The NSW Government is being urged to follow the Victorian Government’s decision to provide $6 million to homelessness organisations to help protect those at risk of or experiencing homelessness because of COVID-19.
NSW Council of Social Service and Homelessness NSW are calling on the NSW Government to urgently implement the Victorian package to assist some of the most vulnerable in the community.
The Victorian funding will provide homelessness agencies with extra resources to find temporary housing for those who need it most in both metropolitan and regional areas.
In addition to this, alternative pop-up accommodation will be established for homeless people requiring quarantine or self-isolation in Melbourne, where the majority of cases are concentrated.
NCOSS CEO Joanna Quilty said the Victorian model should be replicated as a matter of urgency in NSW.
“We call on the NSW Government to follow the Victorian Government on this important initiative, which will save lives and protect the most vulnerable people in the community,” Ms Quilty said.
“We stand ready to work with the NSW Government on these measures which will ensure the most vulnerable in our community are best supported during this time.
“It is critical that NSW Government consults with and seeks the advice of the sector to develop the right responses.”
According to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data, in 2018/19 homelessness services in NSW provided accommodation to 18,000 individuals, while a further 21,500 were turned away.
And even where support was provided, the majority assisted (60%) were unable to find permanent accommodation and remained homeless.
The Victorian Government package mirrors what Homelessness NSW CEO Katherine McKernan has been calling on the NSW Government to implement.
“High among those most at risk from coronavirus are the growing number of homeless people in NSW,” Ms McKernan said.
“Urgent action is required to enable non-government organisations to develop targeted and specialised strategies to prevent disproportionate impacts for homeless people.
“And for those in housing stress, a moratorium on evictions for people in private rental and social housing should be implemented for those impacted by loss of income.”
NCOSS and Homelessness NSW are also calling on the NSW Government to:
- Provide rapid re-housing for the homeless that removes them from high risk environments.
- Roll out specialised, multi-disciplinary assertive outreach teams that can address health and other needs.
- Implement a moratorium on evictions for people in private rental and social housing for the foreseeable future, along with one-off payments to cover costs for people who are unable to pay their rent due to loss of income.
Separate to these housing measures, a range of initiatives need to be developed for people being supported in residential care in the disability, alcohol and other drug, mental health and out-of-home care sectors.
These should be aimed at:
- Boosting staff numbers and enabling the development of a contingency/back-up workforce to continue providing essential care as the virus spreads.
- Establishing alternative models of care for clients with COVID-19.
- Providing financial compensation for casual staff who are unable to work due to COVID-19.
- Upskilling staff in relation to infection control and provide compensation to allow staff to participate in training.
- Setting up a dedicated hotline to provide advice to organisations providing residential care to vulnerable populations.
- Providing priority access to personal protection equipment, including, but not limited to face masks and hand sanitiser.
“These measures are a starting point and address the most urgent issues being raised by frontline social services workers,” Ms Quilty said.
To find out more about NCOSS, visit: www.ncoss.org.au
To find out more about Homelessness NSW, visit: www.homelessnessnsw.org.au
Media contact: Nick Trainor 0407 078 138 (NCOSS)