Thank you. That's a lot.
This is what we've been hearing from the ground. Immediately, the staff of some of the friendship centres had to physically shut their doors, but a vast majority of the friendship centres stayed open in some respect. Even if their doors are physically closed, they are still receiving calls, still doing referrals, still doing outreach and still doing service delivery in some capacity. We know that even though people say their doors are closed, they are open. They are fully open. They have just changed the way they are providing those services.
There are some friendship centres that have social enterprises, so the businesses they are running are losing revenue. They've had to shut down kitchens. They had people who were visiting from different communities or were there for medical appointments and were in hostels, and they were asking, “What should we do with these people? Should we get them a flight home? We don't know what to do.” There was some of that.
There was a shift to virtual contact as much as possible, with people getting at least some communication out, largely via social media. Some friendship centres have housing units, so they were worried about their tenants. Some of them have very crowded conditions, even within those housing units. Some friendship centres have homeless shelters and offer services for those who are unsheltered. There I think the big concern was for those community members, especially because when you're publicly saying to self-isolate and someone literally has nowhere else to go and is living on the street, the friendship centres are saying we can't just close our doors, because that's unethical. It is unethical for us to close. I've heard that from some of our executive directors, so we have to figure out how to do this safely.
They are worried about their staff, about having gloves and masks to be able to provide those services safely to community members. Eighteen friendship centres have been approached to be testing sites. It was about a week and a half ago that we collected that information. I don't know if that's been transitioned yet. They are going to have to physically manoeuvre and manipulate their physical space to be able to allow that testing to be done safely. We don't know what the cost is.
Some of the friendship centres have set up access sites through their windows. You need access to email to apply for your CERB benefits, but if you don't have a computer and don't have access to the Internet, friendship centres in Manitoba, for example, have set up two computers so that you can apply for your benefits through the window.
Some friendship centres are people's mailing address, so how do you close when somebody is relying on you to be open so that they can access their mail? The capacity piece has been huge, because now we're getting to the point in week six where the staff is becoming exhausted. We're hearing our staff saying, “We're tired. We don't know when this is going to end. We don't know when we're going to get help. We're doing the best we can, but we don't feel like we're doing enough.” The capacity piece is really huge.
What we are trying to do with the national office is to collect the information as to what is happening now and relay it to anybody who will listen, but we already have our eye to the future to say that if friendship centres aren't able to fundraise for themselves and can't do their bingos and can't do their fundraising events and their social enterprises are shut down, they are not only losing revenue but they are also spending more to be able to get those services and supplies to community members. We don't want friendship centres to be in financial difficulty six months to a year down the line, so we already have our eye on how to make sure that we have friendship centres in six to 12 months. We're looking already at the recovery process that we need to support friendship centres and ensure they are not going under because they did everything they could possibly do to save people's lives.
This is just to give you a little sense of what we're hearing on the ground.