Mobile doctor to support City’s rough sleepers

A mobile medical clinic will bring a dedicated GP, nurse and social worker to support rough sleepers in the City of Melbourne.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp announced the City of Melbourne is investing $200,000 in the cohealth Street Doctor project to provide free medical services to rough sleepers within the municipality every Monday.

“The mobile bus clinic will provide services direct to rough sleepers where they’re needed,” the Lord Mayor said.

“By connecting people with a regular GP service we can not only improve their health and wellbeing, but help link them with other services such as mental health and drug and alcohol counselling.”

“When a patient steps onto the bus they can speak directly to a doctor and access free services such as flu shots, treatment for wounds or urgent mental health referrals.”

The cohealth service previously operated every Wednesday across wider metropolitan Melbourne and will now also operate on Mondays, exclusively within the City of Melbourne.

cohealth Interim Chief Executive, Nicole Bartholomeusz, said cohealth had long advocated for better healthcare for vulnerable people.

“Rough sleeping creates serious health problems, and yet people who are homeless have less access to health services than the rest of the community. Stigma and discrimination is a barrier to accessing health services. People who are homeless also struggle to afford medical care and to travel to appointments and may find it difficult to maintain treatment regimes,” said Ms Bartholomeusz. 

“The cohealth Street Doctor removes these barriers so that people can get the healthcare they need while reducing presentations to the emergency department,” she said.

The Lord Mayor also launched a ‘Handbook for grassroots organisations’ to guide volunteers and small groups assisting people who are homeless.

“Melbourne is a city that cares for people and we all want to help when we see someone who is vulnerable and doing it tough,” the Lord Mayor said. 

“We’re so grateful for the many ways that individuals and grassroots groups seek to help and support people sleeping rough in our city.

“The handbook aims to facilitate better coordination and support among individuals, grassroots groups and charities that provide services and support to rough sleepers to achieve more positive outcomes.”

The handbook was created in consultation with people who have experienced homelessness, homelessness service providers, and grassroots organisations offering services such as meals, haircuts, clothing and bedding to rough sleepers.

Chair of the People City portfolio, Councillor Beverley Pinder, said the City of Melbourne will also invest $193,000 to improve service coordination with grassroots organisations.

“This work will complement our weekly hotspots meeting, which brings together police, council officers and support services to work together on the city’s most challenging issues and locations when it comes to rough sleeping,” Cr Pinder said.

“We also employ three outreach workers who know many of the city’s rough sleepers by name. They’re familiar with each individual’s struggle to find housing and the circumstances that keep them on the streets.

“We’re working with business leaders and philanthropists, other councils, housing and welfare agencies, and the State Government to try and bring together efforts to address this challenging and complex issue.”

Homelessness Week, Sunday 4 to Saturday 10 August, is an annual week to raise awareness of people who are homeless.

“This year’s Homelessness Week theme, Housing ends homelessness, underlines our main aim when working with people who are homeless – to give them somewhere to live,” the Lord Mayor said.

“Services for people in crisis are important but there’s much more to do – ultimately, we need to get people into safe and secure long-term housing. To do this we need a nationally driven, coordinated approach that addresses the complex drivers of homelessness such as family violence, trauma, addiction and a lack of affordable housing.”

The City of Melbourne also recently invested in The Salvation Army Project 614 on Bourke Street, which provides 150 storage facilities and 171 personal mailboxes to give homeless people a place to keep their belongings and send and receive mail.

The ‘Handbook for grassroots organisations’ is available at Along with the Grassroots handbook, the City of Melbourne’s ‘Helping Out booklet’ provides a comprehensive list of free and low cost services from more than 70 organisations in the central city and surrounding suburbs.

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