HCA work as a team to assist tenants and staff

Housing Choices Australia’s (HCA) staff may have been working from home since the end of March but the organisation is still working together to assist tenants during the pandemic.

HCA is utilising Microsoft Teams to continue its workflow and connectivity. Some teams are hosting ‘Virtual Friday Night Drinks’ via video conferencing, and the Melbourne office is having a ‘Zoom Trivia Night’ tonight with exciting prizes to be won.

Although ‘walk in’ appointments aren’t going ahead at the moment, residents can still meet with the Housing Team by scheduling an appointment and several staff are coming into the offices on a rotating roster.

Emails and letters have been sent to residents notifying them of changes to the organisation during this time. To keep connected with our residents, we are still publishing the ‘Home Stories’ resident newsletter for all of the states. The newsletters include useful COVID-19 links and resources, puzzles and brainteasers to keep things fun, as well as resident stories of how they are getting creative and managing social isolation.

Housing Officers have also been contacting all residents in their portfolio to touch base with them and to see how they are coping in these difficult times. We have increased engagement with our support partners and the NDIS, and linked residents with varied support agencies (new and old).

This week the ‘Darebin Food Share Program’ kicked off. HCA Victoria’s Community Development Team partnered with The Bridge (Preston Neighbourhood House) to enable us to distribute pre-cooked meals to our residents in Darebin.

The meals are being provided by FareShare, a community organisation that rescues surplus food and turns it into nutritious meals for people doing it tough. Their motto is ‘Rescue, Cook, Feed.’ On Monday 11 May, a group of HCA staff collected, packed and delivered over 200 nutritious, pre-cooked frozen meals to support our residents at over 60 different addresses.

We are also providing food vouchers, offering to cover medical bill costs and making payments of up to $200 for utility bills to help residents impacted by the pandemic.

The organisation has introduced COVID-19 Special Leave, which grants up to 10 days additional leave for staff who are dealing with the impacts of Coronavirus. Our Intranet page is updated with a ‘COVID-19’ panel where staff can find useful resources. There, information on COVID-19 Special Leave can be found, resources for working from home, a link to the Employee Assistance Program which offers free counselling, and a content bank of all the communications sent to staff and residents.

Haven; Home, Safe quick to pivot

Haven: Home, Safe was quick to pivot its service provision when Covid-19 struck.

All employees who can, are now working from home for the foreseeable future. Those involved in, or supporting, critical operations have continued to attend their normal workplace with processes in place to help protect them and Haven’s clients. That includes operating robust protocols for health and hand hygiene, increased cleaning procedures, workplace access restrictions, social distancing, and the introduction of tele-consults.

A Virtual Concierge and tele-consult service has been installed at its Preston, Bendigo and Mildura offices.

‘The Virtual Concierge staff member welcomes clients, directs them to interview rooms, answers queries, provides assistance and schedules appointment,’ says Haven’s Communications and Marketing Director Sue Masters.

Haven’s website has been revamped, as has its intranet, HomeBase, which has a wide resource of state and federal government resources in web links and PDFs. There is tailored content for staff, with items for distribution for clients and tenants.

Staff contacted more than 500 vulnerable clients to keep them informed about Haven’s service delivery during the pandemic, using a telephone template to ensure the calls covered all required subjects in a consistent and informative way. Staff had to assess what information clients needed to ensure they fully understood the seriousness of the actions they need to take.

Haven has also launched a housing sector webinar series, Life in Lockdown, with the third  held on Friday featuring Canadian Jim Steele, the CEO of Windsor Essex Community Housing Corporation.

Windsor Essex CHC is the fourth largest social housing provider in Ontario with 4708 homes housing about 12,000 seniors, parents, children, singles, and persons with special needs. Click here to view the webinar or go to Haven’s Facebook page.

United keeping tenants connected during pandemic

United Housing Cooperative has a mixed cohort of tenants, including family violence victim survivors, elderly tenants, Horn of Africa refugees and people with mental health issues, which has led it to take a multi-pronged approach to maintaining a connection during the pandemic.

United CEO Peter Sibly says checking in on vulnerable tenants via regular calls to an emergency phone tree has been working well.

‘We have set up a Zoom social club session on Fridays. A tenant member kicks it off with talking about the news and they just knit or crochet and have a chat. It’s been going for a couple of hours and provides an opportunity to chat – the craft takes the pressure off if there’s silence.’

‘We have also set up a Facebook group that is for tenant’s only – staff aren’t allowed on it,’ he says.

‘The most recent thing that we have been doing is we got 50 food parcels that the Lifecycle Trust donated, and on Monday we delivered them to our older members with a nice card.’

With their general meeting slated for May 28, the cooperative is also offering Zoom training for members so they can participate in the online meeting.

‘Some don’t have IT, or IT skills, which is a problem. Most everyone has a phone, but some are really old. One of our members has been fixing up old laptops and we are looking at ways we could provide some to members who need them.’

Peter says members have been appreciative of the cooperative’s efforts at this time.

‘We are in the middle of doing a SurveyMonkey for our strategic plan but a lot of people have commented in the survey that they appreciate we go out of our way to do more than just provide housing.’