The BC Temporary Rental Supplement (BC-TRS program) has now ended. For program information: BC-TRS

COVID-19

The BC Centre for Disease Control along with local health authorities continue to monitor the current situation with COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

illustration for COVID-19 virus

Covid-19: Operations Manual - NEW!

Full document: Covid-19: Operations Manual (PDF - 526 KB)

What is BC Housing doing?

BC Housing is working with the Province of BC, BC's health authorities, the BC Centre for Disease Control, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and other partners to monitor COVID-19.

How BC Housing has helped British Columbians during the COVID-19 pandemic

Here is a glimpse of some of the items that BC Housing staff and partners have successfully implemented:

  • Created COVID-19 safety processes for our residential buildings, buildings operated by non-profit housing providers, shelters and other temporary housing
  • Deployed cots and blankets to communities and shelter locations to support physical distancing efforts
  • Set-up temporary lodging (Emergency Response Centers and hotels) in locations around the province where people in shelters and those living on the streets can physically distance more easily
  • Developed two COVID-19 websites to share information with staff and external stakeholders
  • Set-up temporary lodging for fire and flood victims, which occurred during COVID response
  • Developed a new Temporary Rental Supplement, and received and processed supplements for more than 76,000 people in less than one month
  • Received more than 100,000 calls to our Applicant Services team
  • Arranged meal delivery services to support vulnerable residents living in Single Room Occupancies, BC Housing owned buildings and buildings operated by non-profit housing providers who had lost access to their regular supports (i.e., food banks) or couldn’t venture out to grocery stores
  • Arranged deep cleaning services for Single Room Occupancies, BC Housing owned buildings and buildings operated by non-profit housing providers
  • Developed a centralized purchasing, shipping and receiving station to supply Personal Protective Equipment to our own staff and those of non-profit housing providers
  • Developed a rent abatement program for subsidized tenants, and worked with the Residential Tenancy Office on policies to assist others
  • Acquired and deployed sleeping pods to temporary shelters that provide physical shielding to support the health, dignity and well-being of people residing in shelters
  • Provided temporary indoor housing for everyone who was living at Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver, and are in the process of doing the same for those living at Topaz Park and along Pandora Avenue in Victoria

How we are reducing risk to our tenants and staff

As British Columbians work to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, the Province is taking swift action to protect vulnerable people, including those experiencing homelessness, in communities around British Columbia.

Initial actions include:

  • a ban on evictions for non-payment of rent in BC Housing-funded buildings;
  • the development of distinct protocols and identification of sites to support isolation for vulnerable people experiencing homelessness – sheltered or unsheltered – and those in private single room occupancy (SROs) and social housing buildings;
  • sustaining service providers through continued payments to ensure they can pay their staff and operating costs; and
  • centralized procurement for critical supplies needed by frontline providers, including gloves and cleaning products.

“Frontline workers are working tirelessly to ensure that vulnerable residents are protected across the province, recognizing the significant added risks that vulnerable people face in the context of the COVID-19 crisis,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “We are committed to making sure these frontline workers have the support they need to do their job – whether that’s in the form of safe spaces for people who need isolation or personal protective equipment for staff working in the field. We are all in this together.”

Recognizing that vulnerable people in different circumstances face distinct risks, a provincial Vulnerable Population Working Group is working to identify, assess and address the immediate challenges faced in particular by five groups – people living on the street, people experiencing homelessness living in encampments, shelter residents, tenants of private SROs and tenants in social and supportive housing buildings.

This working group includes representatives from the ministries of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Social Development and Poverty Reduction, Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Mental Health and Addictions, Children and Family Development, Health, as well as Emergency Management BC, the City of Vancouver, the Office of the Provincial Health Officer, local health authorities, BC Housing and Community Living BC.

Isolation protocols are being developed in partnership with local governments and health authorities based on the needs of vulnerable residents in each region. While in some situations self-isolation may be possible within a unit, additional locations have been identified throughout the province for those situations where off-site isolation of one or more people is required. In addition, recognizing that many providers have identified difficulty in sourcing necessary medical and cleaning supplies, BC Housing is now procuring personal protective equipment needed by frontline workers on a central basis and is distributing them directly to housing providers.

“While all of us are feeling the effects of the COVID-19 crisis, there is no doubt that our most vulnerable populations including the homeless and the working poor are disproportionately affected,” said Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “We are working together with our partners at every level of government and in the social services sector to find safe and efficient ways to provide supports to the people who need them the most as quickly as possible.” 

