For nearly six weeks, Darren Mealing has been sleeping rough in a Wollongong CBD carpark.
"I've spent 11 years in the street out of my 50 [years]," he said on Friday.
He isn't the only homeless person using the space for shelter during lockdown.
"It's not too bad, if people will stay away from my stuff," he told the Mercury.
"I've been flipping out because every time I get up there's people in it, or every time I'm asleep, someone's in it.
"I don't own much, but what I've got is what I've got."
Mr Mealing had to vacate his property in Port Kembla, and while sleeping rough at his current location had been moved on a few times.
Now, with a COVID lockdown, things have got tougher.
Mr Mealing believed the homeless should be prioritised for COVID vaccinations.
"We're doing it harder, we're out in the elements, and can't [isolate] at home," he said.
Mandy Booker, chief executive officer of the Wollongong Homeless Hub, said crisis accommodation was currently full, and demand for services was "really high".
The Homeless Hub was working with the Department of Communities and Justice to reach out to rough sleepers, and get as many people into temporary and crisis accommodation as they could.
We're doing it harder, we're out in the elements, and can't [isolate] at home.Darren Mealing
Ms Booker said there had been an increase in rough sleepers in the area since the lockdown began.
"We're finding that one of the issues is where previously people were in overcrowded dwellings, they now can't stay with family because of the new restrictions identifying that only the household members can be there," she said.
"That's forcing more people out on to the streets."
She said while people were in crisis accommodation and working with agencies, "we need to look at getting the COVID vaccine rolled out to them as a priority group".
"We've got a lot of rough sleepers coming into temporary accommodation in these hotspot areas; then let's use this time to actually engage them in getting vaccinated.
"We definitely want to have a look at expediting that while we've got people in crisis accommodation and connected to services, because that rollout will then be easier to communicate."
Ms Booker said there were also associated issues related to isolation and mental health for those who were in lockdown, including those in crisis accommodation who were trying to adhere to the public health orders.
"Being in small crisis accommodation rooms is not ideal at the best of times, but in a pandemic, not having that contact and a lot of their face-to-face support from agencies that they might have normally connected with is really starting to show," she said.
A Department of Communities and Justice spokesperson said the NSW government had ramped up outreach street patrols to engage with rough sleepers and offer them temporary accommodation.
"We've also invested $10.3 million to provide more flexibility around temporary accommodation arrangements, ensuring people who take up the offer of temporary accommodation can remain there for the duration of the lockdown."
The spokesperson said staff on their patrols were encouraging people sleeping rough to get vaccinated.
"The Department of Communities and Justice and NSW Health are working on a strategy to reach out to people sleeping rough to help them get vaccinated."
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