In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Red Braid is distributing information, offering resources, and organizing poor and homeless communities across the Lower Mainland. The following is an adapted version of the flyer that we are distributing. We encourage others to download, adapt, and distribute the flyer in their own communities. Click here to download a PDF of our COVID-19 flyer (version 2).

COVID-19 is an illness caused by a newly identified type of coronavirus, a category of viruses that includes the cold and SARS. On March 11, the World Health Organization declared a pandemic, which means COVID-19 is spreading rapidly around the world. COVID-19 is causing a panic because it spreads like the flu, but is more deadly than the flu.

COVID-19 can feel like the flu or a really bad cold. Symptoms show up 2-14 days after you’ve been exposed to the virus, and can include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue

Chances of becoming very sick or dying are greater for people who are poor, and especially poor Indigenous people who suffer from intergenerational poverty and trauma.

You need to be really careful if you have asthma, COPD, or other lung conditions; HIV, HEP-C, or other immune system conditions; and if you are an elder (over 40 years old if you’re homeless).

Clean your hands at least once an hour. If you have access to running water, wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. (Sing “Happy Birthday” twice.)

If you do not have access to running water, hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol can also kill the virus. Demand hand sanitizer from anywhere that you usually get harm reduction supplies. If they do not have any, demand they get it immediately.

Stop touching your face! Especially your eyes, nose, and mouth. Cough and sneeze into a tissue (carry tissues!) or into your elbow. Clean your hands afterwards.

If possible, avoid physical contact with other people, especially anyone showing symptoms. Avoid crowds. Keep at least one metre (3 feet) away from anyone who is coughing or sneezing. Medical masks are good to stop spreading germs to others if you are sick, but don’t stop you from catching the germs.

Minimize the need to share supplies.

Avoid sharing pipes, bongs, cigarettes, nasal tubes, or any injecting equipment. If you have to share, practice harm reduction – for example, wipe down the mouthpiece with an alcohol swab.

Stock up on drugs.

If you’ve got the money, stock up your drug of choice and any necessary equipment. Get enough to last you 2-4 weeks. Be prepared for the possibility of needle exchanges and other services closing down.

Stock up on meds.

Access to prescription meds may be limited in an outbreak. Ask your healthcare provider about getting a month’s supply. If you take methadone/buprenorphine (suboxone), ask your clinic or doctor to make a plan to prevent disruptions to your dose.

Prepare your drugs yourself.

Before and after handling drugs, wash your hands with soap and water, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Wipe down drug packages. Wipe down countertops, sinks, doorknobs, and any other surfaces that hands can touch with microbial wipes, alcohol (at least 60%), or bleach. Prepare your drugs yourself and avoid handling other people’s drugs or equipment.

Plan and prepare for overdose.

Emergency services might be stretched in a COVID-19 outbreak and slow to respond to 911 calls. Be prepared and load up on naloxone.

Adapted from Safer Drug Use During the COVID-19 Outbreak.

If you have housing then stay home. If you live in supportive housing or have a rent subsidy through an agency, tell the desk or support worker that you are self-isolating and ask them to bring you food. Contact us for advocacy and food support (see below.).

If you’re homeless then go to the hospital. Tell them you’re homeless and may have COVID-19. Demand they admit and quarantine you. Contact us for advocacy and transport support (see below).

Red Braid will help with…

Phone or text us at 604-630-1722. Email us at

Social isolation works for the rich, but the poor need to fight back.

As COVID-19 hits Canada, the government has closed the borders, shut down gathering places like libraries and community centres, and has called for people to stay home.

But what about people who can only wash their hands in libraries? Who sleep within breathing distance of others on shelter mats? Who line up and eat in soup kitchens? Who already have compromised immune systems?

Poor and homeless people have the highest risk of getting and being harmed by COVID-19 but have the least resources. Poverty means our communities don’t have resources to individually “self-isolate.” Poor and unhoused people also face discrimination from governments, police, and the public. It’s a deadly combination.

We won’t get help from cops, borders, or social workers. We’re the only ones who can save our communities. But who are “we”? When Prime Minister Trudeau shut the border, he gave the message that the danger is foreign. But poor communities in Canada are in the same boat as migrants and refugees in detention centres and poor people around the world.

The coronavirus does discriminate between the business and property owning public and those treated as a threat to that public. While the rich hole up in their castles, the rest of us have to unite and fight against being interned as a threat to public health in prisons, immigration detention centres, shelters and modular housing where we risk being exposed-to rather than protected-from COVID-19. We fight for homes, food, freedom, and health for all.

Five demands for COVID-19

We have adapted these five demands from a call-out circulating online from a network of grassroots socialist groups in the USA.

  • Access in and out of hospital to overdose prevention, harm reduction supplies, hydromorphone & methadone.
  • Immediate safe supply of opiates and stimulants.
  • Hospitals to admit poor people with symptoms.
  • Meal service delivery for people who are self-isolating.
  • Handwashing stations throughout the province.
  • Remote health services for rural and reserve communities, including soap/hand sanitizer through all harm reduction networks.
  • Suspend all non-essential work with no loss of pay.
  • Guarantee sick pay for all workers – employed or not.
  • Open EI eligibility to all, including sex workers and people who work in informal economies.
  • Suspend all rent, mortgage, utilities, and loan payments.
  • End all evictions and foreclosures.
  • Release people incarcerated in jails, prisons, and detention centres.
  • End all arrests, detentions, and deportations. Stop enforcing bylaws that target homeless people.
  • Reallocate resources from the military, police, and prisons to fund a robust COVID-19 response.
  • Open hotels and vacant buildings and properties to everyone who needs a home, whether on the streets or in prisons, detention centres, shelters, or modular housing.
  • Stop all demolitions of rezoned buildings and use them as homes for the homeless.

The COVID-19 crisis stacks on top of the long crisis of colonization and capitalism and is different for the poor than the rich. People with homes and savings can stay and work from home or take time off but poor workers can’t, and poor unemployed people don’t have these private spaces to retreat to.

People in shelters have nowhere else to go but the streets, and both places mean death. People in prisons are locked down in a coronavirus hothouse, not quarantine. Poor Indigenous and working class communities will only survive COVID-19 if we fight back together!

Squat the empties!

On March 14, homeless members of the group Reclaiming Our Homes took over a vacant, publicly-owned house in Los Angeles. The house is now home to seven people, including two homeless mothers and their children.

“With the coronavirus, they want us to be quarantined in our homes, but some of us don’t have homes,” said Martha Escudero, one of the homeless women who is part of the squat. Benito Flores, another member of Reclaiming Our Homes, said, “They say it’s a crime to come and occupy these houses. But this is not a crime. This is justice.”

In Canada, government responses prioritize business and property owners. To be able to quarantine, our communities must first cooperate to break the laws of property and profit.

Our communities will be hit the hardest by COVID-19, unless we take actions to demand what we need. We must support each other wherever we are able, and we must fight against the containment and isolation of our communities to our shelter deathbeds, and starvation, dope sickness, and overdose in SROs and modular housing.

Follow Reclaiming Our Homes on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Red Braid will support anyone that seizes vacant housing to find shelter from all the dangers of homelessness, including the “novel” dangers of COVID-19.