Recognizing that many residents may face challenges in making rent payments as a result of COVID-19, BC Housing has implemented a moratorium on eviction for non-payment of rent in their directly managed properties and is also working with non-profit housing providers around the province to do the same. In addition, the process of applying for a rent reduction is being streamlined for tenants who have lost income as a result of COVID-19, including changing the rules to remove the requirement for proof that the decrease in income is permanent.

People experiencing homelessness often have higher rates of health concerns, and as a result could be at greater risk if exposed to COVID-19. For that reason, enhanced screening and cleaning protocols are in place at residential facilities to reduce the potential that this virus can spread within the building and beyond. To support partners’ efforts, BC Housing is also working closely with the Ministry of Health, the provincial health officer, local health authorities, the BC Non-Profit Housing Association and the Aboriginal Housing Management Association to ensure non-profit providers can protect their guests and residents. This includes providing training and support in encouraging social distancing, best practices in building cleaning and maintenance, identification of on- and off-site isolation spaces, and access to testing and other services.

Learn More:

For more information on BC Housing’s eviction and rent adjustment policy, visit:  Covid-19 Bulletin - Housing Providers - Rent Adjustment Notification

Below are steps that have are being taken to mitigate and prepare for potential impacts.

Educating employees

An internal employee intranet site has been created to support BC Housing employees in relation to COVID-19. Posters have also been placed in all BC Housing managed buildings and offices. Employees are being reminded of ways to stop the spread of viruses, such as:

  • Frequent and proper handwashing with soap and water
  • Using alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available
  • Covering nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing and sneezing
  • Throwing away used tissues immediately and washing hands afterward
  • Avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth
  • Remaining at home when sick

In addition to these sound hygiene measures, staff have also been advised to avoid unnecessary contact with others. Social distancing is being encouraged, such as avoiding handshakes and maintaining personal space – particularly from people who are coughing or sneezing. Staff are reducing potential contact through steps such as cancelling all air travel for business as well as other non-essential travel, calling-in to meetings when possible, and cancelling or postponing events and gatherings. Technology, such as videoconferencing and teleconferencing, is being used to ensure work continues without increasing unnecessary risk.

Closing some in-person services

As a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and support the safety of clients and employees, BC Housing is temporarily closing some in-person services.

  • Home Office reception (Suite 1700-4555 Kingsway, Burnaby, BC)
  • Applicant Services storefront (Suite 101-4555 Kingsway, Burnaby, BC)
  • Licensing & Consumer Services reception and digital kiosk (Suite 203-4555 Kingsway, Burnaby, BC)
  • Receptions at BC Housing regional offices:
    • Interior Region Office (451 Winnipeg Street, Penticton, BC)
    • Lower Mainland Directly Managed Office (Suite 510-369 Terminal Avenue, Vancouver, BC)
    • Northern Region Office (1380-2nd Avenue, Prince George, BC)
    • Vancouver Island Region Office (Suite 201-3440 Douglas Street, Victoria, BC)
  • Supportive Housing Services - Orange Hall (297 East Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC)

Additional safety measures

When social distancing or avoiding contact is not possible (e.g., for those working in storefronts, housing sites, construction sites, out in the community, and in other front line roles), a number of precautions have been put in place. These safety measures include wearing masks, gloves or other personal protective equipment, and other procedures designed to reduce the spread of viruses such as physical protective barriers in storefronts.

Enhanced cleaning protocols

Housing buildings and public buildings

To minimize the risk of spreading the virus, enhanced cleaning is taking place in all BC Housing managed buildings and public storefront/offices. The same recommendations have been provided to all service and housing providers. Enhanced cleaning is focused on disinfecting common areas, such as elevators and common amenity spaces, and high touch points, such as door handles and counter tops. Additional information about enhanced cleaning protocols is available HERE.

Work Area Cleaning

An approved disinfectant spray or disinfectant cleaning wipes have been provided for all BC Housing work areas. Rated effective against coronavirus, these products are being used to disinfect work spaces, phones and other high-touch items, such as door handles and counters.

Supports for Housing Providers

Information has been created and shared with all of our housing and service providers to assist them to prepare and react to COVID-19. These housing provider materials can be found below.

