Safeguarding Sydney’s most vulnerable communities

Posted .

The City of Sydney has strengthened its support for the voluntary services that provide much needed services to people experiencing homelessness and our most vulnerable community members.

New guidelines for services providing free food, showers, blankets and clothing to vulnerable people in the inner city will ensure clearer and safer processes for food preparation and distribution, nutrition and hygiene, and help these services continue to operate effectively.

The new draft guidelines and accompanying policy for mobile voluntary services in the City of Sydney area was developed with other government agencies and support networks and with feedback from local business and residents.

They are informed by research the City commissioned in 2019 on how these services could more effectively support the city’s most vulnerable people.

Researchers interviewed 21 mobile voluntary service operators and 112 people who access these services.

The research found mobile voluntary services were meeting a key need in the local area, providing at least 4,400 services (including meals and blankets) a week.

Almost half of the people surveyed who use these services reported they are experiencing homelessness, and 46 per cent reported they live in social housing.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the new guidelines would provide a clear approach for the City and mobile services to work collaboratively.

“We know how important these services are, so we want to work with them to ensure they are operating in a safe and coordinated way, while continuing to provide the best care for our communities.” the Lord Mayor said.

“Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 crisis, we’ve been working closely with these operators, who have been providing invaluable and essential services.

“We want to continue to strengthen our collaborative approach, so we’re able to support this fantastic work and ensure our vulnerable communities receive quality care.”

The draft policy and guidelines describe the ways the City works with and advises mobile voluntary services. They also outline legislation that is relevant to the operation of mobile voluntary services in public places.

The guidelines also set clear expectations about the service delivery principles mobile voluntary services should follow when planning and providing services.

Mobile voluntary services will be expected to operate in ways that:

  • are safe and lawful
  • are targeted to need
  • respect the dignity and autonomy of service users
  • offer safe, clean and nutritious food
  • provide people with relevant information about specialised services
  • minimise impacts (including noise) on local residents and businesses
  • abide by rules and legislation regarding parking, temporary structures, noise and waste disposal
  • obtain appropriate permits where required.

South Eastern Sydney Local Health District (SESLHD) Homelessness Health Program Manager, Stephanie Macfarlane said it was essential for government, non-government and volunteer run agencies to work together to support Sydney’s vulnerable communities.

“Poorly prepared or poorly handled food can have a significant and negative impact on vulnerable people with complex health needs,” Ms Macfarlane said.

“While the mobile voluntary food services provide an important service to people experiencing homelessness and other vulnerable members of the community, it is critical that these services are provided in a safe and coordinated way.”

The draft mobile voluntary services policy and guidelines are now open for feedback.

Consultation closes at 5pm on Tuesday 12 May.

For media enquiries, contact James Gorman. Phone 0448 005 718 or email

For interviews with Lord Mayor Clover Moore, contact Anusha Muller Phone 0408 494 545 or email

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