Burnaby outreach centre sees increase in families seeking services

The number of individuals seeking services like food banks and hot meals has increased somewhat during the pandemic, but one service provider says the major increase has been from families.

Since March, the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the economy, spurring widespread closures of businesses to curb the spread of the virus. That has prompted millions of applications for CERB, an alternative to employment insurance rolled out in April.

Without things like CERB and B.C.’s evictions moratorium, Carol-Ann Flanagan, with the Society to End Homelessness in Burnaby, said service providers were spared the full potential of the economic downturn and the spike in demand for services that would have followed.

But that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been an increase in people seeking those services. Flanagan pointed to the society’s outreach resource centre. The centre opens every Thursday morning at Southside Community Church (7135 Walker Ave.) and, announced last week, every Monday morning at St. Timothy Anglican Church (4550 Kitchener St.).

There, patrons can access food bank bags, harm reduction supplies and meals, and they can see an outreach worker.

“We are used to seeing 100, 120 people a week on that one morning,” she said. “But now I’m also seeing more families, and that’s because of COVID.”

In all of July, the centre saw 538 single patrons, along with 74 families.

April, on the other hand, was an outlier in the opposite direction – the centre only saw about 160 the entire month.

“Everybody was frightened. A lot of people have health issues, and so they’re compromised, so they could not come,” she said.

April’s numbers average out to around 40 people per week. By comparison, the centre saw about 100 singles and 25 families in the first week of August.

“So as we go from Phase 1, Phase 2, Phase 3 (of reopening), people are coming out, and people are seeking services,” Flanagan said.

© Burnaby Now

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