SLHD - Sydney Connect
Partnership formed to help homeless people and boarding house residents

District supports boarding houses

May 2020

Partnership formed to help homeless people and boarding house residents

District supports boarding houses

Sydney Local Health District has formed a grassroots partnership to protect and support people who are homeless or live in boarding houses during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The District, the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre and the Inner West Council have collaborated to run free pop-up Community Wellbeing Clinics.

The clinics have been set-up onsite at selected Assisted Boarding Houses, in the community at Petersham Marrickville, Waterloo, Glebe and Riverwood plus other facilities, like the Exodus Foundation.

"We're working together to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 among some of the most vulnerable members of our community," Lisa Parcsi, the District's Director of Integration and Partnerships, said.

"We want to prevent or reduce the impact of outbreaks or hotspots in the places where they live. We also want to ensure their physical, emotional and social needs are supported during the pandemic," she said.

There are 418 boarding houses in the District accounting for 47 per cent of the registered boarding houses in NSW. It's estimated up to 5000 people live in them.

At the clinics, nurses from the District's Flying Squad will offer screening and testing for COVID-19 to help stop the spread of the virus.

People are also offered the flu vaccination.

And, a specialist Allied Health team, including social workers and mental health workers, will provide information and support for homeless people and boarding house residents.

A free takeaway meal and a care package, which includes hand sanitiser, soap, a toothbrush, will be provided too.

Food rescue charity OzHarvest, provided free food for people who attended at the clinic at the Waterloo Neighbourhood Centre.

"We are here to serve the community. And, we know that there is huge need. And for us to be able to give directly to the vulnerable, or those people who require support, is phenomenal. It's a beautiful collaboration," Ronni Khan, the CEO and founder of OzHarvest said.

Local residents are grateful.

"You can see the sense of community or sense of belonging, or endeavouring to belong to a community that's been confronted by this virus that's happening all round the world and it's helped bring people together," Barry Minhinnick, a Waterloo resident, said.

At the first clinic in April, 50 residents at two Assisted Boarding Houses were screened. One of them was tested for COVID-19 and placed in isolation, pending the result.

"Everyone is grateful for the job we're doing. The residents showed their appreciation by clapping for our team," Paul Clenaghan, the Mental Health team's Community and Partnerships Manager, said.

"The boarding house managers and staff now have renewed confidence that it's unlikely that the residents have COVID-19. The care packages have also been very well-received too. Hats off to the suppliers and packers of them," he said.

An assessment will be made about where it's best for those residents awaiting test results, or those who've tested positive for COVID-19, to self-isolate – taking into account their special needs.

Additional support measures may be put in place.

Caseworkers from the Boarding House Outreach Service at the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre, who regularly liaise with boarding house operators and residents, are working closely with the District.

"Many boarding house residents have expressed concerns to our caseworkers about COVID-19," Paul Adabie, the Client Services Manager at the Centre, said.

The Community Wellbeing Clinics are a proactive joint effort to reach out to them and to build greater awareness, knowledge and understanding about COVID-19," he said.

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