Saturday, May 16, 2009

Charities struggle to help needy

Sun, 03 May 2009 3:15p.m.

TV3 and printed in the Herald

The number of families seeking help from charities has risen dramatically because of the recession, and many find it "embarrassing" to ask for help.

The Salvation Army said it faced an almost 40 percent increase in the number of families seeking help.

In the first quarter of this year, the number of food parcels distributed jumped 44 percent from 7316 to 10,517 and the number of families receiving food aid climbed from 5600 to 7835, compared to this time last year.

Salvation Army spokesman Robbie Ross said they had seen an extra 5000 families who had gone into the Salvation Army for the first time.

"That marks where we are with the difficult financial times people are going through," he said.

However, many people were embarrassed to ask for help, he added.

"If you've been managing okay for all this time then you have to go and seek some help from a stranger, it's an embarrassing situation for people."

The Salvation Army food packages were made up from "a combined effort" of donations from companies, individuals and the organisation also bought a lot of the products used.

Despite the worsening financial times, donations were "holding up quite well" compared to last year, but they needed more, he said.

"The Salvation Army has the ability to help people, we don't have the resources and we need the whole nation to be a part of that," Mr Ross said.

The Salvation Army hoped its appeal week starting tomorrow would raise $700,000.

Auckland City Mission was also facing a drastic rise in demand because of the recession.

Chief executive Diane Robertson said they had seen a sixty percent increase in people asking for food parcels and assistance since November last year.

The city mission gave out food parcels to 70 food banks in the Auckland region, and was reliant on donations from big companies and individuals.

However, there was a decline in big bulk donations from companies and an increase in demand from all of the food banks, she said.

The mission tried to have fruit, vegetables, bread and meat in the food packages, but was struggling to meet the increasing demand because of the drop in donations.

"People on very low incomes are really struggling -- for people on benefits the money isn't worth as much, and then we have another whole new group of people who have been made redundant."

Ms Robertson said the mission saw a lot of women from low-income families, who came in after being made redundant from jobs where they were earning the families secondary income.

"A lot of women who have had jobs as cleaners and brought up the (family) income to be sustainable, they have lost their jobs."

People were also embarrassed to ask for help, she said. " People feel quite mortified and ashamed they are humiliated."