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

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

19 October 2020

This statement reflects our status on Monday, 19 October 2020, 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

All Victorians must wear a fitted face mask when outside which covers the nose and mouth (it can’t be a face shield, scarf or bandana) and a $200 penalty applies for not wearing one. Groups of up to 10 people from two households are allowed to gather outdoors and the penalty for illegal gatherings has increased to nearly $5,000.

As of 18 October 2020, further restrictions have eased in Melbourne including the travel radius expanding from 5km to 25km in metropolitan Melbourne from your home or workplace but you’re not permitted to travel to regional Victoria.

There’s no time limit for exercising and socialising. Outdoor sports settings like tennis courts, golf courses and skateparks will open. Outdoor swimming pools are allowed to host up to 30 swimmers. Hairdressers can also open. Outdoor real estate auctions can go ahead with up to 10 people, plus staff. Non-essential outdoor home maintenance allowed with up to five workers. Many allied health services to resume face-to-face.

As of 28 September 2020, Melbourne’s curfew was lifted, as coronavirus restrictions eased in Victoria. Restrictions on shopping remain, with a limit of one person from each household going to the shops once a day lifted. There are only four reasons to leave your home (i.e. shopping for food and supplies, care and caregiving, exercise and outdoor recreation, study and work if you can’t do it at home) and that stays in place until Melbourne moves to Step three.

The Victorian Government has extended the State of Emergency and State of Disaster until 8 November 2020.

For those travelling to work, you must always carry a permit with you at all times and can find more information here.

Provision of client services

Victoria is in a State of Disaster and non-essential activity is restricted. 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 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, all non-essential visits to residents have been cancelled. Notices and communication has been distributed to families.
  • Non-essential services, such as hairdressing, have been cancelled.
  • 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.
  • 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 for a maximum of one hour.
  • Visitors are required to call the Manager on 0438176693 to book appointments for visits
  • Visits can only take place on weekdays between 9am and 4pm.
  • All visits will be in accordance with the DHHS COVID-19 Industry Code for Visiting Residential Aged Care Homes (updated 3 July).
  • People are advised to remain at home where possible.
  • 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 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’ve been using technology to conduct meetings, events, and training since March. Our student placements were put on hold.
  • Non-essential visits to our reception areas, or sites, are not permitted, unless authorised.

Op shops

  • Our op shops are closed due to Stage 4 restrictions. Our 12 stores fund more than 30 per cent of Sacred Heart Mission’s programs and services, including our Meal’s Program and the Women’s House. Without our stores running at full capacity, the various services we provide are underfunded.
  • In the meantime, we invite you to op shop from the comfort and safety of your home at our ebay and Instagram stores.


  • We’ve halted all volunteer shifts again, except for a handful in the Dining Hall. Please touch base with us again at the end of September 2020, if you are interested in joining Sacred Heart Mission when restrictions are lifted.
  • In the meantime, we encourage everyone to make a donation to our services so we can continue to support our most vulnerable who need our help more than ever.

Our fundraising events

  • We cancelled both our Dine with Heart campaign and the Women for Women Light up a Life Lunch in May. 
  • 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:

  • Wear a mask at all times
  • 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.

To help you decide if you are part of the most at risk categories and whether you should be tested, use our 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.

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:

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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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