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

This Version Posted: June 26, 2020

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.  

Gatherings of People

To slow the spread of COVID-19, restrictions are in place on the number of people who can attend large gatherings. As of June 12, Ontario is increasing the limit on social gatherings from five to 10 people.

General Tips
  • Access  short Health Unit video modules  on how to prepare your workplace/organization for COVID-19. 
  • Know what to do if your staff or client has COVID-19 symptoms, or been in close contact with someone who  has been confirmed. Use the Ontario Ministry of Health’s Self-Assessment Tool to help determine what you should do. 
  • Maintain a clean and safe environment 
  • Staff and volunteers MUST stay home when sick 
  • Practise regular and frequent hand washing/sanitizing 
  • Practise physical distancing 
  • Increase surface cleaning/ disinfection especially on high-touch surfaces 
  • Practise respiratory etiquette 
  • Post information and insist staff, volunteers and clients cough or sneeze into the elbow, sleeve or tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash hands. 
  • Clients/participants MUST NOT share items (e.g. drinking cups, utensils) 
  • Develop an organizational plan in the event COVID-19 is spreading in the community. Consider how to:  protect staff; protect those clients more vulnerable to COVID-19 (seniors 65+ and those with compromised immune system); provide isolation opportunities for those who require it; modify service delivery based on staff capacity; and reduce fear, barriers, and stigma around COVID-19 by providing credible information. 
  • Contact 211 Community Support to find/search government and community-based services during COVID-19.  Call or text 2-1-1 day or night to find support for all of life’s challenges. Live Chat also available Monday to Friday from 7 am to 9 pm. 

For Homeless Shelters and Service Providers 

For Food Banks/Food Program Providers 

In your Food Program Location: 

  • Each food bank or food program is set up differently. Change the layout to reduce contact between clients 
  • Pre-pack food boxes or bags and pass out food at the door 
  • Stagger arrivals and departures to reduce client contact 
  • Remove client wait areas. Get people to wait outdoors, standing at least 2 metres apart. 
  • Practise physical distancing. Keep at least two meters away from each other, especially if someone may be sick. 
  • Consider safe delivery options to get food to high-risk clients 
  • 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 at additional times or days so clients are spread out.  
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick. Clients who are ill MUST stay home and have a friend or neighbour pick up their food or meal items instead.  

Remember Safe Food Handling 

  • Temporarily postpone any food demos or cooking classes. Do not serve food and beverages 
  • Stay at home and away from others if you’re feeling ill 
  • Increase access to handwashing stations  
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, using single use paper towel to dry hands and to close taps 
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer  
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, all phones, counters, handles on cabinets, fridges, utility or grocery carts, pens, computers stations, etc. 
  • Do not allow clients to handle food items. Let staff/volunteers do this for clients 
  • Remind staff, volunteers and clients to sneeze or cough into their sleeves 

Food Distribution Considerations: 

  • Consider if your organization can provide service to individuals in isolation or quarantine, such as dropping off meals or supplies 
  • Consider pre-packing food boxes or bags and pass out food at the door 
  • Pre-bag produce to limit direct touching 
  • Create an alternate delivery system such as a drive-through where clients pull up in their cars and volunteers deliver a prepackaged bag to them 
  • Mobile food distribution could be considered to deliver food to clients who are ill 
  • Prepare and plan for operations with a reduced workforce and fewer volunteers 
  • Plan to reduce services, but also anticipate when you may need to ramp them up 

Additional Resources

Download and print resources below:

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