As Sydney once again considers how to protect people experiencing homelessness against COVID-19, a new research report evaluates the NSW Government’s provision of temporary accommodation to people sleeping rough in the inner city of Sydney during the initial wave of the pandemic in 2020.
The research report More than temporary? An evaluation of the accommodation of people sleeping rough in inner city Sydney during the COVID-19 pandemic was produced by the Centre for Social Impact UNSW and Homelessness NSW, following interviews with key organisations involved in the temporary accommodation response, including government departments, specialist homelessness services, and local Health departments in Sydney.
Interviews were also conducted with people previously living rough who were moved into temporary accommodation.
Findings show that the NSW Government’s temporary housing of people who were sleeping rough in inner city Sydney was a significant achievement and one that was an important and effective measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 amongst a highly vulnerable cohort.
However, the report also highlights several significant limitations with the approach adopted in inner city Sydney, including delays between when the first cases of COVID-19 were identified in NSW and when a response was implemented to rough sleepers by the NSW Government.
It also highlights that the provision of health, food, and other support services to people in temporary accommodation in inner city Sydney was done so in a delayed and uncoordinated manner.
Lead researcher from the Centre for Social Impact, Chris Hartley, explains:
“Whilst the uncoordinated nature of service delivery can be attributed to the uncertain and fluctuating nature of the early period of the pandemic, it had considerable impacts upon the well-being of those placed in temporary accommodation.
“Service providers spoke of people leaving temporary accommodation out of frustration and returning back onto the streets in the midst of the pandemic. It’s important that these lessons are learned as we continue into the next phase of the pandemic.”
Homelessness NSW CEO Katherine McKernan agrees, “One of the key learnings from the report is that we need to urgently invest in housing stock, as there is currently almost nowhere for homelessness services to exit people from temporary accommodation into long-term accommodation.”