Keeping the homeless safe from COVID-19

by Rev. Bill Crews 14 Aug 2021
The COVID-19 delta outbreak in Sydney has had me worried about our homeless guests. Indeed, the epidemiologist Prof. Marylouise McLaws explained to me that it is wildly more contagious. That meant our vulnerable guests were at even greater risk.

It appears my concerns were well-founded. I’m sure you heard one of our guests tested positive for COVID-19.

Thankfully your support made all the difference. We had already begun vaccinating the homeless. We’d also pivoted to takeaways only and we’d implemented COVID-safe practices like mask wearing and extra sanitisation.

It all helped stop the spread of COVID-19 and ensure no other homeless guests, volunteers or staff were infected.

Vaccinating the homeless against COVID-19

However, it’s a timely reminder of the risks faced by rough sleepers. You might know that most of our homeless guests suffer multiple chronic health conditions. This makes them very susceptible to COVID-19. That’s why I worked tirelessly to secure vaccinations for them.

So I’m pleased and proud to let you know that in just one day last month, 157 of our homeless and vulnerable guests were vaccinated against COVID-19 at my Foundation. Undoubtedly this gave them a degree of protection when they were exposed to that positive case recently.

By the time you read this they will have had their second dose. It’s a huge relief to know they’ll be protected from the virus. It also means I can rest a little easier!

Our chefs and volunteers help feed the hungry

The delta outbreak has impacted us in other ways too. Demand for our food services shot up by 25% as soon as the most recent lockdown began. It required urgent action. We had to bolster our food stocks. We had to ensure we could prepare all the extra meals. And we had to deliver them to where they were needed most.

Your support made all that possible. I’m proud to tell you that our kitchen has been working overtime and our food vans are now delivering our takeaway meals to seven different locations across greater Sydney. This month we’re expecting to prepare 30,000 hot meals.

From Liverpool to Woolloomooloo, all the homeless and vulnerable who get these meals have a sense of gratitude. In fact, I’ve never had so many of them come up to me and say “thank you”. A young man did just that this morning. He was grateful, but also scared by the COVID-19 outbreak. So we sat together in the church for a little while. His hot meal, and our quiet time together, seemed to settle him before he went on his way.

However, it would be remiss of me not to express my sense of profound gratitude to you. Your support gives me the energy and the determination to keep going through these troubled times.

Demand for food parcels soars

I’m sure you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that we’ve also seen a sharp rise in demand for our food hampers. That’s because battlers and the working poor have struggled to make ends meet. In fact, since July we’ve distributed twice the number of food hampers we normally would! Each food hamper includes basics like pasta, tinned tuna, tea and biscuits. It might not sound like much, but for many people it makes all the difference.

One such person is a young lady who lives in her car. Illness left her homeless. Remarkably she’s also studying a university degree, so she sleeps on the back seat among all her books! We are providing the care and support she needs, including food parcels and hot meals.

I am really moved by her tenacity and I know she will make it. I am proud that we are part of her progressing to a new life.

As I indicated, everything we do here at my Foundation is also being done in a COVID-safe way. As soon as the recent lockdown commenced, we pivoted back to takeaways only. In addition, we distribute face masks and ensure extra sanitisation to help keep everyone safe.

COVID-19 has presented many challenges for the homeless and undoubtedly there will be more difficult days to come, but with your support we’ll rise to meet the need. That’s why I’m asking you to donate. Rarely in our 30-year history has your donation been more important than today. So please give generously so me and my team can continue to care for the homeless throughout the ongoing pandemic.

God bless,
Rev. Bill Crews