COVID-19 ON THE STREETS OF AUCKLAND
As Missioner and CEO of the Auckland City Mission, every day I see the effect that experiencing homelessness can have on a person and over the last few weeks, I’ve been fielding questions from many of you about what happens to people who are homeless in a crisis like COVID-19.
So when we were all asked to ‘stay at home’ during the COVID-19 lockdown, my first thoughts were given to our street whānau. In the absence of a ‘home’, where would they go?
In normal circumstances, we send our outreach team to assess the needs of people experiencing homelessness. Team members spend time with each person and gets to know how they are on that particular day. They make sure each person has the food and other essential supplies they need while checking on their mental and physical health. For those who want to move into housing we support them on that complex journey – every single step of the way. And every day of the year, we provide nutritious, hot meals in our community dining room – creating a sense of comradery.
But these are not normal circumstances.
The way we support the city’s street whānau has drastically changed to keep people safe during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Now, our outreach teams still spend their days out on the street, but their visits with each person are brief – limited to 15 minutes – and at a safe social distance of 2 metres. Instead of hot cooked meals in a communal setting, which increased the risk of spreading COVID-19, we are now in partnership with the Auckland City Council providing daily takeaway food bags. Each bag contains enough nutritious and filling food to last a day.
Our standard processes for moving someone from living on the street to being housed have been fast-tracked. To help reduce the risk of street whanau contracting or spreading COVID-19, we have been rapidly moving people into temporary accommodation. Our housing partners have stepped up and provided us with access to empty motels and apartments that would ordinarily be full of tourists.
However this comes with its own challenges. Our usual procedure for helping a person into accommodation comes with wraparound support to help address any issues they might have. Those issues might be a result of trauma, addiction or many other effects of living on the edge of society. But right now, we don’t have enough staff to fully support people as they move into a temporary home. That’s challenging – and we are fast working to find new staff – but we know that it’s incredibly important to have as many people in separate accommodation right now.
After the pandemic, some of those people in temporary accommodation will want to continue living inside an apartment or motel, and we will work towards supporting them. Others will want to return to their ‘home’ on the street, and we will continue to support them too.
And what can you, as a fellow New Zealander do during the pandemic? There are two things you can do to support people experiencing homelessness or living in poverty. The first is be kind. The second is stay at home. If you do what you need to do, and we do what we need to do, there is hope that COVID-19 will be under control quickly and the Mission can resume our normal operations under normal circumstances.
This pandemic will end, and when it does we will still be here with you, the people of Auckland helping those in desperate need, as we move into our centenary year.
Homeless Outreach and Support Service
Our team continues to support people who are homeless and vulnerably housed by connecting with them to check on their health and well-being, as well as provide them with essential items such as food and clothing. This is being done by phone and in person, observing all of the government’s social distance and safety protocols. This means visits are limited to 15 minutes and at a distance of 2 metres. We are also offering as many people as possible temporary accommodation in motels so they too can ‘stay at home’ like we have all been instructed to do.
We continue to run our two transitional housing units, James Liston Hostel and Te Whare Hīnātore. We have made changes to service protocols to ensure the safety of every person using those services. This includes immediately reducing the number of people onsite by moving some residents to other suitable venues.
Our detox centre is currently closed, and the facility is being used to provide temporary accommodation.
Haeata Food Service
During lockdown, Haeata will no longer offer hot meals nor a place for our street whānau to congregate – that’s because shared food and densely packed spaces are now deemed unsafe.
Instead, from 11am – 1pm daily, we are providing street whānau with a takeaway bag filled with nutritious, filling food to last for one day.
Our community activities (such as clay classes, movie sessions, etc) have stopped.
We know Haeata is an important place of connection and safety for our street whānau, so we have not made these changes lightly. However at the moment, these changes will enable us to keep everyone safe, whilst still exploring new ways to engage and offer connection to our street whānau.
Family Food Parcels
Our distribution centre will be closed on ANZAC DAY and will reopen again on Tuesday 28th April at 9.00am.
Family food parcels can be collected from the following locations:
Mission’s Distribution Centre in Grafton. Monday – Friday 9.00am – 3.00pm.
Nga Whare Waatea Marae, Favona Monday – Friday 10.00am – 2.00pm
All consultations are now completed by phone. If you need a food parcel, please call 09 303 9200 to arrange for a phone consultation. You will be given a time to collect the parcel and instructed how to pick up.
Also those in Auckland who are unable to afford groceries or are in self-isolation with no access to other support networks can call Auckland Emergency Management on 0800 22 22 96 between 7am and 7pm, seven days a week. Anyone who meets the government’s eligibility criteria will be couriered a welfare parcel containing items such as dry goods like pasta and rice, tinned vegetables and meats, and basic toiletries.
Furniture and Household Goods
All non-urgent deliveries of furniture and household goods are now on hold. If you have an urgent need, please call 09 303 9200.
Calder Medical Centre
The Auckland City Mission’s medical centre, Calder Centre, now provides consultations in person, or by phone or video.
Consultations which take place in person must be pre-booked and are limited to COVID-19 testing and flu vaccinations.
To make a face to face, phone or video appointment, please phone 09 303 9207. Please do not come to the Calder Centre without having made an appointment as you will be turned away.
If your consultation can’t be completed over the phone, you will need to come to the Mission (23 Union Street) and will be given instructions at the front of the building. Please follow those instructions carefully.
The Calder Centre team is still here to support and care for our patients’ health so please continue to make and keep appointments.
If you have any questions at all, please contact the medical receptionist 09 303 9207.
The pharmacy continues to operate as an essential service. The door is shut and the pharmacist communicates with the Calder Centre staff by phone to ensure patients receive the medication they need.
The Mission is very grateful for donations in these difficult times – thank you. The change to our services has created additional cost and we are anticipating a sharp rise in the number of people needing our services.
- Please visit aucklandcitymission.org.nz and press the Donate button.
- Online, with the Mission’s bank account 1230 11 0520064 00
- By cheque, addressed to Auckland City Mission, PO Box 5352, Victoria St West, Auckland 1142
Due to the level 4 lockdown, and to keep the Mission’s centres available for clients only, unfortunately we can’t currently accept drop-off donations of:
- Second-hand goods such as clothes, furniture and household goods.
OP SHOPS CHANGES
The Mission’s Op Shops are currently closed.
Please do not leave second-hand goods at the Op Shops as they will not be collected.
Thank you for your understanding during these difficult times.
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