Winter has well and truly arrived in the southern states of Australia. For many, the cold weather signals the inconvenience of commuting in the dark punctuated by lazy weekends in front of the fire watching your team play footy on TV.
While it is traditional to grumble about the weather, for many already struggling to make ends meet, the arrival of winter only adds to their burden.
The annual SHARE winter appeal hopes to raise funds to help people as they battle through another winter. Co-director of SHARE, Angela Goodwin, said all money raised would be directed towards UnitingCare agencies that are on the frontline of providing emergency assistance throughout Victoria and Tasmania.
UnitingCare Tasmania provides emergency relief through four agencies in the state. Community services manager Lois Van Eimeren said that last year nearly four-and-a-half thousand people accessed their emergency relief services.
“We are seeing more refugees, homeless clients and people not being able to meet their utility debt. This number has increased with a large number of new clients,” Ms Van Eimeren said.
“Living in Tasmania, our energy bills are much higher than our mainland counterparts due to the cold weather. Much of our public housing stock has electric heating. Money from the appeal would assist in providing extra food, blankets and warm clothing for our clients.”
It is a similar story in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne, where high rental prices mean people often live in sub-standard housing and struggle to make ends meet.
UnitingCare Harrison’s emergency relief and material aid intake deals with approximately 3000 people each year.
“These people are struggling with everything from an inability to pay their utilities this month, no food to feed their families to nowhere to sleep tonight,” Mark Dixon, general manager of homelessness, said.
“This number has increased from last year and we are anticipating this number continuing to rise as the cost of rent continues to increase.”
Greg Wilkinson is the general manager of community services at Lentara UnitingCare, north of Melbourne. Similar to other agencies, he said there has been an increase in the number of people seeking emergency assistance. But Lentara is unique in that it services a number of asylum seekers.
“Emergency relief programs at our Broadmeadows and Sunshine sites are faced with significant challenges in meeting community need,” Mr Wilkinson said.
“This is expected to increase given some of the policy changes announced in the Federal Budget. Any funds received from this appeal will be channelled into this program area to ensure Lentara is able to meet demands for food, material aid such as clothing and bedding and to assist community members with larger expense items such as rent, utility bills and education expenses.”
The target for this year’s winter appeal is $500,000. Ms Goodwin said the emergency relief programs which donations will support are the first step for people struggling to cope to get back on their feet. The programs provide them with an entry point to a range of supports that take care of their immediate needs while also addressing the underlying problems.