By Danielle Kutchel
St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne and Bolton Clarke’s Homeless Persons Program have partnered to deliver Covid-19 testing to some of Dandenong’s most vulnerable community members.
Hosted by Cornerstone Contact Centre in Dandenong, nurses from St Vincent’s have been attending Cornerstone for testing sessions for rough sleepers.
St Vincent’s Mobile Fever Clinic, funded by the State Government, exists to overcome barriers to accessing mainstream health services and to ensure timely diagnosis, treatment and isolation, for people who are homeless and disadvantaged.
The tests at Cornerstone are for those who are asymptomatic as well as for those who have Covid-19 symptoms. The service has been well used across the two days of testing so far.Cornerstone chief executive officer Naomi Paterson said the organisation was pleased to be able to offer the testing.
“Accessing health care can be daunting for rough sleepers,” she explained.
“They’re in a higher risk category – it’s important that they are able to be tested.”
Cornerstone has experienced an increase in demand since the pandemic began.
The demand is coming from a different demographic too: more asylum seekers, people who lost their job and can’t access Job Seeker, and more families have reached out for help.
“Everything changed when coronavirus hit,” Ms Paterson said.
Fortunately, Cornerstone has been able to cope with the demand thanks to support from the council in obtaining non-perishable food, fruit and vegetables.
Stallholders at Dandenong Market have also chipped in with their unsold produce.
Getting such direct support has helped ensure that Cornerstone can provide those in need with the freshest produce.
A new shower van also attends Cornerstone on Tuesdays to provide hot showers, and Orange Sky brings its mobile laundry service too.
These things can make all the difference for people living rough, Ms Paterson said.
“Both have been well received and are so needed.”
Also on Tuesdays, WAYSS representatives attend to offer advice on housing, and once a month, the Avalon Centre checks in with clothing for people in need.
Cornerstone has also begun providing people who come to their Tuesday and Friday lunches – which are now takeaway only due to social distancing restrictions – with food parcels containing bread and vegetables.
This is something they’d like to continue after the pandemic, Ms Paterson said.
But at the moment, no one knows when that end will be.
“We prepare for the worst, and hope for the best,” she said.
“There has been so much uncertainty at every stage. All we can do is stay open and do what we can to help.”
To donate or seek assistance, contact Cornerstone at www.cornerstonecentre.com.au