Homelessness Services Fighting the Heat
Wednesday, 16th January 2019 at 1:12 pm
Extra funds for homelessness services across Adelaide have been unlocked in preparation for temperatures set to soar above 40 degrees, with services calling for a similar response around the rest of the country in extreme weather events.
The South Australian government activated its “Code Red” extreme weather response on Monday, which unlocks money for homelessness services to extend shelter opening hours, and provide additional food and bottled water to people needing to stay out of the heat.
Mike Francis, Hutt St Centre (HSC) development and partnerships manager, told Pro Bono News despite the extra pressure on organisations, he felt the staff and volunteers at HSC were well prepared for the demand because of the systems in place to manage it.
“We’ve got a good idea of how many people are likely to come in and the processes and systems are all in place once Code Red is called,” Francis said.
Alice Clarke, executive director of Shelter SA, said a procedure like this saved lives in extreme weather conditions, and encouraged other states and territories to follow suit.
“People who are sleeping rough are more likely to have chronic health conditions that go untreated, and poorer health than the rest of the population, so I think we can save lives by doing this,” Clarke told Pro Bono News.
“If other states and territories don’t have these arrangements, they certainly need to look into creating similar policies.”
But in Canberra, where temperatures will reach similar highs to Adelaide, the city does not have the same game plan to help its homelessness services assist rough sleepers in hotter conditions.
Travis Gilbert, CEO of ACT Shelter, told Pro Bono News given the prediction for temperatures to rise above 40 degrees for more than five consecutive days, homelessness services needed extra government help to extend opening hours.
“There’s no provision in place that I’m aware of for services or even government-owned spaces with air conditioning to open outside of normal hours when the temperature is over 35 degrees for a period of consecutive days in the city,” Gilbert said.
He said a number of homelessness services had approached him calling for the ACT government to consider opening up government buildings or air conditioned spaces.
“We’d certainly be open to working with the government and invite them to talk to the South Australian government to find out how they went about it,” he said.
Francis encouraged other services around the country to push for a system similar to SA’s, and said it was vital, as weather conditions became more extreme, that extra support for services were provided to help people out of the heat.
“It’s all well and good looking after people when conditions are nice… but when it’s really critical and the weather conditions are extreme, that’s when you need to help people experiencing homelessness most,” he said.
“If you’re in the business of supporting people experiencing homelessness then this is the time you need to be open.”