Homelessness services banding together to get people off the streets

25 May 2020
Hands holding a cardboard house

In a great show of solidarity, Sacred Heart Mission and other homelessness services are rallying together to offer support to the Launch Housing Rough Sleeper Initiative (RSI) to move a high number of people sleeping rough into crisis accommodation, as the Covid-19 pandemic deepens the inequality divide.

The coronavirus pandemic and government restrictions, including self-isolation and physical distancing, has led to Launch Housing RSI dealing with escalated demand for accommodation, resulting in placing more than 700 people sleeping rough into motels and hotels since late March.

The Launch Housing Rough Sleeper Initiative team goes above and beyond to help people sleeping rough to find a place to sleep in emergency accommodation and access vital support services.

Cathy Humphrey, Sacred Heart Mission CEO, says around 1,100 people are sleeping rough in Victoria every night. People were already struggling, with rising rents and a lack of affordable housing supply placing pressure on Launch Housing RSI’s support services, which are now stretched to capacity.

SHM staff will work alongside the Launch Housing RSI team

“In the spirit of helping our fellow colleagues, homelessness service providers including us, the Salvation Army, and VincentCare, have come together to help Launch Housing by offering staff members to help with their RSI team, which does outreach work to put people living on the streets across Melbourne into crisis accommodation,” Cathy says.

“The three service providers will work alongside Launch Housing RSI for up to 27 hours a week during which time staff will visit known hotspots of where people experiencing homelessness frequent.

“They’ll then provide people sleeping rough with information about COVID-19, and offer assistance to access emergency accommodation, like motels or hotels, before talking with them about ways to exit homelessness.”

By offering support workers from the GreenLight Supportive Housing program to Launch Housing RSI, SHM are utilising our services that specialise in helping people sleeping rough to get housed, stay housed and connect with support services and long-term programs to break the cycle of homelessness.

“In an act of goodwill, our services have stepped in to help our friends at Launch Housing RSI find accommodation for hundreds of people living on the streets, but to also provide a well deserved break to our peers who have been working around the clock to get people a place to sleep and safely rest,” Cathy says.

Working together has multiple benefits

“The threefold benefits of the collaboration are less people sleeping rough, upskilling our staff on how to engage with highly vulnerable people on a mass scale, and establishing new referrals.”

Three SKIOT and GreenLight support workers have been helping RSI with shifts throughout this period.

Sacred Heart Mission receives referrals through case management or when people seek support through our Meals Program. As our Engagement Hubs are doing take-away meals only at the moment, we expect to see a drop in referrals at the Mission but will take on new cases through this partnership.

All workers are following coronavirus restriction measures, including social distancing, and using gloves, masks and hand sanitizer as well as handing these out to clients, when they’re doing shifts on the street.