How is Vinnies dealing with COVID-19?

For nearly 170 years, we have been guided by strong values, which are at the heart of our organisation. These values will guide us now as we face the uncertainty and impact brought about by the Coronavirus (COVID-19).  An Australian challenge is a Vinnies shared challenge and we feel deeply for those already directly impacted by this outbreak. 

Compassion and Community

In such a seemingly disconnected world, Coronavirus has shown us that we are all connected. And we are all in this together.

Coronavirus is disrupting the rhythm of our lives in Australia now. But there is an invitation lurking within this. An invitation to create a narrative of compassion instead of fear.

Beware of consuming and sharing media that spreads fear.

Follow instructions from your workplace and community.

Know how much food – and toilet paper – you really need if you need to self-isolate for 14 days: http://dailym.ai/3aILeX2 And please remember the 3 million Australians currently living in poverty who can only purchase essentials, yes, like toilet paper, when they truly need it.

We are here for you and we are all in this together. If you need assistance, please call our helpline to be connected with one of our volunteers on 13 18 12.

How are we reducing risks?

The safety of our people, marginalised people and our valued customers, is our priority. We are working closely with experts as well as the World Health Organisation and the Department of Health to inform our approach. 

We are acting in line with advice from governments and health experts.

Firstly, our people have been empowered with relevant information and guided on personal hygiene and preventative measures. We have increased the number of hand sanitisers in shops, in offices, and other Vinnies buildings including our accommodation centres. All our premises are cleaned thoroughly every day. We are asking people to stay at home if they are unwell, or if they have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

Should a confirmed case of Coronavirus present in our organisation we have a plan in place that guides our response, based on the advice of health authorities.

In Canberra, our office-based employees are predominantly working from home, with the remainder split into two teams, alternating time spent in the office to reduce the risk of contamination. 

How are we providing assistance during this period?

Our members, volunteers and employees remain committed to assisting people throughout these tough times, however we must be aware that at various times we will also have fewer resources to provide assistance.

We are making changes with the aim of keeping our own people safe, as well as ensuring that we can continue our mission of assisting people in the community. Therefore, during this period, any employee may be asked to cover these essential services in place of their substantive role.

Our priority, always, is caring for our companions. As such our focus is on direct assistance, with a key element being to ensure adequate food supply to our vulnerable community members. At a time of enforced self-isolation required by the response to COVID-19, the Society’s model of care can continue to meet those needs. But we need to be smart about how we do this so that both the community and our members are safe.
 

While we aim to continue with our existing work as best as possible, we may be reducing to core services. While this may mean some service amendments, particularly in relation to face-to-face contact, it does not mean service restrictions but rather that we adjust our service. Our companions should still be able to receive the assistance they require, though we are transitioning to case management over the phone.

Many of our members are aged over 60 and most companions are living with existing health issues.  Both groups are at higher risk of serious consequences should they become infected.

Therefore, home based direct visits and conference interviews will cease until further notice. Visits and interviews will now occur at the discretion of the Conference Presidents and must take place by:

 a.       telephone or web-based based care and support; or

b.      on the premises of a St Vincent de Paul Society facility – a shop, office or other service site.

 Conferences continuing face to face interaction will introduce the following procedures:

 All visitors to use the sanitiser on entering the building

 The rooms to be disinfected prior and after use

 Move to an appointment system to minimise the number of people congregating in the waiting room. This may require new signage to instruct companions.

 

Visitation or volunteering on Vinnies vans will continue until the relevant government authority suspends such activity due to the pandemic, and appropriate practices must be followed.

If at any time the Federal, State or Local Government Authority excludes the Society from providing visitation through attendance at a Vinnies shop or at another facility, we are still able to provide some assistance through telephone and web-based assessments. 

Conferences can conduct interviews for food and other assistance including bills over mobile phone. Assistance can be provided by food and fuel vouchers that can be left in their letterbox. Food parcels can be left on the companion’s doorstep with a phone call to the companion to advise them it’s been dropped.

All conference and council meetings are being conducted by telephone or other use of technology.

We will continue to monitor the impact of these changes on companions and respond as best we can.

What are the potential repercussions for Vinnies from the COVID-19 crisis?

We know that during this time, and potentially long after, if economic predictions are accurate, there will be even more of a need for our assistance. There are many people losing work and worried about meeting their financial obligations. However, the economic impacts of this pandemic can be felt within the Society itself.

Due to the spread of this virus, we know events and gatherings have had to be cancelled. For us this includes fundraising events. Our largest fundraising event of the year, the Vinnies CEO Sleepout, is coming up in June, and unable to run as planned. Last year that event raised $812,500 here in the Canberra/Goulburn region, and $8 million nationally. It will be difficult to even come close to matching those funds through alternative sources.

