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The situation regarding the novel coronavirus COVID-19 continues to progress in NSW. We recognise this is impacting the homelessness sector both personally and professionally and we thank you for your continued efforts in supporting people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

The Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) is actively monitoring the situation and we’ll continue to provide regular updates.

This page includes information on:

  • Where to get the latest information about COVID-19
  • Practical resources on the control and management of infectious diseases
  • Service continuity and essential homelessness services
  • What DCJ is doing to support service providers

Guidelines for Homelessness Accommodation during COVID-19

We have developed Guidelines for Homelessness Accommodation during COVID-19 in consultation with the industry peaks.

These guidelines provide tools and techniques to help you manage homelessness accommodation sites for adults and young people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Note: these guidelines may be updated as health information changes.

COVID-19 – Frequently asked questions For HYAP and Youth SHS Providers

We have developed COVID-19 – Frequently asked questions For HYAP and Youth SHS Providers (October 2020) to respond to specific questions raised by the sector.

The FAQs respond to  specific questions from services delivering accommodation assistance to children and young people during the COVID-19 crisis

Note: these guidelines may be updated as health information changes.

COVID-19 –Frequently asked questions For DCJ-funded DFV services

We have developed COVID-19 – Frequently asked questions For DCJ-funded DFV services delivering accommodation assistance and other supports to respond to specific questions raised by the sector.

COVID-19 – Frequently asked questions- Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) Webinar

We have developed COVID-19 – Frequently asked questions- Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) Webinar to respond to specific questions raised by the sector.

The FAQs respond to  specific questions received about delivering services during the COVID-19 crisis.

What to do if a staff member or a client is suspected or confirmed to be infectious?

If you receive a report of a client or staff member being infected, please check first with the local Public Health Unit by calling the state-wide number: 1300 066 055.

If the infection is confirmed, please immediately contact your DCJ Contract Manager to discuss an appropriate response.

If you have staff members that test positive for COVID-19, or are undergoing testing because they are considered at-risk, and this disrupts your staffing levels and service delivery, please contact your DCJ Contract Manager to discuss an appropriate response.

Where can I get the latest information?

We strongly encourage you to follow the advice from NSW Health in relation to COVID-19.

For more information on COVID-19 please refer to the coronavirus information (COVID-19) for service providers webpage.

The Australian Government Department of Health issues a daily alert on the latest medical advice and official reports.

The Disease Toolkit for Continuums of Care: Preventing & Managing the Spread of Infectious Disease With Shelters provides useful information on managing infectious diseases in refuge settings.

NCOSS have also recently issued a COVID-19 Community Sector Resource which contains useful information to help plan for business continuity.

What is DCJ doing?

Where can I find advice on managing homelessness accommodation during COVID-19?

We have developed Guidelines for Homelessness Accommodation during COVID-19 in consultation with the industry peaks.

These guidelines provide tools and techniques to help you manage homelessness accommodation sites for adults and young people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Note: these guidelines may be updated as health information changes.

Should I continue providing services to clients?

Yes, all forms of crisis refuge accommodation and services working directly with people sleeping rough are essential and should continue.

Each provider will require a Business Continuity Plan (BCP).

If you are unable to maintain essential service delivery due to issues such as staff shortages, contact your DCJ Contract Manager to discuss possible options.

To support the delivery of services, please ensure you continue to update the Vacancy Management System (VMS) in CIMS daily.

Can I make changes to my service in response to COVID-19?

Yes, we understand that you may need to scale down non-essential services (e.g. group work, non-intensive case management support) to ensure essential services can continue. Please inform your DCJ Contract Manager if you make any changes to service delivery.

Please consider ways to contact other people you provide a service to, who are vulnerable but may not access an essential service. Support for these clients may shift from face to face, to regular phone contact.

What should I do if I need to close my service in response to COVID-19?

Please contact your DCJ Contract Manager to discuss these changes as early as possible so the Housing Contact Centre can arrange alternative accommodation.

What should I do if I can’t access soap, hand sanitiser and other critical supplies?

If you’re having difficulty accessing critical supplies, please contact your DCJ Contract Manager. DCJ is escalating supply issues including food supplies and access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

An email was sent to service providers with details about how to submit orders for food supplies. We are continuing to work on these partnerships and will update you as more information becomes available.

