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‘Never have I been so worried for people who are homeless’: Blue Door launches COVID-19 crisis fund

March 28, 2020

Cost of 3 square meals, snacks a day before COVID-19? $5.50; Now? It’s $20

 By: Kim Champion

Not only is the recent upending of the economy due to the COVID-19 pandemic breaking the bank for some in Newmarket, but you can also add broken hearts to the list of upsets.

As the leader of the largest emergency housing provider in York Region, Blue Door Shelters CEO Michael Braithwaite said his “heart breaks” to know that without an immediate funding boost, the agency will be hard-pressed to afford the high-cost safety measures recommended by public health officials to protect shelter clients, staff and their families during this pandemic.

“Every day, every change to maintain health and safety costs are increasingly more,” Braithwaite said. “Just weeks ago, three healthy meals and snacks for one person for an entire day cost $5.50. Today, three meals and snacks individually packaged in single-use containers cost $20.”

Braithwaite said that along with increased food costs, there are high costs around the proper personal protective equipment and staffing costs to ensure its three emergency shelters for men, families, and male youth are fully staffed.

“Those increased costs include looking for potential new sites where we’ll isolate and social distance new intakes moving forward,” he said.

Just yesterday, Braithwaite launched a $100,000 GoFundMe campaign called Blue Door’s COVID-19 crisis fund.

The fundraising goal is symbolic of the fact that Blue Door supports more than 100 people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, resource development manager Rachael Sedman said.

“Every change made to our service to ensure physical distancing and health is multiplied by a hundred,” she said. “$100,000 is our best estimate at the costs for the next few weeks, but the true need and cost may be much higher.”

There is a strong sense of concern and worry at Blue Door as COVID-19 developments are changing rapidly.

“While Blue Door is connecting daily with community partners and local governments to develop proactive precautions, we can’t foresee the extent of this pandemic,” Sedman said. “Action urgently needs to be taken to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our towns. People who, sadly, at the best of times are often forgotten or unseen.”

Each new level of precaution and safety put in place comes with overwhelmingly high costs, she said.

Braithwaite urges the community to donate now. He said there is no luxury of waiting. And fighting the spread of the coronavirus among the community’s homeless community is not something he or the staff at Blue Door can do alone.

“Never have I been so worried for people who are homeless,” he said. “Sleeping outside in the cold and wet spring will make anyone sick. Sleeping rough for several weeks or years will severely compromise your immune system.”

Blue Door staff are quickly adapting and working to make life-saving changes to keep its clients and staff safe and healthy during COVID-19. But they are calling out urgently for financial support.

As part of the federal COVID-19 emergency aid announced this week, $157.5 million has been earmarked to support people experiencing homelessness through the government’s homelessness strategy known as the Reaching Home initiative.

The funding could be used for a range of needs such as purchasing beds and physical barriers for social distancing and securing accommodation to reduce overcrowding in shelters.

It is not yet known when or how much of that money will flow into York Region to support the work of agencies such as Blue Door, and others.

The emergency funds from Ottawa will be handled through United Way Greater Toronto.

This story will be updated as new information comes in.

For more information on Blue Door or to access services, visit