The next six weeks will be challenging for the Archdiocese as Melbourne moves into stage 3 restrictions once again. The lockdown comes after a sharp increase in cases of coronavirus over the last three weeks.
The Archdiocese is mindful of all affected by the most recent restrictions, but particularly those in ‘hard lockdown’ in public housing towers.
Nine high-density housing towers in Melbourne’s inner north went into a strict lockdown over the weekend where residents remain house-bound for at least five days.
As of 7 July, the number of cases of coronavirus linked to the towers totalled 69.
Archbishop Peter offered his prayer and support in a letter to the residents of the towers affected by the lockdown. ‘I wish to simply reach out to you and assure you that in every way you are in the thoughts and prayers of all God’s people across Melbourne and beyond,’ Archbishop Peter writes.
‘I cannot imagine how isolated you must feel in such challenging circumstances. For some of you there has been the added distress of separation between you and your children.’
‘If your Parish and School communities can be of any assistance, please do not hesitate to ask – I believe they have been in contact with you during these first days.’
‘I hope that in these anxious moments you might be able to call on our loving Saviour to make himself known intimately to you. Remember, He resides in our exile places, and awaits lovingly for us to bring to Him our pain and loss.’
Parish Priest of the Flemington Kensington Parish, Fr Hien Vu, has members of his parish community living in the towers in lockdown.
‘We have around 50 families in flats at the moment,’ he says.
‘On Sunday night, we had a meeting with the leadership team from our parish schools to find ideas and ways to help these families. Over the last few days, we have been calling all these families.’
Several local Catholic parishes and schools have been reaching out to the residents locked down in these towers to offer support, Fr Hien explains.
And from Tuesday, the Flemington Kensington Parish opened up the Parish Hall as a Covid-19 Testing station for the local community. ‘Sixty families in the parish are in contact with those in the public housing towers including 11-12 families in the Flemington estate.’
Tragically, some families were separated during the lockdown. ‘Several children left the towers and couldn’t get back in. So now they are living with relatives,’ Fr Hien says. ‘We are particularly mindful of three families that are currently separated.’
The school leadership met over the weekend and during the week, says Fr Hien and, these teams are making calls to those families every day to offer support.
Catholic Social Services Victoria (CSSV) convened a meeting with key member organisations and put a statement out on the public housing lockdown last weekend.
Executive Director of CSSV, Joshua Lourensz released the statement saying ‘[The residents’]welfare is of key concern to us during this time.’
Following concerns over the severity of the lockdown from the wider Melbourne community, the CSSV statement stressed it was of ‘vital importance that each one of the 3,000 plus residents are treated with respect in regards to their inherent dignity’ and urged the government to take a ‘person-centered response in line with the Catholic tradition of upholding the dignity and preciousness of each person.’
‘And where people remain house-bound for at least five days, we must be careful in the way we go about caring for the health of people.'
The statement explained the complexity of the living situations of residents and stressed the need for a respectful approach, as many residents struggle with a range of complex issues.
‘We are continuing to determine how we can assist in this situation,’ Joshua says.