Friday, September 17, 2021
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Servicing the community at a distance

The advice is clear: we must maintain a physical distance in order to slow the spread of Covid-19. If we do not follow this advice, the disease will spread too quickly and consequentially overwhelm our hospitals. Our health system will be under immense stress and people may die unnecessarily.

The elderly and vulnerable are facing months of self-isolation to protect themselves. Hence, the measures we must abide by to contain Covid-19 are changing the way that the community sector can support vulnerable people; those escaping domestic and family violence, with disability, facing homelessness, the elderly and those dealing with chronic illness, mental ill-health and alcohol and drug addiction.

Like many other services with the interest of the community at heart, Counterpoint had been determined to continue servicing the community while complying with physical distancing directions and comprehensive cleaning routines. However, following the federal government’s stage 2 announcement on March 24, Counterpoint Community Services was forced to close its doors to the public.

Going forward, Counterpoint will continue to service the Waterloo and Redfern communities, albeit at a distance, by providing information, support and advice by phone, email, and Facebook Messenger. We have also been calling members of the community who are particularly vulnerable to check-in on their material and mental wellbeing. Counterpoint has also initiated an appeal for the Redfern and Waterloo social housing communities to secure the basic necessities so no one in the community goes without.

The closure of community centres will not only make it harder to provide a service to the community, but it will also exacerbate the sense of isolation and loneliness already felt. Many residents look forward to the social activities that foster a sense of connection and contribute to a feeling of community. Cooking groups, morning teas, English classes, art group, and community outreach. All these activities have been cancelled and possibly won’t return for months with potentially severe consequences for those who are already isolated and battling mental illness. At a moment of immense uncertainty and anxiety, at a time when people need human connection, they are being deprived of exactly that.

It is not only social housing tenants who will need increased support through this pandemic, but also the thousands of people who have already lost their jobs due to circumstances out of their control. This is only set to increase as more and more businesses shutdown due to low demand or are forced to close.  In addition are the thousands of international students who depended on casual work to pay their school fees and survive. Now many of these people face a precarious future; to find a way to survive in Australia or to go back home – if they are allowed to return.

Although we can expect the situation to get worse in Australia, how the community has pulled together has been heartening. Residents are looking out for one another and checking in on neighbours. Community organisations and local government are also increasing communication with one another and forming networks for how to best support the vulnerable communities that we service. Meals on Wheels has started to include scarce supplies such as toilet paper with their deliveries.

The following months will be difficult as we continue to isolate ourselves from each other to protect the most vulnerable in the community and to ultimately save lives. Undoubtedly, there will be immense pain and suffering. Follow physical distancing guidelines but maintain social solidarity. Smile at your neighbour and ask if they are okay. Smile at strangers. While we already feel the devastating short-term impacts of the Covid-19 on employment, health and our lifestyles, in the long-term, the pandemic will force us to reconsider our values and possibly be the catalyst for us to discover the better version of ourselves. To reflect the zeitgeist of this pandemic: we are all in this together.

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