Shelters, Single Room Occupancy hotels (SROs), and Transition Housing

BC Housing is working with the Ministry of Health and local health authorities to share information and regularly update our housing and service providers to assist them as they prepare and react to COVID-19. If a case were to be confirmed in a shelter, the shelter operator will work with BC Housing and the local health authority to determine a safe space where confirmed cases would be able to self-isolate.

Information and updates

BC Housing will continue to share information and updates with service and housing providers through the BC Housing website and with employees through the intranet site.

As a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and support the safety of clients and employees, BC Housing is temporarily closing some in-person services effective Monday March 16, 2020 at 11:30 am.

  • Home Office reception (Suite 1700-4555 Kingsway, Burnaby, BC)
  • Applicant Services storefront (Suite 101-4555 Kingsway, Burnaby, BC)
    • Applicants can apply online: The Housing Registry 
    • Call to receive an application form: 1-800-257-7756 (toll-free) or 604-433-2218 (in the Lower Mainland) 
    • Inquiries for the SAFER, Rental Assistance Program and Home Adaptations for Independence (HAFI) can be made by calling the same phone numbers
  • Licensing & Consumer Services reception and digital kiosk (Suite 203-4555 Kingsway, Burnaby, BC)
  • Receptions at BC Housing regional offices:
    • Interior Region Office (451 Winnipeg Street, Penticton, BC)
    • Lower Mainland Directly Managed Office (Suite 510-369 Terminal Avenue, Vancouver, BC)
    • Northern Region Office (1380-2nd Avenue, Prince George, BC)
    • Vancouver Island Region Office (Suite 201-3440 Douglas Street, Victoria, BC)
  • Supportive Housing Services - Orange Hall (297 East Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC)

Temporary eviction moratorium

BC Housing is asking for your cooperation in putting in place a temporary moratorium on evictions of tenants in subsidized and affordable housing during the COVID-19 outbreak.

BC Housing is committed to preventing eviction of tenants and always considers eviction a last resort. Where possible, BC Housing assists tenants in sustaining their housing during periods of instability.

Tenants in many subsidized and affordable rental buildings are low income households who, if evicted, would likely experience difficulties obtaining housing either in alternate affordable housing or in the private market. As you are aware, many tenants in subsidized housing are particularly vulnerable and face a combination of challenges in addition to their need for housing; it is probable that evictions would tax other social services. This is particularly true at this time, in light of the current COVID-19 situation.

As such, BC Housing is requesting that, until further notice, your organization not issue any Notice to End Tenancies for non-payment of rent.

The process of applying for a rent reduction will be streamlined for those tenants who have lost income as a result of COVID-19. More information is provided below. If there are circumstances where a tenant is in rent arrears, those situations can be reviewed after the crisis is over.

In instances where a tenant behaviour is threatening the life, health or safety of others, or putting tenants or staff in imminent danger, we ask that you complete a full management review and take all circumstances into consideration before deciding to proceed with eviction. This should include the circumstance around the behaviour, risk to tenants and staff, as well as the increased restrictions on alternative housing and access to temporary shelters as a result of COVID-19.

Temporary Rent Adjustment Rules

As we are all aware, many British Columbians are experiencing a loss of employment income as a result of COVID-19. Effective April 1, 2020, Rent-Geared-to-Income tenants, subsidized through an agreement with BC Housing, can apply for a rent re-calculation as a result of loss of employment income with the following criteria:

Any tenant whose household income is in full, or in part, from employment can apply for a rent adjustment if they experience a reduction or loss of employment income as a result of COVID-19.

  • Adjustment can be made for the next rent roll, no need for a minimum income decrease or proof that the decrease is permanent.
  • Rent reduction can be processed for three months.
  • To help both tenants and providers practice social distancing and to streamline the process, the following will apply:
  • No signature required on Application for Rent Subsidy form. Print out form (paper or from Housing Connections database), write COVID-19 adjustment in the signature block.
  • Income proof waived, based on self-declaration, no proof required.
    • If applying for Employment Insurance, based on 55% of previous Employment;
    • If not eligible for income assistance, may be eligible for the Emergency Care Benefit from the federal government, based on 55% of previous Employment.
    • If actual income is less than our estimate, they can provide proof at a later date and a further adjustment can be processed.
    • If applying for income assistance and household has no other income, the first month can be based on the minimum rent in order to provide time for MSDPR to process the application, then the second and third month should be the Flat Rent.
  • Please enter into Housing Connections if your organization uses online rent calculation, or forward the form to BC Housing for entry.
  • Keep a copy in tenant file.

