Virus exposes cracks in the system

Providers of essential services for the homeless in WA say funds are urgently needed to enable them to continue.

Shelter WA Chief Executive Michelle Mackenzie says the community service sector has been underfunded and under huge pressure for years and COVID-19 has just exposed these cracks.

“We need immediately more resources and funding for these services to continue to operate in this environment,” she says.

Due to their circumstances, people who are living on the street are often unable to take social distancing measures and self-isolate.

Observers warn if the issue is ignored, additional pressure will be placed on the health system.

A statistic from Associate Professor Lisa Wood at UWA. Image: Bella Kitchen.

Mrs Mackenzie says it is also difficult to self-isolate for people in boarding and lodging share houses who are sharing facilities such as a kitchen and bathroom.

She points out should a case of coronavirus be confirmed within these facilities, access to more crisis accommodation and housing will be urgently needed.

Mrs Mackenzie worries there will be a second wave of homelessness due to the pandemic.

“People are losing wages and there is mortgage stress. The state signalled no rental evictions but we want to make sure that this is the case. If people get evicted now, where are they going to live?”

Shelter WA advocates for social and affordable housing and ending homelessness. Video: Shelter WA.

Cliff’s Kitchen is a Busselton church-based organisation whose volunteers have provided meals to the homeless every Wednesday for the last 21 years.

The COVID-19 outbreak has halted its sit-down luncheon, but volunteers are determined that will not stop them from providing a belly full of food for people.

Cliff’s Kitchen volunteers wearing PPE to keep themselves and others protected. Photo: Supplied.

The Cliff’s Kitchen administrator John Morris says they have altered their system to accommodate the virus regulations.

He says they are using funds provided from the St Mary’s church and the local Lions Club to continue food supply.

Mr Morris says it is most important to continue these services for the homeless during these times.