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People sleeping rough and COVID-19 – DCJ and homelessness sector response

People sleeping rough are highly vulnerable to COVID-19 due to a high rate of respiratory and other physical and mental health issues.

The NSW Premier has announced that NSW will proceed to a more comprehensive shutdown of non-essential services over the next 48 hours in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19. Specialist Homelessness Services are essential services.

The healthiest and safest place for people sleeping rough during the shutdown period 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 them to access specialist homelessness services where available and Temporary Accommodation via Link2Home where crisis accommodation is unavailable.

DCJ teams and homelessness services undertaking this work need to do so in a way that adheres to the social distancing advice from NSW Health in order to minimise the risk of spreading COVID-19 to people sleeping rough and to minimise risks for workers.

Where possible this should be done by phone, however, given the client group, it is anticipated that this may be challenging. Where advice is being provided face to face, social distancing needs to be maintained and the length of contact minimised to below 15 minutes – staff should verbally advise of the need to move into accommodation and follow their normal procedure for getting people sleeping rough into a specialist homelessness service or Temporary Accommodation.

Staff should also provide information on COVID-19 symptoms and information on where to seek help should symptoms develop. AskIzzy has information on symptoms and health service contact details as does DCJ District offices.

Where possible, DCJ teams and Specialist Homelessness Services should develop a way of maintaining regular telephone contact with the client once accommodated in order to monitor any development of COVID-19 symptoms and to provide referral to health services, if required.

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Last updated: 23 Mar 2020