In order to track costs related to COVID-19, we ask that you keep a simple spreadsheet to track all adjustments and forward to BC Housing upon request once the crisis has passed.

Sample:

Building Name Provider Name

Unit #

Tenant Name

Effective Date

Previous TRC

New TRC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Important Notice: If some, or all, of your household income comes from employment and, as a result of COVID-19, your employment income has stopped or decreased, please call our office at the number below to discuss options for a rent reduction or other solutions.

Community Housing Sector Updates

Many of the people our housing providers serve have higher rates of health concerns and may be at greater risk if exposed to the virus. This section is for housing providers with tenants that can self-isolate. Working with our health partners, we will provide timely COVID-19 updates.

Testing is available for all who need it, but not everyone requires a test. The following people do NOT need to be tested:

  • People with mild or no symptoms;
  • Returning travelers who are self-isolating at home.

The Ministry of Health is strongly urging anyone who has symptoms – including fever, cough, sneezing, sore throat or difficultly breathing – self isolate for 14 days. If you have tenants requiring self-isolation, please:

  • Advise BC Housing of the situation;
  • Learn more on supporting tenants who require self-isolation in ACT section (p.6)

People Who Require Testing

People who require testing are those with respiratory symptoms, who are:

  • Hospitalized or likely to be hospitalized
  • Health care workers
  • Residents of long term care facilities
  • Part of an investigation of a cluster or outbreak

If someone requires emergency medical assistance, please contact 9-1-1.

More information

If you Suspect an Outbreak

Please contact BC Housing and your local public health authority to discuss the situation and develop a response plan.

Information on COVID-19 – NEW as of March 17th

The province has created a phone service to provide non-medical information about COVID-19, incuding the latest information on social distancing. Information is available in 110 languages, 7:30 am to 8:00 pm at 1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268-4319) or via text message at 604-630-0300.

The following have been developed to provide practical steps to help your organization prepare.

Have a Response Plan

  • Monitor your local health authority website for updates on COVID-19
  • Identify a plan for employees who might have a higher risk due to complex health conditions. Employees and/or volunteers at high risk for COVID-19 (i.e., seniors and those with underlying health conditions) should not be caring for tenants who may be sick
  • Report suspected COVID-19 cases to your BC Housing representative
  • Develop a mitigation plan to help minimize the potential risk to employees. For example:
    • Use physical barriers to protect employees who will have interactions with tenants with unknown infection status (e.g., check-in staff)
    • Install a sneeze guard at the check-in desk or place an additional table between employees and tenants to increase the distance between them
    • If employees are handling tenants belongings, they should use disposable gloves
    • Any tenant with a cough or sneeze who is being transported in a car must be provided with –and wear – a mask or use a tissue to contain any particles
  • Plan to have extra supplies on hand in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak, including:
    • Soap
    • Alcohol-based hand sanitizers for employees who have no access to soap and water
    • Tissues
    • Disinfecting wipes
    • Trash baskets
    • Gloves
    • Disposable masks to use for people who are sick
    • Paper plates, disposable cups and utensils

We recognize the challenges that many service providers are having in accessing supplies. Please notify your BC Housing regional representative if you are having difficulty finding supplies.

For More Information

Promote Prevention Practices

  • Encourage proper hand washing with soap and water. Post hand washing signage in the common areas.
  • Encourage employees to use hand sanitizer when a sink and soap are unavailable.
  • Follow good respiratory etiquette. Post cough etiquette and STOP 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID- 19) poster in common areas.
  • Encourage employees to stay home if they are sick. If they have symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath, fever or sore throat, encourage them to call their primary care provider, local public health office or call 1-888- COVID19 (1-888-268-4319).
  • Post signs at entrances instructing visitors not to visit if they have symptoms of respiratory infection.

