EVERY single day at the new Parramatta Salvation Army, Major Kylie Collinson is stunned by raw stories of hardship faced by a growing section of people in her community.
“I need help to pay bills, I lost my job, I cannot afford to pay rent, I am sick and couldn’t work, my children need school uniform and shoes.” Most of us may not have ever experienced any of these predicaments. These are some of the reasons we mustn’t look the other way when volunteers are in our community in the month of May for the annual Red Shield Appeal.
In Western Sydney, Major Collinson says they hope to raise more than $310k to expand the Salvos’ community support programs to support people through times of crisis.
“While we are seeing disadvantaged families that regularly come for help, we also expect new people who have been put off work since the JobKeeper payment has been stopped to visit our centre at 426 Church Street.” Major Collinson said.
Based on the latest treasury data on JobKeeper recipients by postcode, the suburbs of Parramatta, Wentworthville, Granville and Westmead had 3,235 individuals on JobKeeper who ceased receiving income support from April.
Those currently receiving JobSeeker and youth allowance in the Parramatta electorate has increased to 15,488, according to the Australian Council on Social Services which is proposing an increase in the rate of unemployment benefits.
The Salvos are also assisting stranded foreign students who had no way of going home since the pandemic last year and had lost jobs by providing vouchers for food and groceries.
Woolworths has provided the Salvos with vouchers that can only be used for purchasing food and other grocery items, except alcohol and tobacco.
It varies from week to week but on average, as many as 60 people come through the door daily to pick up Woolworths vouchers while the Salvo Assessment Line handles the bulk of phone calls for other types of help, Major Collinson said.
Those who have lost jobs are referred to the Salvos’ employment program, Employment Plus, to get the jobless back into the workforce or receive training to reskill for industries needing workforce.
A dramatic increase in the number of people facing financial difficulties, the Salvos Moneycare offer a free financial counselling service for individuals and families. This is available in 17 centres across Sydney.
In Western Sydney, at least 600 individual cases since last year are ongoing and receiving support by ensuring they are being reconnected to work opportunities, receiving emergency relief and Centrelink entitlements, and learning skills how to repay their debts and manage their money for the longer term.
“We look closely at the person’s expenses and provide tips and options on reducing expenses where possible, and work on these priorities,” says Mita Mitra, Moneycare regional manager.
Those receiving JobSeeker or youth allowance of just over $44 a day under the new JobSeeker rate of $620 a fortnight would be finding it “very hard” to budget their money because housing rental alone takes up bulk of their weekly expenses.
The $250 a fortnight coronavirus supplement included in the JobSeeker allowance also ended in March.
“Much [of JobSeeker’s weekly budget] depend on rent which is the biggest cost so it will be very hard,” says Ms Mitra.
The Moneycare service does not provide loans but provide people experiencing financial hurdles with emergency assistance such as relief on paying energy and phone bills, Ms Mitra says.
To be able to assist more people, the Salvos new facilities in Parramatta are being re-purposed to raise funds from renting the spaces such as its community hall with commercial kitchen, conference room and office spaces.
“The monies we raise from renting these facilities within the new building will be used to give it back straight into helping the community and expand our services,” Major Collinson says.
“To be able to pass it onto services for the people in the community we are open to partnering with businesses and organisations in the area.”
To find out more about the Salvation Army in Parramatta, click on to https://www.salvationarmy.org.au/parramatta/
For opportunities to volunteer for the Red Shield Appeal in May please go to :-
By ELIZABETH FRIAS
Photo: Major Kylie Collinson (right) and Salvo volunteer rJan Roberts (left) who has been a helping hand for decades serving up hot coffee and sweets to visitors at the new Salvo Café.