Listen: Jon Owen from The Wayside Chapel chats to Laura Bennett
By Laura BennettTuesday 31 Mar 2020
The homeless are already one of the city’s most vulnerable populations.
But in the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re facing even greater risk, with limited access to shelter and supplies, and regular services they rely on having to adhere to new social-distancing and isolation rules.
The Wayside Chapel has been working with vulnerable communities since the mid 1960s, and during this pandemic, CEO and Pastor Jon Owen says they’ll be working to maintain that support.
“There’s simply not the ability to go to Stage 1, 2, 3, or 4 lock-down when you’re sleeping in a gutter.”
“Talking to the people who are currently living on the street, we can see that what’s already a very difficult situation – living with no roof over your head – with no opportunity to self-isolate, and heading into winter… the extra worry from COVID-19 is just creating higher and higher levels of fear and anxiety uncertainty for people.”
While many others have stockpiled food for a possible lock-down and ensured they have a reserve of supplies, the homeless don’t have that luxury.
“They don’t have access to any storage facilities or the financial resources,” Jon said. “Stockpiling is a pipe-dream for many of our guys out on the streets. To be able to have enough toilet paper and food and the basics to get through [this pandemic is unrealistic]. There’s simply not the ability to go to Stage 1, 2, 3, or 4 lock-down when you’re sleeping in a gutter.”
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How Wayside Chapel is Making a Difference
As a team, Jon says Wayside Chapel has been monitoring the situation, but will be unwavering in their commitment to help those in need.
“[We’ve been] taking all the appropriate steps in health, cleaning, and distance measures,” said Jon, “and working to prevent the virus getting into the homeless population.
“We’re going to open our building in the morning and provide emergency breakfasts and emergency lunches… providing the basics in health, hygiene and medical treatments… then we’re going to close the doors [after lunch] and get on the phone and hit the streets and catch up with everyone.
“We’re going to assemble and take out emergency care packs that are going to provide people with the basics to get through this… and visit those with a disability who don’t have the mobility [to get care]… but also, just looking people in the eyes and asking them how they’re going through all of this. Because while we need to be physical distant, we don’t need to be socially disconnected through this time.”
For updates on The Wayside Chapel and how you can support their efforts visit waysidechapel.org.au.