Emergency relief is desperately needed for the community's most vulnerable, advocates say.
As Victoria's Stage 3 COVID-19 social distancing restrictions enter their fourth week, the demand for fresh food, short-term housing and assistance are growing.
Horsham's Christian Emergency Food Centre, Uniting Wimmera and St Vincent de Paul have asked the community to help now, and avoid a much bigger problem in the future.
CEFC operations manager Jill Cramer said demand for assistance has grown since Easter.
"In the first couple of weeks of the lockdown, we saw fewer clients; however, since Tuesday we have been very busy," she said.
"We've had an influx of people and the need for food is high. Most of our clients are long term welfare recipients. We haven't seen too many people who have just lost their job.
"I think people are starting to realise we are in this for the long haul."
The centre sources its food through Foodbank Victoria, Coles' Second Bite, and local donations from service clubs and community members.
It is struggling to obtain fresh fruit and vegetables as demand in Melbourne grows, putting Foodbank under considerable pressure.
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"We were lucky at the start of the lockdown because we received a lot of donations from restaurants and cafes that closed down," she said.
"Now we primarily receive fresh food donations from the community."
Situated on 28 Firebrace St, the centre has more than 60 volunteers helping throughout the week by packing boxing, fielding phone calls and working with clients.
"Normally, the centre needs 12 people at any given time; however, due to social distancing guidelines, we can only have six people working at once," she said.
"A lot of our volunteers are old, so they have to stay at home. Fortunately we have received dozens of calls from people looking to assist and we're always on the lookout for more volunteers."
To contact the centre, which is open from 1pm to 3.45pm Monday to Friday, call 5381 2311.
Need for emergency housing grows every day
Shortages in temporary shelter, short term housing and long term accommodation are no secret in Victoria, with more than 40,000 households on state government waiting lists.
Wimmera Uniting executive Josh Koenig said Horsham was not immune to the housing crisis.
"On Tuesday alone, we received 24 calls for assistance and 14 of them were related to homelessness," he said.
"To put that in context, before the pandemic we would normally receive 300 calls a month, so 24 calls in a day is a jump. Fourteen calls in one day for homeless matters is significant too."
Mr Koenig said homelessness in the Wimmera is not the same as it is in Melbourne.
"We don't have people sleeping on the streets - we have people couch surfing, camping in backyards or camping in national parks," he said.
"We have whole families staying with elderly relatives, which is no longer practical. Elderly people are at risk during this pandemic, meaning families can no longer stay with their grandparents.
"Issues like this will become more and more prominent."
"...the more we talk about homelessness the taboo disappears."Josh Koenig, Uniting Wimmera chief executive
He added the region doesn't have enough long term solutions.
"We have 50 short term houses for transitional housing and 48 are currently in use. The other two are being cleaned, which is a two-week process," he said.
"We have a wait-list that is growing every day."
Mr Koenig said several agencies are working together to find a solution for the community.
"Uniting Wimmera is the local entry point for homeless people, but there are so many agencies working together to assist," he said.
"The Christian Emergency Food Centre, Salvation Army, St Vincent De Paul, Grampians Community Health... we're all working together.
"We just need more houses. We need brick and mortar solutions. The first step is the community acknowledging the problem.
"People may have vacant land or properties that aren't in the system. Motels in Horsham are fantastic - I cannot fault them - but it is not a long term solution.
"It's like mental health - the more we talk about homelessness the taboo disappears."
'Vinnies' offer a helping hand
The local branch of the international voluntary organisation St Vincent de Paul Society said calls for assistance have increased.
Shane Kennedy, President of St Vincent de Paul Society Horsham Conference, said requests for assistance vary.
"The calls for assistance have been consistent, and we have noticed a slight increase in people citing domestic disputes and the need for temporary housing or respite," he said.
"Which is not surprising, as this time of social isolation and remote learning are putting a lot of strain on families.
"There has also been a rise in food assistance.
"We have also had a number of people calling for assistance from towns out of our area and they are referred to a centre closer to them."
Mr Kennedy said while face-to-face meetings have stopped, help is still available.
"Vinnies' volunteer-run home visits are historically the lynchpin of our work in and around the Horsham community," he said.
"It's where we sit down with people who have phoned our assistance call line and find out how we can help, in their homes, with food hampers, vouchers or help with bills.
"During the COVID-19 crisis our volunteers have had to cease these face-to-face meetings, but we are still here to help - just on the other end of the phone.
"We are still here providing food hampers, food and Vinnies Shop vouchers which are left in a safe place for pick up. Our assistance centre is open between 11.00am-12pm, two days per week, Monday and Friday for phone counselling."
St Vincent's call centre can be reached toll free on 1800 305 330.
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