SUDBURY -- The Samaritan Centre in Sudbury says it plans to stay open amidst ongoing cancellations of many public gatherings throughout the country due to COVID-19.

The facility helps the city’s most vulnerable where people gather to eat, socialize and use the resources offered there. Officials say closing is not an option.

“This is essential for three to four hundred people coming through our doors each day,” said Lisa Long, the executive director of the Samaritan Centre. “This is essential, our mandate is to care for the city’s most vulnerable citizens, as long as we can do that we are going to carry on.”

The centre is also a place for people to socialize, something many officials say they themselves look forward to.

“It’s all about social interaction, I mean so many people come here feeling like they are leopards of society and they look forward to, I look forward to when they come I can hug them and interact with them,” said Pastor Brad Hale, director of the  Elgin Street Mission.

In its efforts to stay open, precautions are being taken including social distancing.

“We are going to lessen the amount of people in our dining room, remove some of the chairs, just keep tabs on thig s that way so there are not as many clients in close proximity during meal times,” said Long.

The centre has also implemented mandatory hand sanitizing.

“Our Captain will be at the door making sure everyone washes their hands, we will make sure that we keep the tables clean as soon as people leave and all through the building we have soap dispenser so we are making sure, reminding people you need to clean your hands,” said pastor Brad Hale.

Enhanced cleaning, particularly of high touch areas is also being done.

“Door handles, anything that people will go to touch we will wipe it down constantly, so people don’t use it twice, using hot water and javex also,” said volunteer cleaner Dave Mott.

Instead of a sit down meal, the centre is going to do a trial next week, serving a bagged lunch, just in case it has to shut down dining areas in the future.

Officials at the centre say they are monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely and are working with the city to come up with a plan if a person who is homeless needs to self-isolate.