FOR now, Ballarat Soup Bus has been able to adjust its operations to keep helping the city's most vulnerable and needy.
What this might look like in a month's time or two, as ripple effects from the coronavirus pandemic grow, concerns the Soup Bus team.
On Track Foundation vice-president Carol Trusler said community generosity had been amazing - one gentleman used his tax return to fill his ute tray with supplies to donate.
But the team was bracing for a harder, tougher winter while unemployment continued to climb and people's supplies started to run down.
Ms Trusler said this time of year ahead of winter was always a little "up and down" for demand on the Soup Bus and it had been hard to gauge the lockdown impacts.
"Every time so far it's been looking light-on in our shipping container for supplies, somebody appears with a lovely load," Ms Trusler said.
"Our volunteers are outstanding. We've lost a couple of older volunteers, who have to stay home and self-isolate, and it would be very easy for volunteers to fear COVID-19 and say, 'I'm out'. But once you look at what we can do and with strict policy in place, it's more reassuring."
Ballarat Soup Bus has been liaising with Ballarat Health Services to ensure the right hygiene and welfare measures are in place.
The Soup Bus is operating with reduced hours and volunteers are behind a perspex screen. A push to make the Soup Bus environmentally friendly and sustainable has been put on hold, with a return to disposable plates and cutlery.
Ms Trusler said for homeless people, who did not travel much, the greatest risk was in catching the virus from volunteers who work with them.
Welfare advocates across the nation have been calling for accommodation to help get rough sleepers off the streets to better protect themselves amid the pandemic. In Western Australia, a pilot program is being trialled where 20 people experiencing homelessness in Perth have been put in a hotel.
The Soup Bus is in need of one-litre long-life milk, with panic-buying in supermarkets creating a shortage in supply. This has forced the team to cease giving out cartons for people to have for breakfast as one form of nutrition, and restricting milk to tea and coffee.
Extra-large and extra-extra-large winter coats are also in short supply. These are given out for people to wear over smaller coats in a bid to layer-up for warmth. The Soup Bus is also seeking thermal socks ahead of winter.
The Soup Bus is accepting donations at its storage container, behind Ballarat East Community Men's Shed, every Wednesday and every first and third Saturday from 9.30-11am.
Hand-washing and social distancing is in place. Those concerned or wanting to ensure a quiet period to donate can make contact via ontrackfoundation.org.au.
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