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

Sacred Heart Mission offers take-away meals during COVID-19

18 May 2020

As the health and safety of our staff, clients and volunteers is paramount during the coronavirus pandemic, we are closely monitoring the ongoing COVID-19 developments and following advice of expert authorities to respond to the outbreak to keep our people and the wider community safe and well.

This statement reflects our status on Monday, 18 May 2020, and how Sacred Heart Mission is monitoring and responding to the outbreak which has activated our Business Continuity Plan.

Sacred Heart Mission 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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Provision of client services

Our accommodation and homelessness services are essential services. With appropriate spatial distancing 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.

To support people most affected by the coronavirus we also provide a recovery centre for people to self-isolate, quarantine and recover.

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 spray-painted hearts on the pavement in front of our Dining Hall gate, to indicate the 1.5 metres of distance people are required to keep between each other.
  • We’re also linking our clients in self-isolation, or who might be highly vulnerable, with the Red Cross, who are providing them with food hampers. RACV is also donating meals and delivering them to our clients at RHHP, Sacred Heart Local, Bethlehem Community and Homefront.
  • Access to the GP is available four days a week from Monday to Thursday between 9am and 1pm.
  • Access to toilets remains available seven days a week.
  • Outreach and case management support will occur via the telephone. 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 (87 Grey Street, St Kilda), with a friendly WH staff member available to chat at this location mentioned above.
  • The Women's House will continue to offer crisis and housing support. Drop in access, showers, laundry and the sleep room are temporarily closed.
  • Hands on Health Clinic 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.
  • Our Resource Room continues to provide information and assistance with a range of issues including housing and accommodation.
  • The Health and Wellbeing group activities have also been placed on hold.
  • A new food security and social support team has been created with existing modified engagement hub roles to meet current and emerging needs in the community, as existing services are modified and new emerging needs identified.

GreenLight Supportive Housing Program

  • We will continue to provide case management and service coordination remotely to clients via telephone, with exceptions for new housing offers to clients or high-risk tenancies, whereby outreach will occur with appropriate controls in place.
  • Clients have been provided with mobiles if required to support this work. Will accept new referrals, and continue close work with housing partners to sustain housing for clients.

Journey to Social Inclusion

  • We have ceased outreach and are providing case management and service coordination remotely to clients via telephone, with exceptions for new housing offers to clients or high risk tenancies, whereby outreach will occur with appropriate distancing controls.
  • Clients have been provided with mobiles if required to support this. 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 will be provided remotely via telephone. We will accept new referrals when COVID-19 screening is in place.

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 will be provided remotely via telephone.
  • Social inclusion activities have been tailored to be offered on-site. We will accept new referrals when the relevant COVID-19 screening is in place.

Sacred Heart Community

  • As a service providing residential care in our newly purpose-built 97 bed facility, visits to the home are limited to one visitor per resident at a time. Visitors are required to call Sacred Heart Community at 0438 176 693 to announce their visits.
  • All visitors will be screened before entering the building. People with any symptoms of a cold or feeling unwell are not permitted to visit Sacred Heart Mission.
  • Upon entry, visitors must also provide evidence of being vaccinated against the seasonal flu.
  • All visitors must comply with COVID-19 infection control and hygiene measures, including physical distancing, at all times.
  • Non-essential services, such as hairdressing, will slowly be re-introduced in accordance with the ease of COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines by the Victorian Government.
  • Residents and staff (where possible) are encouraged to adhere to spatial distancing principles and group activities for residents have been modified.
  • Residents are able to visit family members in the community as per government guidelines, but we recommend everyone to stay at home for now, if possible.

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 have implemented daily welfare checks by a phone for all clients.
  • 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’re following new spatial distancing measures across the Mission by using technology to conduct meetings, events, training, as well as restricting movement between offices, and our upcoming student placements are on hold.
  • Visits to our office and service sites are restricted. Non-essential visits to our reception area are not permitted, unless authorised.

Op shops

  • From Friday 22 May, the following four stores will be reopening:
  • These stores have been chosen due to their larger size, which will allow for social distancing measures to be more easily managed. Other safety precautions will also be implemented, such as no-contact donations and increased PPE, to help meet compliance and ensure a safe workplace for staff, volunteers and customers.
  • Our collection service will also resume in a reduced capacity, operating Monday-Friday.  
  • The remaining op shops will remain closed until further notice.  Please do not leave donations outside these stores.
  • Our op shops 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, the various services we provide are underfunded.
  • Our online store @sacredheartonlinestore via Instagram and eBay remains functional.


  • On Friday, May 22, we reopened our Prahan op shops on Chapel Street and Commercial Road, as well as our South Melbourne and Preston stores. Volunteer shifts have resumed at those stores. 
  • Volunteers in our other programs who have access to a computer, can help our teams by working remotely from home and participating in virtual meetings. However, we understand it’s a changing landscape and if volunteers can’t work remotely, their shifts are postponed for now and we look forward to inviting our volunteers back, once the outbreak ends.
  • We will continue to inform our volunteers via email about any Covid-19-related updates.
  • While most volunteer roles aren’t continuing, we have started recruiting for a limited number of volunteer roles and invite people interested in these volunteering opportunities to apply.

Our fundraising events

  • We have decided to postpone both the Dine with Heart campaign and the Women for Women Light up a Life Lunch, both held in May. We have communicated this decision with all key stakeholders and at this stage we are likely to hold these activities in September and October respectively.

For further information about our services during the coronavirus pandemic please check out our 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:

  • 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; been diagnosed with COVID-19, 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.
To help you decide if you are part of the most at risk categories and whether you should be tested, use this interactive coronavirus self-assessment tool.

If you have serious symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, call 000 and ask for an ambulance and tell the operator your recent travel history.

Self-isolation requirements

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.

When the pandemic passes, and it will, SHM is committed as ever to continue what we’ve been able to do together, for 37 years.

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

Donate now

Sacred Heart Mission respectfully acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land on which we operate our services. We pay our respects to the ongoing living cultures of Aboriginal peoples, and to Elders past, present and future.
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