Embrave: still providing a safe place with Stop the Spread program

By Kathryn Dunmore, Canadian Red Cross

Providing a safe place to people in need of shelter, Embrave Agency to End Violence could not even consider closing during the pandemic. Instead, the organization looked for ways to continue operating safely for both its clients and staff by implementing many safety measures, including the Canadian Red Cross Stop the Spread program.

A woman holding a child. Photo: Jenna ChristinaEmbrave Agency to End Violence is an anti-violence organization providing shelter, counselling and advocacy supports for women, Two-Spirit, genderqueer, trans and non-binary folks and their children experiencing any form of violence in the Region of Peel and beyond. Embrave provides supports and services to those with or without children.

Through this program, the shelter was able to regularly test their personnel for COVID-19 to both protect staff and safeguard those in the shelter.

“The program is helping our organization along with other supports we put in place to continue ensuring services are available to our clients, avoiding outbreaks, and ensuring the risks are quickly mitigated if any positive rapid testing or positive case is known,” says Jhoanel Lucero Ruiz, program and services coordinator for Embrave, noting an important safety measure they added was implementing a vaccine policy for staff as well as supports to clients to be vaccinated.

“We usually support many clients from the community looking for shelter space. In the past, we did take measures we needed to implement due to COVID,” says Jhoanel. “For example, from the beginning of the pandemic, the shelter modified services so they could continue supporting those who needed the shelter’s help while reducing the risks of spreading COVID-19. This has allowed the shelter to stay open throughout the pandemic.”

Recently the Canadian Red Cross started offering the Stop the Spread and Stay Safe! program. This program is available to eligible non-profits, charities and Indigenous community organizations with frontline workers in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. It provides them with free COVID-19 rapid antigen tests and support to implement a screening program for their personnel.

“The experience is great, that [it] provides screening to detect any spread of COVID and ensure supports to stop or avoid any spread,” she explains. “The program helps us to detect sooner any possible cases of COVID-19. It’s important for Embrave to remain operational due to the amount of people in the community who need access to shelter services.”

Adding that the applications and reporting process is “very self explanatory,” Jhoanel also advocates for other organizations to apply for the program.

“I hope other organizations join the program because it’s amazing, you can have a sense of relief or sense of safety in your organization regarding COVID-19 and all the related issues. It’s a very important program.”

Stop the Spread is a screening program using rapid antigen tests as one of the tools, used with masks, hand hygiene, physical distancing, and cleaning protocols, that can reduce the spread of COVID-19. Even with vaccination, testing is critical to early detection and mitigations to reduce individual and collective risk.

If your community organization is interested in participating, find out more details and how to apply for Stop the Spread: COVID-19 Screening for Community Organizations.

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