Sacred Heart Mission’s Response to the coronavirus (Covid-19)

Sacred Heart Mission’s Response to COVID-19 (coronavirus)

15 January 2021

This statement reflects our status on Friday, 15 January 2021 and how Sacred Heart Mission is monitoring and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, including activating our Business Continuity Plan.

SHM is following the advice of the Australian Government before activating changes to provision of services and operations in response to COVID-19. Modified arrangements are being implemented to make sure we can continue to provide critical services to our clients while maintaining the health and safety of our staff, clients, residents, volunteers and community is paramount.

Our procedures, processes and systems are being reviewed and modified to prevent and minimise the risks of COVID-19 community transmission, and are ready to adapt to ongoing changes as required.

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Current restrictions in Victoria

Face masks

The State Government has announced that as of Monday, 18 January 2021 there will be some relaxing of face masks in Victoria. 

What is changing:

  • If you are in a non-client/community-facing space such as an office that is only accessible to SHM staff and you are able to maintain spatial distancing of no less than 1.5m you are permitted to remove your face mask. 

What remains the same:

  • SHM staff and volunteers must wear a face mask when engaging in any client or community-facing activities such as op shop retail and all client interactions.
  • SHM staff and volunteers must wear a face mask when working in or moving through a client or community space, such as corridors, interview rooms, op shops and activity rooms.
  • Clients will still be asked to wear a mask when engaging with staff and volunteers.
  • Op shoppers will still be asked to wear a face mask while attending a Sacred Heart Mission op shop.

Exposure sites

  • Several exposure sites in Victoria have been identified as having been visited by positive COVID-19 cases. Anyone who has been at these locations must get tested immediately and self-isolate until they get a negative result. Check the DHHS website for details about the locations.

Border permits

  • Victoria has established a permit system for all domestic travel into Victoria. Both travellers to Victoria and Victorian residents returning home from interstate travel need to apply for a permit to enter Victoria.
  • The permit system is based on a traffic light system which allows for areas across Australia to be designated as green, orange or red according to their risk.
  • People who try to enter Victoria without a permit can be fined up to $5,000.
  • A red zone means that people are not allowed to enter Victoria without an exception, permitted worker permit or exemption.
  • Those travelling from orange and green zones must apply for a permit to enter Victoria. People cannot apply for a permit if they have coronavirus symptoms of if they have visited a red zone. 
  • More information about the permit system and a map showing the current green, orange and red zones is available here. To apply online for a permit go to this Victorian Government website.

Limits on private and public gatherings

  • Up to 15 visitors are now allowed in your home per day. The public gathering limit has increased to 100 people. The cap on people at weddings, funerals and religious gatherings has been removed with a density limit of one person per two square metres. Dance floors at weddings are allowed, with one person per four square metres and maximum 50 people. Hospitality venues patron cap is now removed (density limits still apply). Gyms and community sports centres have moved to a density limit of one person per four square metres.
  • Exercise classes are limited to 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors. Swimming pools, spas and saunas have moved to a density quotient of one person per two square metres, both indoors and outdoors. Libraries, RSLs and community halls are subject to the density limit of one person per two square metres. Seated venues are allowed a maximum of 75 per cent fixed seating capacity and a maximum of 1,000 people.
  • All retail, restaurants, hotels, cafes and bars (with restrictions) opened on October 27, as well as beauty, personal services and tattooing. Outdoor community sport for under 18s and outdoor non-contact sport for adults is allowed. Four reasons to leave home have been removed.

Provision of client services

  • Our accommodation and homelessness services are essential services. With appropriate spatial distancing, PPE and other necessary service modifications, our focus is to continue to safely provide critical services as far as practicable, because our clients will be the most impacted by the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus. They include older people, people on low incomes, people with a disability and those without a home.
  • Service modifications have been implemented in different ways across service types and aim to maintain the health and wellbeing of staff and clients.
  • We will be focusing on critical support to make sure our clients have their needs met and are as prepared as possible in this changing environment.

Engagement Hubs (Dining Hall, Central Services and the Women’s House)

  • We are offering our Dining Hall clients a combined breakfast and lunch takeaway. Our meals service has been modified, to reduce the need for vulnerable people to gather as they wait for their meal. This service will occur between 10am-1pm, outside the front gate of our Dining Hall (87 Grey Street, St Kilda).
  • To support physical distancing, we have marked chalk lines in front of the op shop at 87a Grey Street, St Kilda, to indicate the 1.5 metres of distance people are required to keep between each other.
  • Access to the GP is available four days a week from Monday to Thursday.
  • Outreach, case management, and duty support will occur face-to-face. Current clients receiving case management have been supported with mobile phones.
  • We currently offer clients from the Women’s House takeaway meals from outside the front gate of our Dining Hall on Grey Street.
  • The Women's House will continue to offer crisis and housing support. Open-house access, showers, laundry and the sleep room are temporarily closed.
  • The Wellness Place has moved services such as our physiotherapy pain clinic and dietetics services onto an eHealth platform with other services being put on hold at this time.
  • The Health and Wellbeing group activities have also been placed on hold.

