May 25, 2020
Dixon Hall’s Rooming House Project Members Step Up to Help During COVID-19
When you live in a rooming house, sharing a kitchen and bathroom with several other people, practicing physical distancing can be especially difficult. Many of those in our Rooming House Project are also dealing with other limitations such as food insecurity, health challenges, or a lack of family support. So, our team has been especially heartened to see tenants coming together to support each other during these challenging times.
Thanks to donations from the community, the Rooming House Project has been able to provide clients with cleaning supplies and information on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their shared living spaces. Tenant representatives have also stepped up to pick up and distribute these supplies to help manage the number of people running errands for the houses.
Several of the tenant reps have also begun to pick up breakfast or dinner for their neighbours at the Dixon Hall community meals, ensuring that everyone has regular access to nutritious food while staying inside.
Wayne Lapointe is a tenant representative in his rooming house. He saw picking up meals as an easy thing he could do to be helpful. “Otherwise, they were coming themselves,” he says, “If everyone came from the house there’d be ten people showing up. There’s just me, one, so there’s no crowds.”
Lapointe has also been learning how to attend virtual meetings on his tablet, one of 25 donated to the Rooming House Project by Rogers, in order to stay connected and continue to meet with community programs while practicing physical distancing.
Jennifer Moxon, who is the Manager of Community Development for The Rooming House Project, hopes more people will consider donating gently-used tablets, cell phones or other devices to the program. Right now, not all of the residents have access to cell phones or tablets, so staying connected while practicing physical distancing is a challenge.
Steve Clegg, who has also volunteered to deliver meals to others living in his house, sees the lack of technology and the isolation some residents experience as a real barrier. When news of the coronavirus first started to spread, he had people from the houses walking up to him in the park and not understanding why he asked them to keep a distance. “There’s an assumption that everyone has TV or the internet. There are a lot of people who didn’t even know at the beginning that there was a pandemic going on,” he says.
Clegg, who has access to a vehicle, is able to pick up multiple meals and take them back to his fellow tenants, which means the residents don’t have to take public transit to pick up a meal. “It just makes everyone safer,” he says. He has also been donating some of his food to a neighbour, who was collecting empties for cash to supplement his income. Clegg knew that wasn’t safe right now and wanted to help.
The programs he has access to now are helping everyone in the community stay safe in a difficult time. “I’m very grateful to Dixon Hall,” says Clegg. “Because you don’t see the government addressing rooming houses and how much of a challenge that is for people living there.”