Access Housing’s commitment to providing secure, sustainable and affordable homes to some of Western Australia’s most vulnerable people has continued unabated during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the company welcoming 32 new people as tenants or residents over the past six weeks whilst also continuing to maintain existing tenancies and achieve other positive housing outcomes.
On Wednesday 25 March, Access Housing temporarily closed each of our offices and facilitated staff to work remotely in response to the evolving COVID-19 situation and to encourage social distancing. This was done to assist with the ongoing health and wellness of our staff, tenants, contractors and broader community.
Staff adjusted quickly to their new working environments and were able to continue to deliver a high quality service to each of our highly valued tenants and prospective tenants. In the weeks that have followed, Access Housing has remained able to sign up new tenants and residents efficiently and maintain our target timelines for housing by working to a remote and revised face-to-face service delivery in line with government issued COVID-19 hygiene and social distancing recommendations.
In parallel to us continuing to welcome people into their new homes during COVID-19, Access Housing has remained engaged and in regular communication with our partner organisations in the homelessness and family and domestic violence (FDV) sectors to provide homes to some of their clients most in need and at-risk during this time.
Staff from our Community Housing team have continued to assist new tenants in crisis to source furniture, essential goods and access relevant supports and services in their community.
As well as housing new tenants, Access Housing has remained committed to maintaining tenancies and ensuring tenants and residents feel safe, secure and supported during COVID-19. This has included:
- proactively identifying at-risk tenants and conducting wellbeing checks over the phone;
- developing a COVID-19 resource directory so tenants have access to COVID-19 related services in their area;
- conducting tenant hardship surveys to understand the financial and wellbeing impacts of COVID-19 and identifying where we can provide financial assistance;
- undertaking support coordination remotely to ensure tenants are linked with support they need during this time; and
- responding to, investigating and acting on anti-social behaviour and nuisance complaints remotely by phone, mail and email.
Since we temporarily closed our offices, Access Housing staff have conducted more than 1,000 tenant wellbeing checks and administered more than 150 tenant hardship surveys. Our staff have received positive feedback from tenants who appreciate the calls and check-ins from staff and our offers of assistance. Access Housing will continue to reach out to tenants over the coming weeks to ensure they are safe, secure and well supported.
Access Housing has also been working collaboratively to identify and respond to the needs of people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic through our membership of the COVID Taskforce on Homelessness.
The taskforce was established in recognition of people experiencing homelessness being the most unable to isolate and protect themselves or others or recover from COVID-19 and brings together representatives from the Department of Communities, Shelter WA, the WA Alliance to end Homelessness, Community Housing Providers and a number of front-line homelessness service providers.
Some of the objectives of the taskforce have been to:
- identify and facilitate access to culturally appropriate emergency accommodation options for people experiencing homelessness to enable self-isolation and reduce the risk of community transmission of COVID-19;
- provide swift support to the sector, including through the development and dissemination of information to support the response to COVID19 eg: resourcing how personal protective equipment, cleaning services and accommodation can be accessed; and
- create pathways from emergency accommodation into sustainable longer-term tenancies by joining up initiatives from the government’s COVID-19 response with the WA Housing Strategy and the 10-Year Strategy on Homelessness.
Access Housing continues to closely monitor and heed the advice from Federal and State Government Health Departments to ensure we are supporting the safety and wellbeing of the broader community whilst we continue to deliver the best services possible to our tenants and stakeholders during COVID-19.