expo Centre to the most vulnerable population on March 23 after petitions from Mayor Don Iveson and opposition leader Rachel Notley.

“It’s going much better. The first few weeks were very hectic,” said Dr. Jackie Liu with the Boyle McCauley Health Centre.

The makeshift shelter was divided into two areas: one for drop-in services every day from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., and another for self-isolation.

On Tuesday, 685 people used the drop-in services and as of Wednesday morning there were 62 people in self-isolation — although officials will not confirm how many of them have COVID-19.

“As we pass the two-week mark, we’ve actually had people leaving isolation,” Liu said.

There are cleaning measures in place, including sanitizing the portable showers and toilets, and making sure they’re used appropriately.

To pass the time, guests are watching movies, reading books and making crafts.

“I think the vast majority of people are very thankful to be here,” Liu said.

“We are getting to know each other very well … we’re getting to be a tight knit little family over here working, cause we are seeing a lot of each other.”​