Report on COVID-19 Vulnerable Sector Response in Saskatoon March-May 2020

The Saskatoon Inter-Agency Response to COVID-19 (Inter-Agency Response) is a newly formed group of 50+ organizations including community-based organizations (CBOs) providing front-line services and representatives of government agencies. The Inter-Agency Response grew out of initial sector conversations hosted by the coordinators of the Safe Community Action Alliance the week of March 16th, 2020. Those meetings were called recognizing that the coronavirus pandemic would present unique challenges for agencies serving vulnerable residents and that collaboration would be required to navigate this unprecedented crisis safely. As the response to the pandemic became formalized locally through public health orders, the community’s coordination responded in kind. Incident Command Structure (ICS), an emergency response structure, was adopted with support from the City of Saskatoon’s Emergency Management Organization (EMO). Over time this structure was populated primarily by reallocated staff from frontline community and government agencies, resulting in a 35-person Inter-Agency Response command and general staff. These individuals, reallocated fully or in part to this work, operationalize the core components of the response, supporting agencies to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic safely.

The Inter-Agency Response prioritized the support of agencies working to assist residents experiencing deep food and housing insecurity. A COVID-19 Vulnerable Sector strategy was developed, charting a path of key supports on priority areas of vulnerability. Core work has consisted of maintaining situational awareness, responding to critical incidents, gathering safety information and considerations, sharing information, liaising with external partners, advocating for sector support, and providing logistical support through procurement and financial assistance. Financial capacity was generated through reallocations of existing donor or grant funds managed by partner agencies, as well as direct fundraising into a fund created by key partners Saskatoon Community Foundation and the United way of Saskatoon and Area and administered by the Inter-Agency finance section.

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