Rough sleepers in northern NSW will be getting extra help if they’ve potentially been exposed to COVID-19 and are required to self-isolate.Photo: Cade Mooney
Rough sleepers in northern NSW will be getting extra help if they’ve potentially been exposed to COVID-19 and are required to self-isolate.Photo: Cade Mooney

‘Let’s just do it’: push to help rough sleepers

IF you're sleeping rough and you're exposed to COVID-19, it's not simple to self-isolate.

But it's expected support services will be put in place for people in that situation across the region.

Northern NSW Local Health District chief executive Wayne Jones has explained health authorities would liaise with service providers and local councils to make sure help was available for rough sleepers.
He said those experiencing homelessness would be given accommodation support if they need to self-isolate.

Byron Shire Council's director of corporate and community services, Vanessa Adams, said she was keen for the council and local agencies to talk with the health district so they could make sure help reaches those most in need.

At the last street count in August 2019, the shire had 171 rough sleepers.

Ms Adams said this was "a disproportionately high number of people" for Byron's population, compared with Sydney's 330 people living on the streets.

"People who are sleeping rough often have underlying health issues that'll increase their vulnerability to something like a pandemic," Ms Adams said.

She said it was "absolutely vital" to help them at a time like this.

"It's not just the accommodation, it's the services that go with that," she said.

"It's a complex problem.

"It's a wicked problem; if it wasn't, homelessness would have been solved by now.

"We absolutely look forward to communicating with NSW Health.

"Now is the time to connect people with services.

"Let's just do it. We have a need."
Mr Jones said they would focus services into "known hot spots" for rough sleepers across the health district.

"We have a duty of care to ensure not only their safety and protection but the safety of the community around them," he said.


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