People who are homeless or those at risk of homelessness are experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic in an acutely difficult way, writes Xavier Social Justice Network’s Danusia Kaska. Source: Eureka Street.
They are stigmatised for their situation, are accessing services which are already stretched to capacity and usually have more immunosuppressed systems than the general public, as well as generally poorer mental and physical health.
Sadly, with this pandemic we will only see a rise in people experiencing homelessness, as jobs are lost, rents and mortgages can’t be paid, stress and anxiety take its toll on relationships and families resulting in family breakdowns and more family violence.
Now people who are rough sleepers, couch surfing, staying temporarily with friends or families, living in temporary accommodation or in their cars will have nowhere to go. They are unable to go “home” to self-isolate in a warm and safe house, fully stocked with food. There is no home for them. This pandemic will make their lives even more difficult and add to their struggles.
The homelessness agencies and community services, who would normally provide support and a service to people experiencing homelessness, are either at a reduced service or had to scale right back to only providing minimal service. These agencies often rely on their volunteer workforce, who have had to refrain from having the usual personal interaction with the people they serve; reducing the relational aspect of the service or program.
During a meal service in Melbourne at the time the coronavirus pandemic had started to make its mark on the Australian community, a man I was serving who was rough sleeping told me how hard it was for him to self-isolate when the park is his home. He told me people experiencing homelessness can’t just “go home” to self-isolate.
It was at this moment, that I realised how hard it would be for this marginalised group of people to be safe during this time. Relying mostly on food parcels, further isolation will have an even more detrimental effect on the mental and physical health of people who are already feeling the pangs of loneliness and hunger due to the effects of homelessness.
The people who were in need before the COVID-19 pandemic have had their burdens exacerbated.
Danusia Kaska is Xavier Social Justice Network Coordinator.
Can't go home if there's no home to go to (Eureka Street)