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District continues working with vulnerable communities

Supporting our community during the latest COVID outbreak.

Two people dressed in full protection gear inside a home; socially distancing; holding medical testing eqipment
SydneyConnect Image: Vulnerable Persons Outbreak Management Team members

Sydney Local Health District is continuing to work with community leaders and partners to help protect vulnerable people, including the homeless or those at risk of homelessness and social housing residents, during the latest COVID-19 outbreak.

The District set up a Vulnerable Persons Outbreak Management Team last year, and in 2022 has continued to partner with the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ), the Aboriginal Medical Service Redfern, local NGOs and community leaders to implement strategies to further support COVID-19 testing and vaccination.

This has included visiting boarding houses and working alongside the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre, to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 among residents.

It's estimated at least 5000 people live in the 500 boarding houses dotted throughout the District – accounting for 47 per cent of the registered boarding houses in NSW.

"The ease of transmission of the Omicron variant has provided an extra challenge," Paul Clenaghan, the Director of the District's Homeless and Rough Sleepers Program, said.

"Many boarding house residents have mental health or drug health issues and, for a variety of reasons, are less likely to seek early detection of COVID-19.

"So, we identified further ways to help them, particularly those who require extra assistance managing their health and wellbeing during any periods of self-isolation," he said.

In one week in January this year, 22 boarding houses were visited and 40 undiagnosed COVID-19 cases were identified via rapid antigen tests delivered by the team, with most residents completing isolation at the District-run Special Health Accommodation.

So far in February, the District has run walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinics, in partnership with DCJ, at Redfern and Waterloo for residents in social housing complexes.

A third clinic, set up in collaboration with DCJ and national charity Mission Australia, will be held at Common Ground Sydney – a social and affordable housing complex in Camperdown.

It's estimated there are more than 18 000 people living in social housing in the District in    12 800 properties – which equates to almost 10-per-cent of the social housing stock in NSW.

In 2021, the partnership with DCJ resulted in the District having the highest rate of COVID-19 vaccination in social housing communities in the state.

"These latest clinics are another opportunity for us to reach out to residents, who may experience barriers to accessing mainstream health care services, to provide COVID-19 vaccinations," Lisa Parcsi, the District's Director of Integration and Partnerships, said.