Our major fundraising source, our Vinnies shops, are also under pressure. Many of our shops have had to close, and those still open have far fewer customers than usual, so the revenue our shops generate to fund our programs is not coming in as steadily as it ordinarily would.

We have very loyal and generous donors who we know will do their best to support us through these tough times, and we appreciate every cent someone can donate to help us help others.

Is the CEO Sleepout event continuing?

In light of the COVID-19 situation in the community and the government’s recent recommendations in regards to limiting mass public events and indoor gatherings, Vinnies is reviewing the status of its 2020 Vinnies CEO Sleepout events.

We are monitoring the situation closely and taking our lead from the government and the Chief Medical Officer’s advice.

As you know, the Vinnies CEO Sleepout event is so important to help change the lives of Australians experiencing homelessness and we truly need your continued support. However, the safety of the people we assist who attend the event every year, our CEOs and participants, and our staff and volunteers is of utmost importance.

We ask that you continue to engage with the event, including fundraising and recruiting, so that we can be in the best place to assist people in the community who so desperately need Vinnies’ help during this time and in the future.

Thank you for your ongoing support. 

Vinnies shops

The safety of our people, marginalised people and our valued customers, is our priority. We are working closely with experts as well as the World Health Organisation and the Department of Health to inform our approach. 

We are acting in line with advice from governments and health experts which currently are not advising the closing of any retail shops. Vinnies centres are essential for raising funds we use to support the most vulnerable in our community. As the COVID-19 situation unfolds, more and more people will be turning to us for help and we must be able to meet the need. For this reason we want to keep as many centres open as possible.

However, we recognise that many within the Society meet the high risk criteria for COVID-19, and for this reason we are, until further notice, changing our operating model so that it is not reliant on members or volunteers to remain open during the pandemic. 

Many of our shops are now temporarily closed, with resources shared across the remaining open centres. 

Our people have been empowered with relevant information and guided on personal hygiene and preventative measures. We have increased the number of hand sanitisers in shops and all our premises are cleaned thoroughly every day. We are asking people to stay at home if they are unwell, or if they have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19. 

It is a condition of entry to our shops that people remain 2 metres apart from each other, and that they proceed to the front counter upon entry to use hand sanitiser before continuing to shop. Each shop is adhering to a strict maximum number of people within the centre, and this number is posted on the front of the shop. 

We have issued a clear direction to all our people that if they have any pre-existing conditions (auto-immune diseases, poor health, cancer treatments, heart or lung conditions etc), as well as, if they are in the most affected age group (60+), they are advised to stay away from all work/activities associated with Vinnies. 

Should a confirmed case of Coronavirus present in our organisation we have a plan in place that guides our response, based on the advice of health authorities. In our shops this includes, among other things, specialist cleaning of our stores, and isolation protocols. If circumstances require, we will close a shop to protect our customers and people.

Should we be directed by government authorities to close the shops, we will of course do so.

Vinnies in the Canberra/Goulburn region will not be able to collect or deliver furniture for the foreseeable future.

Shops in our region that are currently closed:

•    Narrabundah
•    Queanbeyan
•    Lake Cargelligo
•    Temora
•    West Wyalong
•    Cootamundra
•    Crookwell
•    Harden
•    Yass
•    Braidwood
•    Narooma
•    Merimbula
•    Goulburn.

Some of our shops are no longer able to receive donations. These include the above closed centres as well as Vinnies Bega and Vinnies Batemans Bay. Thank you for your understanding.

 

 

Night Patrol

We have had to reduce the hours on shift, and will only be stopping for 15 minute slots at each location. 

While we usually like to foster social connection, at this time we need to reduce gatherings. If you are visiting the Night Patrol vans please keep 2 metres between you and other people, thank you.  

Blue Door

Blue Door drop-in centre has ceased drop-in function in accordance with COVID19 guidelines. However, Service Users can access food through take-away meals served at 11:00 am each day, from the same location. 

In addition, other food is made available at this time as supplies permit. Participants are reminded to maintain 1.5m physical distance from each other as they access this support.
 

Clemente

Clemente students are learning online for the rest of Semester 1 2020.

Volunteer mentors are helping students by looking at assignment drafts through email. Clemente staff and teachers are able to help students through email and over the phone.

New student referrals to Clemente can be made via email for Semester 2 2020. Semester 2 will start in late July.
 

Compeer

These are the current amendments and recommendations for Compeer:
•    All face to face support between participants (friends) and volunteers has moved to phone contact, volunteers have been very active and are contacting their friends regularly, some daily, most every second day. 
•    All Compeer events have been cancelled until further notice. 
•    Newsletters and activity letters will still be sent out as normal.
•    The Compeer officer is regularly making contact with all involved in the program. 
•    The Compeer team have offered support via phone or email, particularly to the participants that live in isolation.   
 

Street to Home

Despite reduced service provision, case managers are still going out and trying to meet the needs of participants.

The team can no longer transport service users.