At the most recent Western Australian Alliance to End Homelessness (WAAEH) Collaborative Lead Group Meeting the need to make an urgent response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) dominated discussion.
WAAEH Executive Officer John Berger, sought input from the group (largely represented through a Zoom call) to suggest a hold be put on the activities of the Alliance so everyone could focus on the actions associated with a COVID-19 response.
“We need to shift our focus for a temporary period,” explained John Berger. “It is hard to ask people to do things which are not related to the current situation.”
In agreement the focus changed to a Sector Meeting briefing held the day before. John gave an overview which allowed those representatives who were not at the meeting to determine which action groups they might wish to join. The Sector Meeting agreed that a Lead Working Group be developed to progress a range of tasks.
Some of the decisions made were: • Any plans being developed by agencies in response to COVID-19 would be shared through the Shelter WA website. • Get a better picture of the extent of rough sleeping in Perth. • Determine the best approach for a temporary accommodation strategy. • Department of Communities to communicate to the sector regularly and provide clarity in relation to what they thought were priority services.
A call for nominations was made for the Lead Working Group and it is comprised of, Michael Piu CEO, St Patrick’s Community Support Centre; Michelle Mackenzie (Chair) CEO, Shelter WA; Samantha Drury CEO, Shelter WA; Debra Zanella CEO, Ruah Community Services; Amanda Hunt CEO, UnitingCare West; Mark Glasson CEO, Anglicare WA and John Berger Executive Officer, WAAEH. John Berger outlined how different organisations have shown interest in working on responses to COVID-19 by sub-groups. Two of the main sub-groups which were prominent in the discussion were.
• Rough Sleepers There is an urgent need to get a better understanding of the amount of people rough sleeping currently in Perth. Both Ruah Community Services and Centrecare will compare their data to get a better understanding of the numbers of people living on the street and the measures which can be put in place to protect them. The group decided it would be beneficial to touch base with the Centre for Social Impact UWA who have compiled data on rough sleepers and more importantly their locations. With an understanding of the numbers an educated estimate can be put to the State Government for accommodation for rough sleepers.
• Boarders and Lodgers/Lodging Houses Natalie Sangalli, General Manager of Access Housing is leading the overall approach. Plans and procedures are in place in case someone does need to self-isolate, and how transfers would be conducted safely to move people from one lodging place to a suitable location. It was decided “that an ask” would be put to the State Government for additional resources to assist someone with transport, food and medicine if such a case was to occur. Some organisations have already spoken to their tenants who fall into the high risk category at lodging houses to communicate with them their plans and to take on any concerns from the individual.
• Other Groups Other subgroups include Youth which includes responses to youth homelessness and COVID-19, Day Centres and the challenge of keeping them operational with staff and another working group will look at evictions. A moratorium has been called on all evictions to avoid people passing into homelessness purely because they cannot pay their rent. The sector continues to meet regularly via Zoom and are liaising with the appropriate government departments to develop a comprehensive homelessness response.