Charities supporting the homeless and vulnerable in the community are preparing for a surge in demand as the full impact of COVID-19 job losses are felt and the colder weather hits the State.
Hutt St Centre and the St Vincent de Paul Society, which continue to serve the community in a modified format, said they expect more people will be needing their services in the coming months.
“In recent weeks we have noticed an increase in new people coming to Hutt St Centre seeking support for the first time, however we are anticipating a bigger increase in demand and increase in homelessness will occur over the next six months,” said CEO Chris Burns.
“The mental and physical wellbeing of our clients in this period of amplified social isolation is also of great concern. It’s critical we can continue to check in regularly and help them through this period. For many people, Hutt St Centre staff are the only people they talk to regularly.”
When restrictions were introduced in March, Hutt St Centre had to review its day-to-day operations.
Essential services such as showers, laundry, lockers and access to onsite medical services are still available. Meals have changed from sit-down eat-in to takeaway, with some food packages being delivered. Case management and welfare check-ins are continuing.
Non-essential activities such as art group, cooking classes, group activities and excursions have been cancelled and a vast majority of volunteer roles have been ‘paused’.
Mr Burns said Hutt St Centre has been working in collaboration with the State Government, Baptist Care SA, Neami (Street to Home), SYC and a number of other organisations to ensure people sleeping rough are placed in emergency hotel accommodation.
“We have currently connected 134 rough sleepers to emergency hotel accommodation, and are supporting 73 of those with the transition through ongoing case management services.
“While this is a wonderful short-term fix during the current climate, we are still working hard to find more permanent housing and employing options for our clients.”
While the number of people using Vinnies’ services has been steady in recent weeks, CEO Louise Miller Frost said they expected demand to rise as “people start to feel the full impact of job losses”.
“Some of Vinnies’ most vital work is focused on helping people avoid homelessness, and also helping those who find themselves on the streets. Winter is a tough time for people sleeping rough at the best of times, but with COVID-19 these people are particularly vulnerable,” she said.
“As the pandemic has progressed we know that the community is increasingly under strain, emotional and financial, and so we are shaping our services to ensure that Vinnies can be there for them in their darkest hours.”
Vinnies’ men’s and women’s shelters remain open, while the Migrant and Refugee Centre continues to provide a basic living allowance for a group of people not eligible for any other support. Vinnies shops have closed but there are plans to have some donation drop-off days.
Ms Miller Frost said Fred’s Vans across the State have changed their service model to take-away food. Demand has been strong in the city, and that service has now increased to include a meal on Saturday night.
Most of Vinnies’ conferences have moved to providing services by telephone and are still distributing food hampers, food vouchers and Emergency Relief Funding.
“We expect the need for these services to increase as we move into winter and people start receiving their bills for heating. We are also still distributing Drought Relief funding and Bushfire Relief funding,” Ms Miller Frost said.
Both organisations said their fundraising had been severely impacted with several events cancelled and parish collections unable to proceed. However, Vinnies will go ahead with its CEO Sleepout in a virtual format on June 18, while Hutt St Centre is looking at ways it can stage Walk a Mile in My Boots.
Donations: www.vinnies.org.au/donate or phone 13 18 12; www.huttstcentre.org.au
Jump to next article