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Adelaide rough sleepers put up in motels to limit coronavirus spread

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The State Government will pay to accommodate rough sleepers in motels from this week, as it searches for a separate facility to house the homeless with suspected COVID-19 infections.

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It comes as Adelaide’s largest homelessness services including the Hutt Street Centre and Catherine House vow to ramp up social distancing and cleaning to ensure that they can continue to provide accommodation and food assistance in the event of a statewide lockdown.

Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink told InDaily that motel accommodation would be made “immediately” available to people experiencing homelessness as the State Government searches for a separate accommodation facility for rough sleepers who are required to self-isolate with suspected COVID-19.

She said the Government was also working on a plan to ensure rough sleepers who are required to self-isolate would be provided with welfare checks, and that those who stay in motels have food delivered to their rooms.

Latest figures from the Adelaide Zero Project show that as of last month there were 151 people sleeping rough in the inner city.

The State Government does not know how much the motel bill will cost, but it said it has budgeted for extra spending on emergency accommodation during the coronavirus pandemic.

Both the State and Federal Governments are also exploring the potential to provide rental relief to people on low incomes during the coronavirus crisis.

“As the situation with COVID-19 continues to change rapidly, the Marshall Liberal Government has been quick to implement new measures to ensure vital homelessness services to support our most vulnerable South Australians continue at this unprecedented time,” Lensink said.

“SA Housing Authority is working closely with service providers to ensure they have the most up-to-date information and support in response to COVID-19 and how that may affect their clients.”

Homelessness service providers are practicing social distancing and increased hygiene, with those with shared areas such as bathrooms and kitchens boosting cleaning practices.

Neami National outreach service Street to Home, which is based at Light Square, will continue to provide 24/7 support to rough sleepers as the state moves to lockdown non-essential services.

Meanwhile, the Hutt Street Centre is continuing to provide food, lockers, laundromat, showers and nursing services “within a heightened hygiene environment”.

A spokesperson said case managers were still working with clients to provide housing, employment and education advice, but “non-essential” activities such as group classes and excursions had been scaled back or cancelled to comply with government guidelines.

“Hutt Street Centre is working closely with Government and any changes to the centre’s operations will be aligned to their advice,” they said.

Catherine House, which provides emergency accommodation and support services for women experiencing homelessness, is also continuing to operate its “essential services”, including accommodation.

Fundraising and events manager Jaylee Cooper told InDaily that caseworkers would provide outreach services to clients via the phone, not in person.

She said the organisation’s women’s centre, which runs education programs and self-care classes, had closed.

“We certainly haven’t been instructed to close, but if we go into a lockdown scenario then obviously we’ll have to work through that in terms of our clients and how that actually works.

“Some of our clients are pretty vulnerable – there’s lots of clients that have mental health issues and those sorts of things, so we want to do the absolute best for our clients but at the same time we need to protect our frontline staff as well.”

Cooper said Catherine House had not experienced an increased demand for its services since the coronavirus hit South Australia.

“We are full every night, we continually run a waitlist of about 25 to 35 women at any given time, so that hasn’t changed at all,” she said.

“What is going to impact us is the fundraising and events side, where we get a lot of our income to support the clients.

“As we cancel events we know that’s income that straightaway is gone, so that’s going to be a huge challenge for us moving forward.”

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