The City of Prince George has been awarded $48,000 by the Canadian Medical Association Foundation (CMAF), which will enable the city to support its ongoing efforts to provide access to clean and safe public washrooms in the downtown. This donation will directly reach the city through the COVID-19 Community Response Fund for Vulnerable Populations, the result of a collaboration between CMAF and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM).
“On behalf of all our residents, I thank the CMAF and FCM for this important initiative,” said City of Prince George Councillor and FCM first vice-president, Garth Frizzell. “These new funds will offer much-needed support to our community and will empower our municipality to help those who need it the most during this pandemic.”
The closure of some civic facilities and many businesses means there are fewer options available for marginalized individuals, particularly during early morning and late evening hours. Access to bathrooms and hand washing for vulnerable populations is a high priority for the city as it helps to mitigate disease transmission.
Washrooms located in Canada Games Plaza across from the Prince George Conference and Civic Centre were opened for public use in mid-April to help offset lost access to facilities in civic buildings and local businesses. The initiative was slated to end on July 13, but thanks to the CMAF funding the program will be extended until the end of November.
The washrooms currently undergo daily cleanings and regular sanitization of common areas that are in line with public health recommendations. The city also partnered with POUNDS Project Society to manage washroom access. POUNDS “peer” staff trained in crisis management, conflict resolution, and overdose response and reversal are located on-site from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and from 7 p.m. to midnight.
All funds are provided by the Canadian Medical Association Foundation and are delivered to eligible municipalities with FCM’s support. The “COVID-19 Community Response Fund for Vulnerable Populations” offers direct financial aid to communities assisting vulnerable populations impacted by COVID-19 and works in conjunction with funding provided through federal homelessness programs. Allocations are channeled to 73 communities across Canada with homeless populations according to needs based on the federal Reaching Home program.
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The City of Prince George is also continuing two initiatives at providing both much needed washroom access and storage facilities for vulnerable and homeless people living in the downtown area. One site, located at 181 Quebec Street, provides access to storage, washroom, and outreach services. The second site, located at 144 George Street, provides access to storage, washroom, shower, laundry, and outreach services. The City of Prince George has partnered with BC Housing, PGNFC, and AWAC to provide these services.