During this public health crisis, no one should be left behind
I have no doubt that many of you are feeling the anxiety and concern that comes with the uncertainty of the current public health crisis. I am sure, like myself, you are taking every precaution to safeguard yourself, your loved ones and your communities from the spread of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
As a national charity and community services provider with more than 2,000 employees working with vulnerable people, the ongoing need to ensure safety and wellbeing for everyone is at the forefront of our thinking. Our focus continues to be on standing together to support the communities we serve and the safety and wellbeing of our staff.
Our ability to prioritise our vital services at Mission Australia becomes ever more important at times like this, because we know that the most vulnerable in society are often those most greatly impacted.
Protecting our most vulnerable now, will help our communities and country to bounce back quickly and thrive into the future.
People struggling to make ends meet, some elderly, those experiencing poor physical or mental health, or living remotely, do not have the luxury of stockpiling food and resources. They also risk being pushed further into homelessness, poverty and vulnerability by the knock-on effects of an economic downturn.
As an organisation focused on reducing homelessness and strengthening communities, we are particularly concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on people experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of becoming homeless. There is and will be much work to do during this public health crisis to ensure that people are looked after, safely and appropriately housed and have the community supports that they need.
Care should be taken to consider the unintended consequences of public health policy on this already vulnerable group of people. There are already around 116,000 people who are homeless – some who have jobs – and don’t have a safe place to self-isolate during the pandemic. Without a home, it can be difficult to self-isolate, work from home, stay well and reduce the spread of the virus.
Rough sleeping is already isolating and many who sleep rough already have complex health issues which place them at greater risk. If there were a denial of service to Australia’s 8,200 rough-sleepers by staff trying to enact social distancing, this would merely compound vulnerability. For the many who are living in over-crowded living situations – which is a more hidden form of homelessness – these people must be considered by decision-makers when advising solutions to contain the spread of the virus.
As the part-time and casual work in the gig economies of hospitality, entertainment, food delivery and ride-sharing dries up, many more people will struggle to pay rent and are at increased risk of homelessness. People are already reaching out to us for emergency relief who are struggling to make ends meet due to the impacts of COVID-19. To prevent even more people being pushed into homelessness and so everyone can pay for food, shelter and basic essentials, we’re calling on the government to support people experiencing rental stress such as casual and contract workers who have lost income due to the pandemic to help cover their rent.
So that we can best serve and support people who are most vulnerable at this time and well into the future, we also ask that the government considers extending the stimulus package to help community services organisations.
This is a time of great financial uncertainty for our sector, particularly following recent and current crises. In this time of increased need, the kindness and generosity of Mission Australia donors and volunteers is of utmost importance, necessity and value.
Community services organisations must be adequately supported so we can continue delivering our most vital services during the pandemic and into the future.
Mission Australia is continuously monitoring updates, measures and procedures from the Federal Government, State Governments and Department of Health so we can take active steps and communicate regularly as the situation evolves.
We are taking every precaution to protect each other and the people we serve - because our health is dependent on the health of everyone.
CEO Mission Australia