After living in the Emergency Response Units for eight months, eleven Elders return to Chisasibi’s Multi-Service Day Centre
Moving Day finally came on Wednesday June 2 for eleven Elders who had been living for eight months in Emergency Response Units set up in Chisasibi’s Banquet Hall – ever since a fire had displaced them from lodgings in the local MSDC.
The event had an almost festive atmosphere, as everybody was looking forward to the move back to the MSDC, now repaired.
“We had planned to move the Elders in four groups, two in the morning and two in the afternoon, but everybody was so motivated and ready that they all moved this morning,” says Virginie Lubino, coordinator of Elders Home in Chisasibi. “One Elder was singing and it was the birthday of another, whose family visited and enjoyed being outside in the sun with him.”
The Elders have experienced several moves in the past 15 months. When March 2020 began, they were long-term care patients in the Chisasibi Regional Hospital, but the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the hospital to move these most vulnerable individuals to the MSDC to protect them in a bubble in case the hospital began receiving COVID patients. So the MSDC became a temporary Elders Home, and continued to serve this purpose until a fire in its kitchenette on September 23rd displaced the Elders again. They moved back into the hospital, but COVID-19 remained a threat.
Fortunately, the Cree Health Board had already initiated a partnership with the Canadian Red Cross involving a number of Emergency Response Units (ERUs) which could be set up quickly to house displaced people. So in October, less than a month after the fire, the Elders moved into three ERUs – large white dome tents that could be equipped with electricity.
Saying goodbye to the temporary homes
“We had planned to purchase these structures to be set up in case of an emergency in Eeyou Istchee; they can be deployed anywhere we need them. Using them for the Elders gave us a good introduction to how to deploy them,” says the Cree Health Board’s Reggie Tomatuk. “We placed them in Chisasibi’s banquet hall because that was the only location a large enough, suitable, comfortable place for them.” The Hall served its function, providing adequate spaces for dining and recreation in addition to the three ERUs, which served as bedrooms for the Elders.
But despite their usefulness in a time of need, no-one seemed sad to leave the ERUs behind – and as soon as the MSDC was declared fit to receive the Elders, plans were made to move back.
The move started on Monday, with kitchen equipment, and culminated in moving the Elders and personal effects on Wednesday. “Moving day was very sunny, and inside the MSDC was very bright, so the Elders were very happy watching us moving their things in and organizing the space,” says Lubino. “They witnessed the whole move, which was really nice.” Lubino was especially moved by the enthusiasm of staff members from different departments to help out. “People were very engaged, willing to work extra hours, coming early to pack all week to be ready for today,” she said as the move neared completion. “I am very proud to be surrounded by people who were so engaged in this move. We were all impatient for the Elders to be back at the MSDC.”
As for the ERUs: they are now being taken down disinfected, packed up, and stored in Chisasibi, waiting for the next time they will be needed.