WINNIPEG -- A St. Boniface organization that helps the homeless will open up a new shelter space this week to assist people who may not have a place to go during the COVID-19 outbreak.

St. Boniface Street Links is launching a pop-up shelter on Monday at the Centre Culturel Franco-Manitobain (CCFM), located on Provencher Boulevard. The facility will have mat space for 40 people who have been living unsheltered but are looking for an isolated environment during the outbreak.

“I know that within the population, there are individuals that are probably terrified,” said Marion Willis, founder and executive director of St. Boniface Street Links. “This will provide an opportunity for them to come in and be sheltered in an environment where they will be well cared for throughout the period of this pandemic.”

The CCFM closed its doors as a result of the ongoing pandemic last week. The organization provided the facility for Street Links.

At the shelter, Willis says it will remain business as usual, and with the goal of linking people to assistance and housing.

“We’ll be working with people to find out who needs ID, doing the paperwork, see if we can get that moving,” she said. “We will see if we can get people on income support.”

Food will be prepared externally and delivered to the shelter.

Willis says the outreach team will go directly to encampments to continue assisting people who are unable to find shelter space in the neighbourhood. They will be asking people currently living in the encampments to stay there to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. They will also monitor camps for symptoms and figure out ways for them to get help if needed.

“We will meet up with them twice a day, we will take them food, coffee, if they need more blankets, we’ll take them blankets,” she said. “What we’re really trying to do is to get people, everybody, even the people that are living outside or in shelters, to maintain the isolation, and the social and physical distancing.”

Willis says it is important to continue helping people who may not have a safe place to go.

“We either choose to live in faith, or we choose to live in fear,” she said. “If you live in faith, you have faith in humanity, you want others to believe that there is faith in humanity, that we can all reach out and help each other.”

Willis adds if the need becomes too great at the current shelter, they will look for an additional venue.

There is no cost to stay in the shelter.