Their shops might be shut, clothing donation bins closed over, and most face-to-face programs paused for the foreseeable future, but Vinnies is taking a moment to remind vulnerable community members who are experiencing distress and hardship that they are still there to help, albeit in a different manner to normal.
With lockdown extended until at least Friday, 17 September, and life unlikely to return to normal for a while after that, the St Vincent de Paul Society has had to make adjustments to its services.
Vinnies Canberra/Goulburn CEO Barnie van Wyk said that as soon as the lockdown was implemented, teams worked around the clock to ensure the safety and wellbeing of members, volunteers and employees.
“To enable Vinnies to continue its vital work in the community, we have swiftly adapted the way we operate our programs and services in the region to ensure the health and safety of our employees, volunteers and people in need is first and foremost,” he said.
For example, the Vinnies conference support model, which generally consists of groups of volunteers who respond to requests for help and provide financial, material and emotional relief through home visitations, has pivoted towards virtual, phone-based and contactless support.
However, Mr van Wyk reminded all Canberrans that the Vinnies helpline (13 18 12) remains open and all calls for assistance will be directed to available volunteers in the region.
In compliance with ACT Government and NSW Government public health directives, all Vinnies shops in the Canberra/Goulburn region have been closed for trading during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Mr van Wyk also reminded Canberrans not to dump donated goods outside shops as these will have to go to landfill.
“We are grateful for the offers of food and other in-kind donations during the past few days and are appreciative of the community’s understanding and patience as we navigate these complex circumstances,” he explained.
Services such as Street to Home, Samaritan House and Night Patrol will continue to provide assistance with modified safety measures in place. Additionally, Blue Door will continue to provide nutritious meals for Ainslie Village residents along with ongoing support.
For the Street to Home program, outreach and case managers continue to provide support to the community in accordance with ACT Health guidelines. While some face-to-face and transport options may be limited, Vinnies’ teams are committed to making every reasonable effort to support rough sleepers across the ACT.
To continue to support the youngest members of our community, all Vinnies Youth and Young Adults programs have cancelled face-to-face activities and are operating via online platforms.
“Our mission has always been to offer a hand up to any person in our community who seeks help,” said John Feint, president of the St Vincent de Paul Society Canberra/Goulburn. “While the method in which we do this has changed slightly, Vinnies will still be here to listen, care and support everyone through these tough times.”
In addition to Vinnies’ assistance, the ACT Government has partnered with VolunteeringACT and the ACT Emergency Services Agency to provide emergency food relief for Canberrans most in need during the COVID-19 lockdown.
To place an order for emergency food relief or essential items, call VolunteeringACT on 1800 431 133 between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm each day of the lockdown. Vinnies support is available on 13 18 12.