Mission Australia’s Common Ground facility in Camperdown, Sydney was placed into lockdown from 8am on Thursday 2 September for 14 days until Wednesday 15 September after four tenants tested positive to COVID-19.

Mission Australia supports NSW Health’s decision to lockdown the 104 social and affordable homes, after the charity was notified on Sunday 29 August that two tenants had tested positive to COVID-19. A further two tenants tested positive on Wednesday 1 September.

Mission Australia’s CEO James Toomey said: “During the 14 day lockdown, all Common Ground tenants are being supported for all their needs either by NSW Health clinicians in relation to their medical and clinical needs, or by a dedicated Mission Australia tenant support team for all other needs.

“As a community housing provider and community services provider working with people who are vulnerable including some tenants who have experienced long term homelessness, the ongoing need to ensure safety and wellbeing for everyone at Common Ground is at the front of our thinking. Our focus continues to be on doing everything we can to support the people we serve and the safety and wellbeing of our staff.

“We know the experience of a lockdown is very challenging for everyone living and working at Common Ground. Mission Australia is fully engaged with tenants and is providing support to them within the parameters of NSW Health and Police guidelines. We continue to work alongside NSW Health, NSW Police, the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ), cleaners and other tenancy support teams and local community organisations to ensure the safety of tenants and staff, and to ensure support and supplies are provided to people living at Common Ground during the lockdown.

“The Mission Australia tenant care team has been proactively calling tenants, acting on calls received by tenants to meet their needs and arranging regular door-drops of information and supplies to all tenants since the beginning of the lockdown. We have been keeping in touch with tenants daily by dropping information flyers under doors, SMS, emails, bespoke services for tenants without phones, a Facebook page for tenant updates, daily Zoom chats for tenants, as well as a dedicated 1800 number that tenants can call. We’re also door-dropping a daily tenant newsletter with information about supports available, activities and wellbeing tips.

If any Common Ground tenants require support, they should contact our Mission Australia Tenant Care Team on the 1800 number, which is staffed by case workers and support staff, and is free and available 24/7. We have provided phones to tenants who do not have them and phone credit top up so they can stay connected.

“We are always increasing opportunities for connections and communication between tenants and are supporting them to safely connect with each other through technology while in lockdown. We are keen to continue to communicate with tenants and better understand how we - alongside NSW Health, NSW Police and other groups - can support everyone’s needs. Mission Australia is in touch with tenants daily and we continue to welcome feedback and ideas as to how we can make this lockdown more comfortable for the people we serve.

“Door-to-door COVID-19 testing at Common Ground has continued to be provided by NSW Health and COVID-19 vaccinations for tenants are being provided onsite. NSW Health staff are undertaking COVID Safe door-to-door welfare checks of tenants, while Mission Australia conducts daily phone welfare checks.

“We have a support service team working with NSW Health onsite to ensure we understand medical and mental health needs of tenants, and so they have access to all medications and support they need. NSW Health have mental health staff onsite and nurses and are doing regular door knocks and welfare checks. We are connecting tenants to the services they need to support their mental health and medical needs including arranging deliveries of medicines, providing support to re-fill scripts, assisting with tele-health appointments, wellbeing resources in the daily newsletter and working closely with tenants to understand and address their needs. We have also offered contactless counselling, chaplaincy and other wellbeing support to tenants and staff.

“Mission Australia’s tenant support team has been coordinating food hampers, delivery of food including fresh food boxes and frozen meals, providing supermarket gift vouchers, meal delivery gift vouchers such as Uber Eats, complimentary pizza, pet supplies and other items. We continue to support tenants to make online orders for delivery of goods and groceries to Common Ground. We have also called tenants to understand their dietary needs and have been providing access to gluten free, vegetarian, vegan and lactose free food deliveries to meet these needs. Additionally, tenants can call the 1800 number if they need anything.

“Linen packs and laundry bags are being delivered and we have arranged a contactless laundry services for tenants who don’t have a washing machine. Mission Australia has organised pet walking services for the many animals we have in our building. We are supplying entertainment packs and extra care packs to provide lockdown entertainment which will include painting by numbers, crosswords and puzzle packs. We have also purchased televisions, radios and other entertainment devices for a number of residents who do not have these.

We are continuing to work with a range of partners to access food, personal care packs and other essentials for our tenants who need them and we’re grateful to Oz Harvest, RSPCA, Addison Road Community Organisation, Plate It Forward, Coles, Rural Fire Service, Health Share, Resilience NSW, Hillsong, Living Hope Church, City of Sydney, Two Good Co, Glad Group and P&G. We are incredibly grateful for the swell in community support and donations from our wonderful partner organisations.

“Tenants may be entitled to Centrelink income support if they have lost income or are experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 or this current lockdown. Our tenant care team is working with tenants to support them to access this income support.

“I also want to thank the Mission Australia tenant care team and all the onsite and offsite staff that have been working around the clock to ensure our tenants are supported, cared for and their needs are met.”

A deep clean of Common Ground was completed last week and rigorous daily cleaning continues.

Mission Australia has robust COVID-19 action plans in place nationally across all housing and services, including office spaces and unit complexes. These include rigorous infection control, hygiene, PPE and physical distancing measures. These plans ensure the safe continuity of accommodation and support for tenants and the safety of Mission Australia staff.

Mission Australia worked with NSW Health to host two in-house pop up vaccination clinics at Common Ground on 14 July and 4 August. More than a third of tenants and the majority of staff accessed vaccinations at these clinics.

“We know that protecting people who are most vulnerable by providing in-house access to COVID-19 vaccinations will help ensure the wellbeing of tenants, as well as support the health of the broader local community. We’ve consistently encouraged all eligible staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccination,” said Mr Toomey.

For those who would like to donate to Mission Australia, visit missionaustralia.com.au.

About Common Ground

The socially integrated six storey residential building at Common Ground Sydney includes 104 units, 24/7 concierge service and proactive tenancy and support services.

Common Ground operates an integrated Housing First model that gives people who have experienced long-term homelessness a safe and secure place to call home, while providing support services and connections to other supports so they can achieve health, stability and maximise their ability to live independently.

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