The team at StreetSmart Australia is deeply concerned about how COVID-19 is impacting people experiencing homelessness and vulnerable people at risk. What we do know, is that Australia has a strong history of community spirit and we will be doing our part to support the small, local, grassroots organisations who will now be on the frontline of this health crisis. The situation is complex and shifting daily, and unfortunately will be placing even more strain on already stretched homeless services. Before this pandemic even began, more than 116,000 people were without a home around the country.
We know that poverty, losing your job and being unable to pay rent are key factors in people becoming homeless. We have been pleased to see how quickly State and Federal Governments have moved to support vulnerable people, increasing New Start (something that has been needed for many years), preventing evictions and introducing the JobKeeper scheme. We have also seen funding for homelessness and DV services, along with broader support for the charity sector. We have also seen hundreds of people, who rough sleep, being housed temporarily housed in hotels and other facilities. These are positive strategies however some people have missed out and some funding does not start immediately, leaving thousands of people vulnerable or just surviving, so more needs to be done.
At StreetSmart we have worked quickly to fast track a round of COVID-19 grants, supporting smaller services to respond to the crisis. Last week 33 community grants worth $191,150, funded by DineSmart 2019 donations, were distributed in VIC, NSW, QLD and SA. Our focus was to assist the most vulnerable and many people previously rough sleeping have been assisted into temporary housing.
“Your ability to fast track the grant will certainly make a difference to our organisation and to others like us who are delivering front line services. We really appreciate your generous support during this health crisis!” Margaret Yuille, Micah Project Brisbane
As part of this grants round we also moved quickly to respond to the looming food security crisis funding organisations addressing the immediate need, who are also facing internal challenges of volunteer shortages. Both FareShare and Two Good received grants.
We are saddened by the impact this crisis is having on our hospitality partners and quickly recognised that their spare capacity could be deployed to meet growing food insecurity. We have set up a pilot program to meet both local demand for meals for vulnerable people and also secure hospitality jobs at some of our café/restaurant partners. SmartMeals has been running for 2 weeks and has provided 1000 meals to vulnerable people.
Stay tuned because we will continue to provide updates on how we are supporting those most vulnerable in our community during this crisis.
A message from a community partner providing homelessness services in Sydney…
“COVID-19 is going to have a disproportionately greater impact on people experiencing homelessness than the general community. Our key challenge at this time is to support people who are experiencing homelessness (in all forms) to remain as healthy as possible for as long as possible. A pragmatic but heartbreaking assumption that we have is that if the ‘curve isn’t flattened’ and the health system cannot cope with demand, our clients will be the first to miss out.
To help with keeping people experiencing homelessness as healthy as possible, for as long as possible, organisations such as Haymarket have focused heavily on maintaining business continuity. Simply, we need ongoing access to the appropriate resources (staff, capital, and supply chain) to deliver critical services for as long as the pandemic response requires. Since Monday this week, we’ve had almost double the amount of people calling ad requesting accommodation. Supply issues are driven by our staff having to self-isolate, and the general public (quite rightly) ensuring they are safe and prepared in an environment of uncertainty.” – Peter Valpiani, CEO, The Haymarket Foundation.
Originally posted Wednesday 25 March 2020