Maintaining mission in the face of COVID-19
3 April 2020
Bellarine Peninsula Salvos receiving a generous donation from a local fruit and veg supplier to deliver to families in need.
For 140 years, Salvos have rolled up their sleeves and responded to human need in times of crisis – assisting families, soldiers and personnel during war; supporting communities through natural disasters; helping people get back on their feet; providing a warm meal and shelter for those experiencing homelessness; and connecting with vulnerable members of the community.
Wherever there is hardship or injustice Salvos will always live, love and fight alongside others.
As Australia, and the world, faces this unprecedented health crisis, everyone is being challenged to adapt and change the way they do things and The Salvation Army is no different. To get through this crisis ourselves and help others do so too, we are making some changes while still staying connected to the people who need us most.
In certain areas, we have been able to shift our service delivery to phone and video calls. While we recognise that this interrupts an essential component of our service – close social connection and engagement – it ensures we are still able to provide the physical and emotional support needed in these times.
In other areas, we have made adjustments to ensure we can keep supporting the most vulnerable while following guidelines to help contain the spread of COVID-19.
Adapting residential services
The Salvation Army’s residential services in programs such as homelessness, alcohol and other drug addiction, youth services and family violence are so vital to those who rely on them. These residential services provide ongoing support, guidance, shelter, food, shower facilities and so much more to people at risk all over the country.
During this health crisis, we are committed to maintaining these essential services, by providing single room occupancy. We are also working with hotels to ensure safe places can be made available for vulnerable Australians. Now more than ever, we know there will be an increase in demand for support and will continue to do what we can to increase services, particularly in the areas of family and domestic violence and youth services.
As COVID-19 continues to put vulnerable people at risk, we are working proactively to minimise its impacts.
Community meals are now being replaced by take-away meals to support vulnerable people and those experiencing homelessness all over the country.
In Victoria, Wyndham City Corps’ Cafe Agape, which provides a two-course community meal twice a week, is now serving all meals as take-away. They have also partnered with Second Bite to produce Corps Care Packages – consisting of fruit, vegetables and other staples.
In Laverton, the Hobsons Bay Corps outreach team will deliver meals on Friday nights to vulnerable community members who normally meet at the soup van. With high numbers of people in Laverton struggling to access affordable fresh food, delivering these meals provides a much-needed check-in and feeling of routine for those relying on this service.
Salvation Army work in emergency relief, including Doorways and financial counselling, will be needed more than ever as businesses are forced to close and workers are left without an income. While the federal government’s announcement of the ‘JobKeeper payment’ is a welcome relief, there will be many who will not qualify or simply cannot wait for the first payment to be made in May 2020.
Our teams remain active and are supporting those who need help with basic necessities, assistance in applying for government support, no-interest loans, advice on how to budget during this crisis, and more. While face-to-face appointments have had to be suspended, they have been replaced with phone and video calls, to make sure people can still get the support they need.
Some of our other programs, such as the Positive Lifestyle Program – an eight-module course that helps empower people to change their way of life – will continue online or over the phone.
Reaching out to people in isolation
After an exhausting extended season coordinating responses to the 2019-2020 bushfires, The Salvation Army’s Strategic Emergency and Disaster Management (SEDM) team is now fully engaged in supporting the delivery of essentials packs to those who are self-isolating and do not have support to obtain daily necessities.
The Essential Supply packs are coordinated by state governments and are being delivered by Salvos personnel in many parts of the country. The packs contain one or two weeks’ worth of basic essentials and are given to people unable to access food retail outlets due to COVID-19.
Local Salvation Army corps (churches) are also putting together We Care packs to express support for their community in these testing times. The packs may vary from location to location, but the sentiment is the same – to assure people who are doing it tough that they are not alone and the Salvos are there for them.