ac.care has welcomed a national moratorium on evictions as an important measure to help regional South Australians avoid the risk of becoming homeless amid economic uncertainty resulting from COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the organisation is assessing the Federal Government’s $1.1b package, which was announced on Sunday, to support vulnerable people nationally to ensure the benefits reach regional South Australia.
ac.care chief executive officer Shane Maddocks said the broad package was welcome, particularly $200m nationally to assist organisations to deliver emergency relief.
“As a regional agency focused on country people helping country people, we are uniquely placed to ensure measures in the package that match our service delivery are rolled out effectively into regional South Australia,” he said.
“We are looking into how we can use our existing dedicated workforce, networks and partnerships with other agencies to ensure this important package is delivered to vulnerable people who need this support in regional South Australia.”
He said Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s latest announcement that renters would be protected from eviction due to financial stress would provide security for many people affected by measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
He said the moratorium followed advocacy from community groups.
“We know many people across regional South Australia are losing their jobs or seeing their hours cut back, which obviously puts strain on household budgets, especially if it takes some time for them to secure alternative financial arrangements, such as JobSeeker payments,” Mr Maddocks said.
“With incomes drying up for some, people could be left at serious risk of losing their homes, but this action by the Federal Government will help people keep a roof over their heads and avoid falling into homelessness.”
ac.care is a homelessness service provider for the Riverland, Limestone Coast and Murraylands, but Mr Maddocks stressed this involved the organisation offering support for a broad range of people, not just those sleeping rough.
He said financial counselling for people to address economic challenges before they faced the threat of eviction was among ac.care’s diverse services and one likely to be boosted through the latest government announcement, with demand expected to increase over coming months.
The government package may also support a step-up in ac.care’s provision of interest-free loans and emergency relief for vulnerable people who need assistance with bills, food, clothing or petrol.
However, Mr Maddocks said the organisation was still to meet with government partners over how the funding package would be rolled out and continued to welcome public support and donations to help ac.care meet growing demand.
Meanwhile, most of ac.care’s public sites remain open amid current government restrictions and the organisation’s essential services are continuing, with special measures in place to protect the safety of visitors, clients, staff and volunteers.
ac.care’s “community centres” at Mount Gambier and Millicent, along with sites at Berri and Murray Bridge, remain open due to being service delivery spaces.
However, activity at these sites has changed in line with restrictions with minimal numbers of visitors at any time and people not encouraged to remain on-site unless they are waiting for an appointment.
“Our services may look different as we have altered delivery in line with government restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19, but we are still here to help,” Mr Maddocks said.
Food for collection for those in need at the Mount Gambier centre on Ferrers Street has been moved outside the building and can be safely collected, with social distancing and additional hygiene measures in place at all sites, such as availability of hand sanitiser and regular cleaning.
“ac.care’s programs, such as financial counselling, homelessness services and foster care support continue and are possibly more important than ever as the economic impact of COVID-19 affects people’s lives,” Mr Maddocks said.
“While many of our staff are working from home in the current situation, they remain connected to our networks and are available to help.”
ac.care can be contacted on 1300 ACCARE (1300 22 22 73).