Supporting vulnerable people through the coronavirus crisis

19 May 2020

Photo: Vulnerable communities have been hard hit by the COVID-19 crisis.

By Emily Ferguson

Vulnerable members of our communities have been strongly impacted by the coronavirus crisis. In many cases, social restrictions have amplified existing vulnerabilities while reducing access to much-needed supports.

Darryl Schelbach, Pastor at Pathways Community Church in Pendle Hill, has observed that the crisis has brought a lot of fear and uncertainty for the homeless people they serve through a feeding program in Parramatta Park.

“People are scared and unsure about what the future is. The routines they live by have been totally thrown out and that has brought a real uncertainty to their day-to-day lives. They’re even unsure whether they’ll be able to get a feed because they don’t know if the group providing the meals will be there,” he said.

Jason Hayduk, Pastor at Mission Heart, a church working with homeless people in the centre of Canberra, has noticed a similar dynamic.

“One guy was worried about getting in trouble because he’s heard all this stuff about COVID and he’s getting the message that he’s not allowed; that he’ll get in trouble. He’s so confused that even the few things he’s still able to access he can’t access.

“It’s been more lonely for people, which means that confusion gets worse and mental health is impacted quite dramatically. Our space had become a place where they were known by name, could have a coffee and we could ask how they’re going. People are still dropping by the front door to pick up food, but not coming in for a shower, coffee and talk like they could before.”

Stephanie Fett is the Family Support Manager at Hope Connect in Telopea where all support services have had to be shut down or modified. She said fear and isolation are the two biggest impacts on the vulnerable people they support.

“Isolation was already a major concern for most people we work with, and this has been exaggerated during the lockdown period,” Stephanie observed.

“Many families we support have ongoing domestic violence situations. COVID-19 already has most people in the community fearful, and living with the threat of family and domestic violence can make the situation even more unmanageable. Having no face-to-face visits, and few clients with the technology for a video call, has meant that as family support workers we cannot see what is going on in the household, which makes engagement and service extremely challenging.”

While the easing of some restrictions may represent relief for those in need and present a renewed opportunity for others to care for them, new issues may also arise or become visible.

“One concern I have is not being prepared for the easing of restrictions,” Jason

said. “We have a great opportunity to reset and make sure the way we are doing ministry focuses on what really matters – being led by God’s agenda and seeing freedom reign.”

For more information or to support these ministries financially, click the links.

Mission Heart, Canberra:

Pendle Hill Crisis Centre:

Hope Connect, Telopea: 


Find more stories of Fresh Hope here.