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Melbourne homelessness services rally to solve rough sleeping during COVID-19

Hand holding keys

10 August 2020

In a golden opportunity to house and support rough sleepers, Sacred Heart Mission, The Salvation Army and VincentCare have pulled together to form GreenLight Heart, to move more than 300 people currently in hotels, into housing to prevent their return to rough sleeping.

Cathy Humphrey, Sacred Heart Mission, CEO, says frontline workers across the sector, including from the GreenLight Heart team, are working around the clock to ensure no one returns to a life on the streets, especially during this continuing health crisis.

The Victorian Government has supported the sector to ensure every person sleeping rough has a place to stay, and this has enabled people to meet the ‘stay at home’ directions.

“This collaborative effort with the State Government has ensured transmission rates amongst the homeless community have been minimal,” Cathy says.

“Rough sleeping has long been seen as an intractable problem, but it can be solved if people get the right level of support as well as the right housing.”

In addition to the GreenLight Heart response, the State Government recently unveiled a further $150-million package to continue to support this approach during COVID-19 and beyond to at least April 2021.

“People deserve certainty about their futures, and a place they can meet the government’s ‘stay at home’ directions,” Cathy says.

“While people are in hotels we have a rare opportunity to connect with ‘hard-to-reach’ people who are often unseen or overlooked and make a lasting difference in their lives.”

Cathy says extending this hotel accommodation while the 2,000 recipients across Melbourne are supported to access long-term housing will help people without a home finally break the cycle of homelessness.

“We applaud the Victorian Government for also announcing packages, as well as head leasing 1,100 properties from the private rental market for people once they leave emergency accommodation,” Cathy says.

“Sacred Heart Mission, The Salvation Army and VincentCare have all contributed staff and committed to prioritising support as well as housing vacancies to ensure this rapid response is successful to fully meet the needs of the 300 we are supporting.”

GreenLight Heart looks forward to working with the State Government on how the funding will be allocated to homelessness agencies in both metropolitan and regional areas, allowing us to provide services based on individual needs.

Since March, the Victorian Government has provided $15 million to homelessness organisations to find people who were sleeping in the street temporary accommodation in hotels. It announced a further $9.8 million to keep them there in the short term but also help them plan a pathway into more long-term stable accommodation.

All frontline workers are following coronavirus restriction measures, including physical distancing, when moving people from crisis accommodation into housing.

pdf Download the media release here (131 KB)

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