Despite the State Government's rough sleeper accommodation program successfully transitioning 250 South Australians experiencing homelessness into longer-term housing, the program will not be reinstated for the current lockdown.
State Government’s rough sleeper hotel scheme was successful but won’t be reintroduced
Executive director of South Australia’s peak housing group Shelter SA, Alice Clark tells CityMag she’s been tweeting at the State Government’s Minister for Wellbeing Michelle Lensink since Wednesday, asking for an update on what services and accommodation options will be available for Adelaide’s homeless population during this lockdown.
“We just need to ensure people get access to housing and are cared for, and they need to be taken off the streets, protected from the elements and from the virus,” Alice says.
“But we’ve almost been left in the dark. I’ve been tweeting the Minister [for Health and Wellbeing] since yesterday, but we’ve heard no word on what services are available.”
— Shelter SA (@ShelterSa) November 19, 2020
CEO of South Australian Council of Social Service, Ross Womersley tells CityMag he assumed the “standard homeless services” had been arranged for South Australian rough sleepers, but was similarly waiting on the government to clarify.
There are 198 rough sleepers in the inner-city, according to the latest data from the Adelaide Zero Project, which is up from 83 in June, as reported by the Melbourne-based nationally focussed Australian Homelessness Monitor.
The latest emergency directive mandates South Australians must stay at home unless they are essential workers or are seeking essential services.
A spokesperson for Minister Lensink says although 250 South Australians experiencing homeless transitioned into permanent housing following the State Government’s initial rough sleeping accommodation scheme, which the Minister in September referred to as a success, the hotel-motel accommodation service will not be reintroduced for the November lockdown.
Instead, those in crisis should call Homeless Connect SA on 1800 003 308 for “support”, the Minister’s spokesperson said, and they will be provided with a “room”. The website for the body states those who call will be referred to other homelessness services.
Shadow Minister for Human Services, Nat Cook told CityMag there hasn’t been swift enough action from the government, and she’s concerned people rough sleeping haven’t been reached out to, and are unaware of current restrictions.
“This is not the first experience [of lockdown] so I would have thought rapid resourcing would occur from the department,” she says.
— Nat Cook MP (@NatCookMP) November 19, 2020
General manager of city homelessness service Hutt St Centre, Michael Francis says although the State Government housed a high number of people from the hotels during the first wave of COVID-19, some have recently returned to the street.
Michael also estimates Hutt St Centre this year catered to 20 new clients a week, and “that’s people who have sought our help”, he says. But there could be more.
“Most of us have a home where we can self-isolate, we have air conditioning and a fridge to store food, which is unfortunately not the case for people living on the streets,” he says.
“Please understand, if you do see a person experiencing homelessness walking around the streets, they may have no knowledge of the lockdown. We’re calling for kindness towards some of the most disadvantaged members of our community, especially to people without a home to go to”.
CEO of Hutt St Centre, Chris Burns told ABC Adelaide Breakfast this morning “about a third of the clients that came in didn’t know about the lockdown.”
When asked why the South Australian Government hasn’t provided housing for rough sleepers or reintroduced the hotel scheme, Michael tells CityMag, “that’s a decision for the State Government”.
The Hutt St Centre is not offering direct accommodation services for those experiencing homelessness but can connect individuals to emergency accommodation from other providers. They do provide outreach and welfare services.
Alternatively, call the Hutt St Centre on 08 8418 2500 from 9am–5pm Monday to Friday for more information. For emergency after-hours accommodation support call Homeless Connect 1800 003 308 or the COVID-19 Relief Call Centre on 1300 705 336.
Visit SA Health for more information relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit our sister publication InDaily for news updates. If the COVID-19 news cycle is affecting your mental health and wellbeing, call the SA COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line on 1800 632 753.