Plan for Employee Shortages

If you have not already developed plans for employee shortages, now is the time to consider the following:

  • Develop clear guidelines for when employees and volunteers are expected to stay home and when they can return to work. Staff (and volunteers) may need to stay home when they are sick, caring for a sick household member, or caring for their children in the event of school/daycare dismissals. Employees should not be asked to provide medical notes during this time.
  • Identify critical job functions and positions, and where possible plan for alternative coverage by cross- trained staff members.
  • Implement a training plan for your employees on COVID-19 and risk prevention measures. This may help address employee concerns and help avoid additional employee shortages due to fear of exposure.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Communicate with employees and tenants on prevention instructions and public health updates:

  • Describe what actions you are taking to protect them.
  • Answer questions and explain what they can do to protect themselves, fellow tenants and employees.

The primary focus is to prevent the introduction of COVID-19 and its spread throughout the building. The following operational considerations are designed to help minimize the spread of COVID-19.

The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) website is a good resource for information on the symptoms of COVID-19 and how the virus is spread. For non-medical information, please call 1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268- 4319) or via text message at 604-630-0300.

Monitor

  • Designate someone to monitor tenant, employees and visitors for symptoms: fever, cough, difficulty breathing.

Screening and Intake Procedures

  • For those buildings that may have visitors
    • Post signs at entrances instructing visitors not to visit if they have symptoms of respiratory infection. BC Housing has created the following posters:
    • Consider restricting visitors to essential personnel only, which should include health care staff (pharmacists, home support workers, ACT Teams, etc.)
    • If someone is showing symptoms of COVID-19 when they arrive, such as coughing, shortness of breath, fever or sore throat:
      • Ask them to wear a mask or use a tissue (if a mask is not available) to prevent transmission to other people
      • Try to keep them separated from other tenants by six feet (approximately 2 metres)
      • Call the local public health office or call 1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268-4319)
  • Implement hand washing protocols
    • Remind people to wash their hands when:
      • They arrive and before they leave
      • Before and after they work with a client
      • Before and after eating, etc

Social Distancing Recommendations

Minimize unnecessary gatherings – Updated March 17th

Entering Suites

Transporting Tenants

  • Meals
    • For those programs that offer shared meals, eliminate buffet-style eating
    • Consider temporarily close dining rooms and communal eating spaces. Create temporary closure and protocol signage
    • Consider using paper plates, disposable cups and utensils
    • Consider closing dining rooms and delivering meals to tenants’ rooms
    • If it’s not possible to shut down communal dining spaces, consider staggering mealtimes or providing one full meal and meal supplements (bars, Ensure, sandwiches) that tenants can take away, so tenants don’t travel to multiple agencies to eat
    • Discuss arrangements with your kitchen and/or food supplier to package individual meals
    • Run dishwashers at the highest temperature settings
  • Educate tenants about what they can do to help prevent the spread
    • Ask tenants to increase distance and refrain from touching, kissing, hugging, handshaking
    • Encourage hand washing and proper cough etiquette
    • For single parent households, talk to tenants about identifying a temporary caregiver for their children if they get sick
    • Talk to children about the virus and precautions they can take
    • Support tenants with managing stress and keeping calm
    • Limit gatherings to only those that are critical in nature and where social distance is possible (under five people in a large, well-ventilated space)
    • For those providers who do wellness checks:
      • Minimize entry into client suites unless it is an emergency
      • Wellness checks can still be done, but employees should stay in hallway
      • Employees should wash their hands before and after visiting a suite to prevent the spread of viruses in order to protect the residents
    • Ask tenants who may have a cough or sneeze to wear a mask when transporting them to appointments

To minimize the risk of spreading the virus, we recommend prioritizing enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of common areas where people gather and high touchpoints (i.e., elevators, common amenity spaces, door handles, countertops, and bathroom surfaces) a minimum of three or more times a day. Cleaning floors, walls, and windows should be secondary at this time.

  • To properly disinfect the common areas, follow the product directions. For most products, the proper procedure is to first clean the area with soap and water, then apply the disinfectant and let it sit in place for about 10 minutes before wiping it with a clean cloth. This is in addition to regular cleaning, which must continue to take place.
  • For disinfection, any of the following should be effective:
    • Most common EPA–registered household disinfectants
    • Alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol
    • Diluted household bleach solution

More information on disinfectant products effective against COVID-19 is available on page 9 of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus: BC Public Health Guidelines for Schools and Child Care Programs.

Helpful tips:

  • Follow any manufacturing instructions for the application and proper ventilation.
  • Remember to check the product is not past its expiry date.
  • Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser.
  • Unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted.

Some people with chronic health conditions have a higher risk of becoming severely ill if they have COVID-19. Additionally, elderly tenants also have a higher risk of becoming severely ill if they have COVID-19.

