COVID-19 has changed the way we live, and spread anxiety, fear, economic hardship and social isolation around the world. Sadly, these aren’t new normals for everyone. The virus has put into focus the complex and daily challenges that people have been living with for years, while highlighting their strength and resilience, writes Tanja Humphries, Manager of the Accommodation Support Program (ASP).
Centacare’s Accommodation Support Program (ASP) is a recovery-oriented rehabilitation and support service for people living with mental illness in Mount Gambier, Clare and the Barossa Valley.
Unique geographical factors in these regions compound the risk of natural disasters, but they also create a stoic community spirit to face challenges together. This connection proved pivotal as ASP Support Workers Sue, Carole and Clare moved quickly to assist our most vulnerable when COVID-19 took hold earlier this year.
Long before the health pandemic, the trio was often the only human contact ASP clients had from week to week. Finding new ways to meet up with them when traditional venues closed was therefore crucial.
Reassuring hands held phones out for clients as they spoke to doctors, counsellors and other service providers on loud speaker in parks and backyards. On other days, the team took to the streets and went walking with those they support, always keeping 1.5m apart. Clients relished the exercise which, in some cases, led to weight loss and a decrease in smoking.
With a chair and thermos of coffee in tow, Carole met people anywhere and everywhere including on the roadside. She discovered a local community garden with an open shelter shed. After meeting here regularly, clients were inspired to become members and garden volunteers. They found friendship and meaning in their new responsibilities.
Despite the team’s determination to maintain outreach support, this was not always possible. For Barossa Valley-based Sue, it was particularly challenging when a COVID-19 cluster forced the district into even stricter lockdown. Instead, Sue hit the phone and listened as clients grew in confidence after managing tasks they’d once felt were beyond them.
Clare facilitated meditation support for people who could no longer participate in library sessions. When the weather allowed, she’d take her picnic rug and undertake socially distanced meditation in the parks.
With all of the anxiety, new ways of living, working, and socialising that the pandemic has caused, it has given the wider community a unique insight into the challenges ASP clients face daily.
As a team, ASP support workers have also learned to be flexible, and gained a greater appreciation for the service they provide.