Hotel Response Teams

  • Our COVID-19 Hotel Response Teams are providing a reduced security and safety response at three hotels accommodating GreenLight Heart clients in the inner city and will continue to operate until March 31.

Hotel Emergency Accommodation Response Team (HEART)

  • Our Heart response has integrated into our individual planned support programs including GreenLight, as Heart clients have been allocated case management support from across client services.

GreenLight Supportive Housing Program

  • We have recommenced provision of case management and service coordination to clients face-to-face with appropriate social distancing and PPE.
  • Will accept new referrals, and continue close work with housing partners to sustain housing for clients.

Journey to Social Inclusion

  • We have recommenced outreach and are providing case management and service coordination to clients, with social distancing and PPE.
  • J2SI will continue close work with housing partners to sustain housing for clients.

Homefront Crisis Accommodation for women

  • As a priority homeless service, we will continue to provide on site support directly to clients with distancing and universal infection controls in place.
  • Outreach to transition clients, and case management has recommenced face-to-face. We will accept new referrals with C-19 screening.

Bethlehem Community

  • As a priority homeless service, we will continue to provide on site support directly to clients with distancing and universal infection controls etc.
  • Outreach to women housed independently in Sofia's Place, My Place and case management have recommenced face-to-face work.
  • Social inclusion activities have been tailored to be offered on-site and will recommence off-site with groups under ten.

Sacred Heart Community

  • Visitors are now allowed back into SHC’s residential care in our newly purpose-built, 97-bed facility but they must abide by screening processes in the home, including signing a visitor declaration form and wearing a mask.
  • The number of additional people in the home has been restricted to 30 to meet Victorian Government legislation at this time. Visitors can’t come at meal times as this reduces social distance requirements in the dining rooms.
  • Two people only are allowed in each resident’s room and groups of people need to meet in public areas.
  • Residents and staff (where possible) are encouraged to adhere to spatial distancing principles and group activities for residents have been modified.
  • We have distributed hand sanitisers and implemented staff education.
  • Where possible, medical reviews are undertaken remotely using eHealth.
  • Cleaning services have been reviewed and increased.
  • Visits can now take place throughout the week between 9am and 4pm, except at meal times.
  • All visits will be in accordance with the DHHS COVID-19 Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes (updated 20 November).
  • All visitors must comply with COVID-19 infection control and hygiene measures, including physical distancing and hand hygiene, at all times.

Rooming House Plus Program

  • As a residential service offering bedsit accommodation for 67 people living with mental health, drug and alcohol related issues, we have ceased all visits from non-essential services.
  • We have implemented spatial distancing principles in office spaces and communal areas, ceased all organised group activities and discouraged residents from congregating.
  • We have placed information around the facility to ensure current recommendations are accessible by all staff and residents.
  • We have created discrete staff teams and rosters to reduce staff contacts and implemented the use of PPE as well as training for all staff.

Sacred Heart Local

  • As a service offering in-home support to 200 people both aged people and people living with disabilities, we implemented daily welfare checks by a phone for all clients but we’re now reviewing this as restrictions have lifted.
  • Staff are maintaining spatial distancing (where possible) when visiting clients.
  • Hand wash and gloves have been distributed to all community-based support staff alongside online education.
  • Office isolation principles have been implemented and reduced office-based staff to a minimum to avoid contact between front line and office staff.
  • We have implemented technologically based communications and tools to reduce the need to access the central office.

Operational changes

  • We’ve been using technology to conduct meetings, events, and training since March. Our student placements restarted in October.
  • Our Work for Victorians staff commenced in September for our op shops, office sites, and client services.
  • We have improved our collection of contact tracing data through the implementation of QR Codes for all staff, volunteers, visitors and contractors attending any SHM site.

