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. The Society’s model of care can continue to meet community 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 have transitioned much of our case management over the phone.

 

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.

Many conference and council meetings continue to be 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 was unable to run as planned. Despite having to change to a virtual event, we managed to raise $545,768 which is an amazing achievement, and testament to the supportive Canberran community, however is still short of our original target of $630,000. 

Our major fundraising source, our Vinnies shops, have also been under pressure. Many of our shops had to close, 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.

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. 

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.

Some of our shops remain 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.

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:

•    Braidwood


Are we accepting donations?

We know many people have been using this period of time to clear out their homes and so may have many donations for us. We are grateful for people thinking of us for their donations, but ask for people’s understanding that we may not be able to accept all donations at this time.

Shops that are open are accepting donations. However, each shop has different storage capacity, and therefore may have to restrict donations to allow for the 72 hours quarantine time donations must remain before being sorted. 

There are therefore times when we have to slow down our acceptance because the quarantine time is creating space constraints.  

 

Night Patrol

Our Night Patrol vans are still operating seven nights a week, including Easter weekend, with a few changes in place so that everyone that visits the vans as well as our volunteers are kept safe during this COVID-19 period.

Our vans will still be visiting our regular spots. You’ll notice our wonderful volunteers setting up bollards and chains around the vans so that we can serve people at an appropriate social distance. 

Our volunteers will only be serving one person at a time and so we ask anyone visiting our vans to please help us manage this and keep yourselves 1.5 apart from each other. While we usually like to foster social connection, at this time we need to reduce gatherings so we kindly ask that once you’ve received your food that you avoid gathering around the van.

We’ll also only be visiting for a shorter amount of time now (approximately 15 minutes at each stop) so we suggest you get to your preferred stop earlier than usual so that you don’t miss out.   

We appreciate everyone’s patience during this time and hope that together we can continue to safely get our vans out each night to you. Stay safe.

For times and locations of Night Patrol please click here

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

The Clemente Program uses a COVID-19 Risk Management Plan to make sure students keep socially distanced while in class. Students sanitise their hands as they enter the classroom and stay seated throughout the lessons. Rooms are cleaned between classes, and students also have the option to learn remotely viaZoom. 

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.

 

Canberra Relief Network

Vinnies is proud to be a partner of the Canberra Relief Network. Set up to ensure vulnerable people in our community don’t go without food, four Vinnies shops will act as depots for the distribution of goods – Vinnies Mitchell, Vinnies Dickson, Vinnies Phillip and Vinnies Weston Creek.

 

The Canberra Relief Network (CRN) is the ACT Government’s response to our community’s overwhelming and increasing demand for food and non-perishable essential items, as a direct result of the global COVID-19 Pandemic. CRN is a collaborative network of established social service and emergency relief providers in the ACT, led by UnitingCare Kippax.

 

For more information or to register for assistance please visit

https://canberrarelief.com.au/