The Samaritan's Purse and Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada have volunteers helping in the Thunder Bay shelters after a recent increase in COVID-19 cases.
"There were several agencies here working that were dealing with COVID-19 patients with the vulnerable sector in the community and they suddenly had a mass outbreak that stretched their resources to a point where they asked for a little outside help," says Claus Burchert, the response team leader with Samaritan's Purse based out of Calgary, AB.
He along with a team of 16 other people has flown to Thunder Bay to help relieve those caring for people in the shelters until they can stabilize.
Samaritan's Purse flew in starting on Saturday, February 27. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's chaplains showed up on March 4.
"The team in Thunder Bay were overrun, they've been doing excellent work for about 10 months now, so they put out a call to the NGO council of Ontario asking if there was any way if we could assist. We said that we can provide some volunteers," says Merle Doherty, the manager of the rapid response team with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) of Canada, also based out of Calgary.
As of March 4, 2021, there were 96 people in the two shelters that these organizations are helping out with.
"We bring people into the shelters, register them. Once they come into the shelter they isolate. Of course, when they're isolated they need their meals brought to them. We're doing that, the garbage, and duties from the previous staff such as fogging the high traffic areas with anti-virus fog. It's really a respite to allow the staff to have a bit of rest," says Doherty.
Not all the people in the shelters are COVID positive, but some are and others have been tested and are awaiting results.
"Some in the shelters are homeless. They have no place to go and this is a way of bringing them in out of the cold and ensuring they're looked after and safe," Doherty says.
The BGEA is only sending out chaplains who are comfortable going into a higher COVID case area in 7-10 day stints. Samaritan's Purse on the other hand will be out in Thunder Bay until they're no longer needed, which at this time they are estimating will be a month.
"Pray for Thunder Bay, those first response workers that are doing an amazing job here with the shelter program. The care agencies, just pray for strength and wisdom. The last thing is that people would pray for all the men and women that are doing these jobs, for love. Pray that we will be the feet of Jesus, that everything we do is with the love of Jesus," says Doherty with BGEA.
Both organizations are asking people to pray over the situation.
"Pray that this event comes under control and it doesn't continue to spread, especially amongst the vulnerable population. For vision and wisdom that we are providing what people need in a way that maintains their dignity and shows them that they are valuable to society," says Burchert.