Image of a person being handed over a bowl of hot food at a homeless shelter

This Version Posted: February 8, 2021

It’s essential to slow the spread of COVID-19, especially to vulnerable clients. If you are a service provider working with vulnerable clients, you can access link/resources below to protect the health of staff, volunteers and clients.  

General Tips

For Homeless Shelters and Service Providers 

For Food Banks/Food Program Providers 

If you are feeling ill, stay at home and away from others

Practise Physical Distancing: 

  • Change the layout of your centre so there is enough space for staff, volunteers and clients to maintain physical distance
  • Remove client wait areas. Get people to wait outdoors (weather permitting). Use pylons or tape spaced 2 metres apart to guide clients on where to stand in line. 
  • Mark or assign work stations so that staff/volunteers can maintain a 2-metre distance apart.
  • Limit the number of clients in the centre at one time.
  • Stagger arrivals and departures to reduce client contact.
  • Allow staff and volunteers to fill out any forms or paperwork on behalf of clients. (NOTE: Clients must be able to view and verbally verify the information documented is correct. Staff and volunteers cannot sign on behalf of a client.)  
  • Extend hours or open on additional days so clients can be spread out.  

Practise Hand Hygiene and Respiratory Etiquette 

  • Wash hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer often. Do this before and after receiving items and making packages for delivery.
  • Provide alcohol-based hand sanitizer (60-90% concentration) and tissues at all entrances and work stations.
  • Remind staff, volunteers and clients to sneeze or cough into the bend of their elbow or into a tissue. Used tissue must be thrown  into the trash. Wash or sanitize hands after.

Wear Masks/Face Coverings

  • Wear a mask or face covering. NOTE: Face coverings must be worn inside public spaces.
  • Develop a policy and protocols for your organization on mask use.
  • Educate staff and volunteers on proper use and disposal of masks.

Increasing Cleaning and Disinfecting

  • Increase surface cleaning and disinfecting on high-touch surfaces (E.g. doorknobs, light switches, all phones, counters, handles on cabinets, fridges, utility or grocery carts, pens, computers stations, etc.) 
  • Use only disinfectants that have an 8-digit Drug Identification Number (DIN). The DIN means a product is approved by Health Canada for use in this country. Click here for a specific list of hard-surface disinfectants that are known to be effective against COVID-19. Chlorine bleach may also be used as a disinfectant.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions for the safe use of products for cleaning or disinfecting. This includes ensuring disinfectants are left on surfaces/items for the proper length of time to be effective.  

Food Distribution Considerations: 

  • Contact the client ahead of time to arrange a delivery/pickup time.
  • Let staff and volunteers handle the food for clients. Pre-pack food boxes or bags based on clients’ wishes and pass out food at the door. Food boxes or bags may need to be smaller or lighter for easier delivery/carrying.
  • If delivering packages for clients:
    • Wash or sanitize hands before the delivery.
    • Drop off the package at the client’s door without entering their home.
    • If staff/volunteer must enter the home, put on a mask before entering.  Avoid touching surfaces in the client’s home.  Maintain 2m distance from other people in the home. Wash or sanitize hands when leaving the client’s home. 

Additional Resources

Download and print resources below:

Fact Sheet: Take Care of Yourself and Each Other – Public Health Ontario