Public housing tower in North Melbourne (Image: AAP/James Ross)

Last week, many residents in Melbourne's public housing towers only found out they'd been forced into lockdown when busloads of police began appearing outside their windows.

Nor Shanino, a youth worker who grew up in one of the Flemington towers said his phone lit up. The Ubuntu Project, an advocacy organisation for African-Australian youth he'd recently set up saw its Instagram follower count swell, and its inbox was soon flooded.

Shanino spent the next 24 hours liaising with officials and co-ordinating community organisations in order to reassure and inform residents and make sure they were fed. He's slept about three hours a night for the past week.