The Ministry of Health is strongly urging anyone who has symptoms – including fever, cough, sneezing, sore throat or difficultly breathing – self isolate for 14 days. If you have tenant who is displaying symptoms, please:

  • Ask the person to wear a mask to prevent transmission to other people; if a mask is not available, provide tissues for them to cover their mouth and nose.
  • Ask the person to wash their hands with either:
    • Liquid soap and running water, and dry with paper towels; or
    • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Ask them to self-isolate
  • Advise your BC Housing representative
  • If the client is in distress, call 9-1-1. Signs of distress include:
    • Shortness of breath, rapid breathing, or difficulty catching breath.
    • New/worsening chest pain.
    • Cyanosis (bluish discolouration of skin) or general blue discoloration.

Check out BC COVID-19 Online Self-Assessment Tool to determine if tenants require further assessment.

Management of Tenants with Suspected COVID-19

If tenants with suspected COVID-19 are in distress, call 9-1-1. For tenants with suspected COVID-19 and are not in distressconsider the following.

  • Ask the tenant to follow the directions for self-isolation
  • If they have to leave their home, ask them to wear a mask
  • Ask them to wash their hands before and after eating
  • Consider whether to increase cleaning of commonly-touched surfaces in the buildin
  • The health care provider may also advise on other steps that may help in the person’s recovery from COVID-19

Key Contacts

Please contact your Non-Profit Property Manager from BC Housing or Aboriginal Housing Management Association (AMHA) if you have any questions related to responding COVID-19.

Homeless Service Provider Updates

We recognize that our homelessness and transitional housing service providers serve some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. These communities have higher rates of health concerns and may be at greater risk if exposed to the virus. This section is for providers with clients sharing living space and meals: shelters, transition houses, safe homes, Single Room Occupancies (SROs) and supportive housing operators. Working with our health partners, we will provide timely COVID-19 updates.

Current guidelines for testing COVID-19 are as follows:

  • Symptoms compatible with COVID-19:
    • Fever
    • Cough
    • Difficulty breathing
  • Have travelled within 14 days of symptom onset to a covid-19 affected area
  • Have had close contact with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19
  • No clear alternative diagnosis

Health authorities are requesting that Community Health Centres and Urgent Primary Care Centres focus on assessing patients who have higher risk exposures and have the symptoms above. Please monitor the Regional Health Authority COVID update pages for updates re. testing guidelines:

The following have been developed to provide practical steps to help your organization prepare.

Have a Response Plan

  • Monitor your local health authority website for updates on COVID-19
  • Identify a plan for employees or staff who might have a higher risk due to complex health conditions. Employees and/or volunteers at high risk for COVID-19 (i.e., seniors and those with underlying health conditions) should not be caring for clients who may be sick/li>
  • Report suspected COVID-19 cases to your local health authority, as well as to your BC Housing representative.
  • Develop a mitigation plan to help minimize the potential risk to employees. For example:
    • Use physical barriers to protect employees who will have interactions with clients with unknown infection status (e.g., check-in staff)
    • Install a sneeze guard at the check-in desk or place an additional table between employees and clients to increase the distance between them
    • If employees are handling client belongings, they should use disposable gloves
    • Any client with a cough or sneeze who is being transported in a car must be provided with – and wear – a mask or use a tissue to contain any particles
  • Plan to have extra supplies on hand in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak, including:
    • Soap
    • Alcohol-based hand sanitizers for employees who have no access to soap and water
    • Tissues
    • Disinfecting wipes
    • Trash baskets
    • Gloves
    • Disposable masks to use for people who are sick
    • Paper plates, disposable cups and utensils

We recognize the challenges that many service providers are having in accessing supplies. Please notify your BC Housing regional representative if you are having difficulty finding supplies.