Op shops

  • Our op shops are open, with extra staff keeping the stores sanitised and monitoring our density quotient every day. We’re currently accepting donations during business hours, and our collection service is also operating and can be contacted Monday-Friday, between 9.30am-4.30pm, on (03) 8658 1698.
  • You can also shop at our new online op shop from the comfort of your home.  
  • Our 12 stores fund more than 30 per cent of Sacred Heart Mission’s programs and services, including our Meals Program and the Women’s House. Without our stores running at full capacity, the various services we provide are underfunded.


Our fundraising events

  • We cancelled both our Dine with Heart campaign and the Women for Women Light up a Life Lunch in May 2020. Our Heart of St Kilda concert was held digitally in early December 2020.
  • We will continue to communicate future decisions about other upcoming events with our key stakeholders.

For further information about our services during the coronavirus pandemic please check out our COVID-19 FAQ:

Covid-19 FAQ

Protecting yourselves and others

To help reduce the spread please ensure you follow the good hygiene practices below to protect yourself and others:

  • Face masks are no longer required outside, as long as physical distancing is maintained. They must still be worn indoors, on public transport, and carried around outdoors in case physical distancing is impossible.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
  • Use hand sanitiser
  • Maintain physical distancing
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze
  • If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early
  • We urge everyone to continue to follow the advice of government health authorities with regard to maintaining good hygiene practices. Additional information is available on the Victorian Government Department of Health and Human Services and Australian Government Department of Health websites. The COVID-19 hotline, 1800 675 398, is also available if you have any concerns about your health.
  • If you are feeling unwell, please take care of yourself and those around you.

What to do if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms

  • People with symptoms including fever, coughing, sore throat, fatigue, and shortness of breath, or people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or people who have recently returned from overseas (or come into contact with someone who has), or have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19; must seek medical attention. Call the National Coronavirus Helpline for advice on 1800 020 080. It operates 24/7, seven days a week.
  • Call ahead to your GP or emergency department before you arrive at the doctor’s office so they can prepare appropriate infection control measures.
  • People with mild or severe symptoms of COVID-19 need to go get tested at one of the sites available on the DHHS website.
  • If you have serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, call 000 and ask for an ambulance and tell the operator your recent travel history.

Getting tested for coronavirus

  • People or staff who are unwell with any symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), however mild, should stay home and get tested. If you have any fever, chills, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose, and loss of sense of smell or taste – please stay home, don’t go in to work and don’t visit friends and family. Get tested and stay at home until you get the result. Go to the DHHS testing map for locations.
  • Testing is currently available to:
    • People with the following symptoms, however mild: fever, chills or sweats, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose, and loss of sense of smell or taste.
    • People from the suburban testing priority suburbs including anyone without symptoms.
  • Vulnerable Victorians can get tested at home in metropolitan Melbourne, via the Call-to-Test service for people who have coronavirus (COVID-19) and can’t leave home due to injury, mobility or other eligible reasons. The Call-to-Test service is available to people with an injury, chronic health issue, or frailty affecting mobility, with moderate to severe mental health or behavioural issues not otherwise classified as a psychosocial disability or carers for a person with moderate to severe disability. You must be over five years of age to access this service. You can call the coronavirus (COVID-19) hotline on 1800 675 398 and select option 9 to find out if you are eligible for this service.
  • Close contacts without symptoms can use the Call-to-Test service if they have been told by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to get tested and meet any of the criteria listed above. Read about the Call-to-Test service in Easy English.
  • The test takes around a minute and involves a swab from the back of your throat and nose. The test is free for everyone.
  • You should bring at least one form of identification – for example, your Medicare card, driver’s licence or student ID. 
  • If you have symptoms, you must return home immediately after the test and remain in self-isolation until you receive your test result.
  • You can find more information on COVID-19 testing here.

Self-isolation requirements for travellers

  • It's paramount people arriving from overseas follow self-isolation regulations for 14 days or they will be penalised. This will now occur under supervision, and in airport hotels. In Victoria, the penalty for failing to comply is a fine of almost $20,000 and $100,000 for companies.
  • If you have a confirmed case of COVID-19 and you have been at a SHM site, you must advise us of any contact with staff, volunteers and clients in the 24-hour period prior to feeling unwell as well as physical locations visited. Call your SHM contact or reception on 03 9537 1166.

Coronavirus information in your language

The Department of Home Affairs provides essential information about COVID-19 in 63 different languages.

Donate here to support the most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Donate now

Sacred Heart Mission acknowledges the traditional Aboriginal owners of country throughout Victoria and pays respects to them, their culture and their elders past, present and emerging.

Sacred Heart Mission has always aimed to be a place that embraces a sexuality and gender diverse community; everyone is welcome at our table and we believe a diverse community is good for everyone.
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