Some nurses on the Island are seeking alternate living quarters so they can distance themselves from their families as they battle the COVID-19 pandemic. (pixabay photo)

COVID-19: Health care workers seek alternative housing options to prevent families from getting sick

Volunteers, residents and businesses step up to provide frontline workers with alternative housing

Vancouver Island home owners and businesses are opening their doors to health care workers who don’t want to potentially expose their families to COVID-19 after their shifts.

On March 24, one nurse from the Royal Jubilee Hospital put out a plea for help over Facebook to find discounted accommodations for herself and a coworker. Within 24 hours she received 75 offers, prompting volunteer Heather Conquergood to coordinate a website to connect homeowners and frontline workers.

“It has happened super fast, I think it’s been about 48 hours and in that time we have a whole website up and running and information with a spreadsheet, and we’re connecting with property owners and AirBnB owners who have suites available,” Conquergood said.

ALSO READ: B.C. nurses concerned about staffing amid COVID-19

With tourism coming to a standstill due to border closures and suggested travel restrictions, there should be many short-term rental suites available, Conquergood added. So far dozens of property owners and health care workers have signed up on the site. Health care workers are looking for furnished short-term rental suites with a suggested cap of $500 per month per person.

“Though, we’ve had many people offering their spaces for less,” Conquergood said. “We’re calling on property owners to do what they can to reduce costs. It has to be a compromise between market rent, and what a frontline worker can pay on top of their normal mortgage or rent.”

ALSO READ: Greater Victoria street nurses ask government to help the homeless in COVID-19 crisis

Businesses are also stepping up to help frontline workers, including Accent Inns, which has five locations in the province including one at 3233 Maple St. in Victoria.

“It started when we got a call from a nurse who was on the verge of tears,” said Trina Notman, vice president of sales and marketing at Accent Inns. “She told us that nurses were sleeping in their cars. That just totally shocked and mobilized us.”

Accent Inns acted quickly, kept its doors open and created the all-time-low Healthcare Offer.

Accent Inns and the United Way have teamed up to create the new Hotels for Frontline Workers Fund, which allows donors to help cover the costs of accommodation for essential service workers who are working long hours and putting themselves at risk taking care of our loved ones. Workers are able to take advantage of a highly discounted rate per night so that they can get rest and at the same time, self-isolate to keep their families safe during this extraordinary time.

“This is another example of a leader in our business community really stepping up and showing its local love,” said Mark Breslauer, CEO, United Way Greater Victoria. “We are pulling together to get through this pandemic. We are greatly appreciative of everyone’s incredible generosity.”

“We were so inspired when we started getting calls from community members who wanted to donate,” said Mandy Farmer, president and CEO, Accent Inns. “Even Bin 4, our onsite restaurant in Victoria, is offering a free meal every day for frontline workers that are staying at our hotel. That is just another heart-warming example of local love.”

The hotel rooms are ideal, Notman said, since they have outdoor entrances and individual air conditioning units.

While the prices for the rooms fluctuate between the regions, Notman said rates are approximately less than half of what a usual night would cost. About 120 rooms were booked as of Thursday morning.

Parkside Hotel and Spa located at 810 Humboldt St. is also offering essential workers a discounted rate of $70 per night.

Any property owners who are interested in helping health care workers with short term, affordable accommodations can visit yyjlocalsforlocals.com/healthcare.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

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