Requests for help rise, as tempratures drop

31 May 2017

With your support, we can limit the effects of winter for many Otago families.

The cooler summer months have made life difficult for many of the people our Family Works team supports, and the temperatures will continue to drop in the months ahead.

Amelia Rivers, Family Works Social Worker, connects with clients when they ask for support from our Dunedin office. She has seen a steady increase in the number of people coming through the door, and the unique circumstances that people have are becoming far more complex.

“I recently met someone who needed to move their family to Dunedin. Relocating themselves, with three children, was a challenge in many ways, with finance being a significant barrier. My role was to understand what support they needed, and to advocate on their behalf.”

"Families and people in challenging circumstances really need our support to make sure they know about, and have access to, the right resources."

Situations like this are becoming more common. In the last three months, at least four people have come into our Moray Place office each week, to ask for support with housing.

Half of those who approach Family Works are parents looking for accommodation for themselves and their children. Requests for help have doubled in the last twelve months, and it doesn’t look to be easing.

Homelessness can be presented in many ways - for some, it’s couch-surfing with no fixed address to call home, while others have a fixed tenancy that is ending, without the option to renew their contract and nowhere to go.

Some homes have two (or more) families crammed together, with a dozen people in a space designed for a family of four. The additional pressure of many people sharing a small space can quickly become too much.

Having experienced a cold summer across Otago, the costs of heating and power have been another challenge for many families. Already this year there has been a 20% increase in the applications Family Works have supported to access the Dunedin City Council Community Electricity Fund.

Some families pay extra on their power bill in summer, with the intention of getting ahead before winter. Families across Otago are telling us that because of the colder weather, the extra they have paid is already spent. For others, higher-than-usual power bills have meant that other areas of an already tight budget are jeopardised. The ongoing impact of this can be crippling.

The distribution of food parcels is another way to measure the challenges that Otago families face. When a budget is stretched, the money that was available to buy food is often among the first to be reduced.

Recent demand on our foodbank has been very high. Since March, Family Works has distributed over 80 food parcels each week. Our distribution of food parcels means there are meals on the table for over 250 people each week.

It takes a whole community, working together and supporting those who face these challenges, to give hope.

We value and greatly appreciate the tremendous care and concern from people like you, who regularly give generously in support of the work we do, to assist the people of Otago.

Thank you!