Health, services and peer voices
in the COVID-19 pandemic

‘‘I have seen the PM on telly and he says he is speaking to all Australians but he has not once acknowledged or mentioned members of the homeless community’’

If lockdown was difficult for people in their lounge rooms, reflect on how it might have been from the footpath!Were we really all in this together?

Episode One: You could get it in the hotel

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On 16th March 2020, the Victorian government declared a ‘state of emergency’ under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act, making homelessness an act punishable by law, and in one fell swoop it was able to achieve what past City of Melbourne mayors, police commissioners and the Murdoch media have worked so hard to achieve for years: making sleeping on the street illegal.Homeless in Hotels illustrates what happens when governments fail to meet the housing needs of people, unlike health and education. It illustrates what happens when you are placed in emergency hotel accommodation not of your choosing, with amenities not fit for day-to-day living and sharing close quarters with people you don’t know or would rather not know.

The voices in Homeless in Hotels share how it felt to be in a predicament over which they had little control and without a plan to address their future housing. They share how they tried to meet their day-to-day needs during one of the most serious health emergencies in one hundred years. For some, emergency hotel accommodation was a tonic and a welcome break from the streets. For others, it was viewed as a wasted opportunity by a system that believes they are undeserving.

Homeless in Hotels features members of Melbourne’s homeless community talking openly about managing their Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) use and their mental health in emergency accommodation. Due to prohibition and stigma, this community is not given many, if any, opportunities to speak their truth. Homeless in Hotels places members of the homeless AOD and mental health community centre stage so that they can. It is lived experience sans sensationalism.

Learn how support workers adapted to the shifting ground of
service provision in COVID-19
Reflect on how the law affected the homeless community
when it was illegal to be on the street

Commercial media has covered COVID-19’s impact on employers, a myriad of professionals, sports stars, mums and dads, students both domestic and international and children in childcare, yet it has largely ignored the stories of people experiencing homelessness.We hope that the stories in this series foster a greater understanding of the challenges members of this community face and highlight the rights, needs and experiences of a community mostly removed from public view and discourse during the COVID-19 pandemic.We encourage you to have a listen.

Episode One: You could get it in the hotelIn this episode we meet three peers who tell us what life was like in the hotels after living on the street or in insecure housing. They paint a picture of the day-to-day social scene and reflect on their substance use and mental health challenges during hotel lockdown. We also meet support workers James and Rosie who share their reflections on the hotel accommodation scheme.

Episode Two: 10,000 bedsEpisode Two of Homeless in Hotels is all about services. What opportunities and struggles did peers have accessing services in hotel lockdown? How did support workers adapt? We meet some new peers and support workers Sarah and Andy.

Episode Three: The unknown is the hardest partBe taken on a personal journey through hotel accommodation and learn how the law affected the homeless community when it was illegal to be on the street. What options are there for people after the hotel stay? What are peers' and workers' final reflections?

Subscribe to the podcastClick here to visit the Homeless in Hotels podcast on iTunes.


GIVE US BACK OUR SMACKContinuation of International Overdose Awareness Day 2022 at the Australian Federal Police, demanding the release of 750kgs of heroin seized in the last 2 years for safe supply heroin programs. Featuring speeches from harm-reduction, drug use advocates. Contains mention of an Aboriginal death in custody. Contains strong language.

#safesupply #drugwar #warondrugs #stigmakills #evidence-based

Glossary of terms usedMake bank: make money
Nangs: nitrous oxide
Ketta: ketamine
Harm Reduction: policies, programmes and practises that aim to minimise negative health, social and legal aspects associated with drug use, drug policies and drug laws
NSP: needle and syringe program. A public health initiative that aims to minimise the spread of blood-borne viruses such as HIV and hepatitis B and C among people who inject drugs and the wider community
Foot Patrol: a confidential street-based, drug safety and outreach support service in Melbourne’s CBD (Youth Projects)
Pharmacotherapy: medication (methadone or buprenorphine) to assist in the treatment of opioid addiction
MSIR: Medically Supervised Injecting Room

Contacting Homeless in HotelsEmail:

Production creditsHomeless in Hotels: health, services and peer voices in the COVID-19 pandemic was produced by Kelly Whitworth and Patrick ‘Spike’ Chiappalone in Naarm - Melbourne, Australia in 2021 - 2022. Kelly and Spike both have a lived experience of homelessness, of living precariously, and have both experienced the highs and lows of substance use. Together they co-hosted the peer homelessness show Roominations on 3CR Community Radio and co-founded the Homeless Persons Union Victoria.Kelly Whitworth is currently a producer at 3CR Community Radio and an AOD peer researcher. She is passionate about peer-produced media.Patrick ‘Spike’ Chiappalone is a peer homeless health worker in Melbourne and enjoys a game of pool.

Pre-production and interviews with David Boarder Giles
Images by Liam Halvorsen
Original music by Ogg Vorbis
Website by Brendan Bonsack

This series was the co-winner of the 2021 annual grant from the Regina Brindle Foundation which helped with production costs. The Foundation supports AOD and mental health peers to create projects articulating their voices, needs, rights and experiences.

Recorded and produced in the studios of 3CR Community Radio, on Zoom and at home.

This series was first broadcast on 3CR Community Radio in July and August 2022. We’d like to thank 3CR for their support in bringing these stories to you. If you enjoy this series, please consider making a donation or becoming a subscriber to 3CR, an independent, radical radio station funded by its listeners.

Peer names have been removed to protect their anonymity.

Created in Naarm - Melbourne. We pay respect to elders, spirits and warriors of the Kulin nation past, present and emerging and to all indigenous peoples listening around the world.

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