For More Information

Promote Prevention Practices

  • Encourage proper hand washing with soap and water. Post hand washing signage in the common areas
  • Encourage employees to use hand sanitizer when a sink and soap are unavailable
  • Follow good respiratory etiquette. Post cough etiquette and STOP 2019 COVID-19 poster in common areas
  • Encourage employees to stay home if they are sick. If they have symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath, fever or sore throat, encourage them to call their primary care provider, local public health office or call 8-1-1 (HealthLinkBC)
  • Post signs at entrances instructing visitors not to visit if they have symptoms of respiratory infection

Plan for Employee Shortages

If you have not already developed plans for employee shortages, now is the time to consider the following:

  • Develop clear guidelines for when employees and volunteers are expected to stay home and when they can return to work. Staff (and volunteers) may need to stay home when they are sick, caring for a sick household member, or caring for their children in the event of school/daycare dismissals. Employees should not be asked to provide medical notes during this time.
  • Identify critical job functions and positions, and where possible plan for alternative coverage by cross-trained staff members.
  • Implement a training plan for your employees on COVID-19 and risk prevention measures. This may help address employee concerns and help avoid additional employee shortages due to fear of exposure.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Communicate with employees and clients on prevention instructions and public health updates:

  • Describe what actions you are taking to protect them.
  • Answer questions and explain what they can do to protect themselves, fellow clients and employees.

The primary focus is to prevent the introduction of COVID-19 and its spread throughout the shelter, transition house, SRO or supportive housing. The following operational considerations are designed to help minimize the spread of COVID-19.

The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) website is a good resource for information on the symptoms of COVID-19 and how the virus is spread.

Monitor

  • Designate someone to monitor clients, employees and visitors for symptoms: fever, cough, difficulty breathing.

Screening and Intake Procedures

  • For those buildings that may have visitors
    • Post signs at entrances instructing visitors not to visit if they have symptoms of respiratory infection
    • Consider restricting visitors to essential personnel only, which should include health care staff (pharmacists, home support workers, ACT Teams, etc.)
    • Consider limiting access to shelter facilities to those currently staying at the shelter (rather than allowing drop-in access to services)
    • If someone is showing symptoms of COVID-19 when they arrive, such as coughing, shortness of breath, fever or sore throat:
      • Ask them to wear a mask or use a tissue (if a mask is not available) to prevent transmission to other people
      • Try to keep them separated from other clients by six feet (approximately 2 metres)
      • Call the local public health office or call 8-1-1 (HealthLinkBC)
  • Implement hand washing protocols
    • Remind people to wash their hands when:
      • They arrive and before they leave
      • Before and after they work with a client
      • Before and after eating, etc

Social Distancing Recommendations

  • Temporary reconfigurations to allow for social distancing
    • Sleeping arrangements foot to head, instead of head to head
    • Maintain a minimum distance of 2 metres (6 ft) between individuals whenever possible
    • For transition houses, avoid women sharing rooms, if possible
  • Meals
    • For those programs that offer shared meals, eliminate buffet-style eating
    • Consider temporarily close dining rooms and communal eating spaces. Create temporary closure and protocol signage.
    • Consider using paper plates, disposable cups and utensils
    • For supportive housing, consider closing dining rooms and delivering meals to residents’ rooms
    • If it’s not possible to shut down communal dining spaces, consider staggering mealtimes or providing one full meal and meal supplements (bars, Ensure, sandwiches) that clients can take away, so clients don’t travel to multiple agencies to eat
    • Discuss arrangements with your kitchen and/or food supplier to package individual meals
    • Run dishwashers at the highest temperature settings
  • Harm reduction
    • Ensure harm reduction supplies are available to eliminate the sharing of supplies for persons using substances (i.e., pipes, needles)
  • Educate clients about what they can do to help prevent the spread
    • Ask clients to increase distance and refrain from touching, kissing, hugging, handshaking
    • Encourage hand washing and proper cough etiquette
    • For transition houses / safe homes, talk to clients about identifying a temporary caregiver for their children if they get sick
    • Talk to children about the virus and precautions they can take
    • Support clients with managing stress and keeping calm

Minimize unnecessary gatherings

  • Limit gatherings to only those that are critical in nature and where social distance is possible (under five people in a large, well-ventilated space)

Entering Suites

  • For supportive housing and second stage housing:
    • Minimize entry into client suites unless it is an emergency
    • Wellness checks can still be done, but staff should stay in hallway
    • Employees should wash their hands before and after visiting a suite to prevent the spread of viruses in order to protect the residents

Transporting Clients

  • Ask clients who may have a cough or sneeze to wear a mask when transporting them to appointments

To minimize the risk of spreading the virus, we recommend prioritizing enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of common areas where people gather and high touchpoints (i.e., elevators, common amenity spaces, door handles, countertops, and bathroom surfaces) a minimum of three or more times a day. Cleaning floors, walls, and windows should be secondary at this time.