What should I do if I’m experiencing staff shortages?

DCJ is committed to working with you to ensure continuity of service delivery. If your organisation experiences staff shortages due to COVID-19 and can access casual workers to fill in or pay overtime, we encourage you to do this.

Please contact your DCJ Contract Manager if you are worried about how this will impact your budget. DCJ will cover the cost if your Contract Manager approves it.

How do I ensure affected clients self-isolate?

DCJ is seeking to maximise opportunities with Temporary Accommodation providers to support self-isolation for clients already in accommodation and for people sleeping rough. Please contact your DCJ Contract Manager if you need to access Temporary Accommodation for clients currently accommodated in an SHS who:

  • have been tested and is confirmed to have COVID-19 (NSW Health will support these people),
  • have been in contact with people with COVID-19,
  • are showing flu-like symptoms and is undergoing testing for COVID-19,

or for people who are sleeping rough and need to be placed urgently in accommodation.

In some cases, a service provider may be required to deconcentrate or disperse large congregate services to manage public health risks. In this case please contact the relevant DCJ Contract Manager to access additional funding.

For clients experiencing homelessness or clients sleeping rough, please continue to contact Link2Home 1800 152 152, the local DCJ Housing Office, or the relevant Community Housing Provider’s office.

Please note that a client seeking housing assistance that identifies as having a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, will be referred to NSW Health for accommodation. Clients will need to call Health direct on 1800 022 222. The NSW Health Public Health Unit is responsible for developing a Health Plan for each person who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and includes a housing assessment. NSW Health will source appropriate accommodation for a person who does not have suitable housing in which to self-isolate.

What support is being provided for people sleeping rough?

The healthiest and safest place for people sleeping rough is in accommodation. DCJ assertive outreach teams and homelessness services (e.g. Assertive Outreach, drop in and other services) that work with people sleeping rough need to refer and encourage people sleeping rough to access specialist homelessness services where available and Temporary Accommodation via Link2Home where crisis accommodation is unavailable.

DCJ teams and homelessness services need to do this work and follow the physical distancing advice from NSW Health with minimal contact length (below 15 minutes). Staff should verbally advise that clients move into accommodation.

Staff should also provide information on COVID-19 symptoms to people sleeping rough and information on where to seek help should symptoms develop.

Where possible, develop a way of maintaining regular telephone contact with the client to monitor any development of COVID-19 symptoms and provide referral to health services.

Can clients cross the border into QLD if escaping DFV and identified a safe place in QLD?

Yes if clients have an approved border pass. Services supporting clients escaping domestic and/or family violence to cross the NSW/QLD border should review the entry and restriction information provided by the Queensland government. Further information on border restrictions is available from Queensland Health.

Does the 1.5 meter physical distancing rule apply within accommodation services?

Please refer to the Guidelines for Homelessness Accommodation during COVID-19 gives detail on spacing beds at least 2 metres apart where possible.

Service continuity for essential homelessness services

Essential service delivery includes all forms of crisis refuge accommodation (e.g. young people, people experiencing domestic and family violence, single adults etc.) and services working directly with people sleeping rough. If you are unable to maintain essential service delivery due to issues such as staff shortages, contact your DCJ Contract Manager to discuss an appropriate response.

We understand it may be necessary to scale down non-essential services (e.g. group work, non-intensive case management support) to ensure essential services can continue to be delivered during this time. This should be discussed with your DCJ Contract Manager and approval sought before changes are made to service delivery.

In situations where a service needs to close due to the impact of the COVID-19 please ensure you provide early notification to your District Contract Manager so that the Housing Contact Centre can arrange alternative accommodation.

Many of our clients are already experiencing a range of hardships and vulnerabilities and it is important that we maintain a strong level of support, whilst reinforcing our care of staff and volunteers. We ask that you consider alternative methods of contact for those who are vulnerable but may not be accessing an essential service. Support for these clients may shift from face to face, to regular phone contact.

To support the delivery of services, please ensure you continue to update the Vacancy Management System (VMS) in CIMS daily.

We will continue to communicate with you regularly and provide you with key resources to enable you to continue to support people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

Thanks for your ongoing efforts.

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Last updated: 10 Nov 2020