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Surge in calls for shelter under lockdown

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Calls to the state’s 24/7 homelessness service have surged by 300 per cent since lockdown was announced on Tuesday, with interstate border closures and movement restrictions leaving hundreds stranded across the state.

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Homeless Connect SA is the State Government’s homelessness service provider directory line run by not-for-profit Uniting Communities SA and Helping Young People Achieve.

Uniting Communities says that in the 48 hours since the lockdown was announced on Tuesday, Homeless Connect has received 4300 calls – a 300 per cent increase on their usual volume.

They also say 130 rough sleepers have since been accommodated in hotels and emergency accommodation since the announcement.

The homelessness service provider attributed the increase to interstate border closures which have left travellers in SA stranded without ongoing accommodation, and restrictions that have left Aboriginal people unable to return to country.

Robyn Sutherland, Executive manager of community services for Uniting Communities, said it was also a challenge to re-accommodate people living in overcrowded environments which pose additional health risk.

“We also need to recognise that the lockdown has occurred in the middle of the SA winter with cold and wet weather forecast for the rest of the week, compounding the impact of the lockdown for homeless people,” Sutherland said.

She said nine additional staff members – five day time and four night time – have been put on to cope with the increased demand.

“Each request for assistance needs to be assessed because all circumstances are different. We triage and prioritise those most at risk – we are working with the SA Housing Authority to ensure anyone who is rough sleeping can comply with the SA Health directions,” she said.

It comes after Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink on Tuesday said rough sleepers and domestic violence victims would have access to short-term motel accommodation for the duration of the seven-day lockdown.

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