  • To properly disinfect the common areas, follow the product directions. For most products, the proper procedure is to first clean the area with soap and water, then apply the disinfectant and let it sit in place for about 10 minutes before wiping it with a clean cloth. This is in addition to regular cleaning, which must continue to take place.
  • For disinfection, any of the following should be effective:
    • Most common EPA–registered household disinfectants
    • Alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol
    • Diluted household bleach solution

More information on disinfectant products effective against COVID-19 is available on page 9 of the 201 Novel Coronavirus: BC Public Health Guidelines for Schools and Child Care Programs.

Helpful tips:

  • Follow any manufacturing instructions for the application and proper ventilation.
  • Remember to check the product is not past its expiry date.
  • Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser.
  • Unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted.

People who are homeless may be more likely to have underlying or chronic health conditions. Some people with chronic health conditions have a higher risk of becoming severely ill if they have COVID-19. Additionally, elderly clients also have a higher risk of becoming severely ill if they have COVID-19.

If someone may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and is displaying symptoms (fever, a new cough or difficulty breathing), please:

  • Contact local public health office or call 8-1-1 (HealthLinkBC). If the person has a health provider, contact them by phone
  • Ask the person to wear a mask to prevent transmission to other people; if a mask is not available, provide tissues for them to cover their mouth and nose
  • Ask the person to wash their hands with either:
    • Liquid soap and running water, and dry with paper towels; or
    • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • If it is not possible to self-isolate:
    • Move the person to a separate area of the building or, if weather allows, to a sheltered place outdoors, where they are at least two metres (six feet) away from other clients and staff
    • Consider using privacy screens, if available
  • Contact your BC Housing representative to discuss options
  • If the client is in distress, call 9-1-1. Signs of distress include:
    • Shortness of breath, rapid breathing, or difficulty catching breath
    • New/worsening chest pain
    • Cyanosis (bluish discolouration of skin) or general blue discoloration

Quarantine Considerations

Discuss the situation with BC Housing and your local health authority to develop a plan for this individual. In the meantime, if there is no room available for someone to self-isolate, here are some options to consider:

  • Consider using privacy screens between beds
  • If possible, dedicate a washroom that is cleaned and disinfected after each use
  • Deliver meals whenever possible
  • Move the person to a separate area of the facility where they are at least two metres (six feet) away from other clients and staff
  • Check with BC Housing to see if a designated site or hotel/motel space is an option
  • Notify other facilities prior to transferring the client with acute respiratory symptoms to another facility for a higher level of care

Management of Clients with Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19

For clients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and are not in distress consider the following. If they are in distress, call 9-1-1:

  • Maintain separation from other clients and staff by 2 metres (6 feet)
  • Ask them to wear or continue wearing a mask. If you do not have masks, provide tissues and ask them to cover their mouth and nose
  • Ask them to wash their hands before and after eating
  • Contact BC Housing to determine if a designated site or shelter for clients with fever or respiratory symptoms has been set up
    • If a designated site or shelter has NOT been set up, consider designating a separate area in the existing site(s) for clients with such symptoms
    • If moving the client to another site is NOT an option, beds or sleeping mattresses for clients with fever or cough should be spaced at least two metres (six feet) from other clients
    • If possible, provide a designated washroom or toilet and sink/shower area
    • If possible, serve food in a different area than other clients
  • Consider whether to increase cleaning of commonly-touched surfaces in the shelter
  • Be prepared to provide shelter on an on-going basis for the client until they are feeling improved and no longer have fever or cough. The health care provider may also advise on other steps that may help in the person’s recovery from COVID-19.
  • Limit contact with staff and other clients as much as possible. Ensure anyone who touches the client or provides them with food, etc., washes their hands before and after

Residential Construction Industry Updates

COVID-19 has impacted many businesses and operations across British Columbia including those in the residential construction industry. Our Licensing and Consumer Services News page has important COVID-19 updates for licensed residential builders including information on renewing your licence, Continuing Professional Development, and useful resources for construction site safety.

Subscribe to Community Housing Sector News and COVID-19 Updates

BC COVID-19 info

Gov of Canada COVID-19 info

Note: Please contact your local health authority, or call 8-1-1, if you suspect an employee, tenant or shelter guest might have COVID-19. Please also contact your BC Housing representative.