WINNIPEG -- Some not-for-profits are concerned about the spread of COVID-19 in vulnerable populations, so one is changing the way it operates.

Sscope Inc. is a not-for-profit organization based in Winnipeg that provides support for the homeless and employment opportunities for people living with mental health issues- but that isn’t all.

“We also have our thrift store,” said Angela McCaughan, executive director of Sscope.

“So we sold stuff to the community at very reduced prices. We also would give people things if they needed it.”

McCaughan said over the winter she noticed an increase in the homeless population and wanted to find additional space for people struggling with homelessness.

She said once the COVID-19 pandemic hit Manitoba extra space became an urgent need, so she decided to convert her thrift store.

“Let’s rip this thrift store apart, and…make it a 24-hour safe space for people to be,” said McCaughan.

Now Sscope is open 24/7, providing three meals a day.

McCaughan said Sscope is also receiving Winnipeg Harvest donations while other sites are closed.

Paul Piston is a full time employee at Sscope, who struggled with homelessness and addiction before getting sober.

He said there’s a growing need for shelters and supports.

“I had nowhere to go at one time,” said Piston.

“Some of these people are people I (saw) five years ago, and they’re still struggling.”

Piston believes Sscope should continue to operate as a shelter even after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Once the COVID passes, there’s still going to be a need,” he said.

“These people are still going to not have anywhere to go. So if we could stay open like this that would be perfect.”

McCaughan said Sscope received $20,000 in funding from the Winnipeg Foundation to help with its emergency shelter.

She plans to keep it going for at least the next few months. She said she hopes the people who access the services know they’re valued.

“They’re all meant for significance, and we care about each and every one of them,” she said.