Charities are pushing for shelter and extra support for homeless people amid concerns of their high risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Across Australia at least 750 people have been given temporary accommodation since the start of the coronavirus crisis, according to estimates from some organisations.
But processes are slower in some states than in others, an online forum hosted by the Australian Alliance to End Homelessness heard on Tuesday.
Many people sleeping on the streets are at a high risk of infection because their health is usually poor and chronic health conditions are prevalent.
Practising good hygiene like handwashing is a challenge for homeless people, especially as public toilets are increasingly closed to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
"You can't self-isolate if you have nowhere to live," said the alliance's director David Pearson.
Kim Holmes, the South Australian manager of community mental health service Neami National, says about 250 people - the majority of those who were sleeping rough in the Adelaide CBD - have been given temporary accommodation in hotels.
They get daily visits from charity workers who give information about COVID-19, preventative measures, social distancing and personal hygiene.
In Sydney's inner city 135 out of 200 temporary accommodation spaces have been filled, according to NSW Neami National representative Shane Jakupec.
But he says 300 people were counted sleeping rough on the city's streets in February, suggesting there is still a long way to go.
Micah Projects chief executive Karyn Walsh says her Brisbane-based organisation is aware of 166 people waiting for shelter so they can comply with directives like social distancing and self-isolation.
While trying to help the vulnerable rough sleepers, the charities' frontline workers are also severely affected by difficulties getting personal protective equipment for themselves.
Mr Pearson is calling for a coordinated response across Australia that pushes for better health and housing for people who are living on the streets.
Even without the risk of the coronavirus homeless people experience significant health challenges.
The poor conditions in which they live exacerbates their ill health.
So much so that the life expectancy of a person who has experienced long-term rough sleeping is just 47 years, compared to 77 years among other Australians.
Workers in the homelessness sector say the immediate focus is on urgently getting people off the streets, but the coronavirus crisis is an opportunity to ensure longer term processes are put in place.
Mr Jakupec says where temporary accommodation is provided, people ultimately need to be moved into secure housing and supported to stay there.
Australian Associated Press
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