The Society of St Vincent de Paul Centre in south Auckland saw an increase in demand for food parcels by 30 per cent just in the last eight months.

SSVP South Auckland president Tonia Greatbatch said they expect the need to rise further this month as Christmas approaches.

SSVP South Auckland handed out a total of 1160 food baskets from March 2016 to March 2017 helping more than 3000 people.

“From that March this year till now, there’s a 30 per cent increase on those figures,” Mrs Greatbatch said.

She said support is being given by Botany New World, Fresh Choice in Otahuhu, Kiwi Harvest as well as the Young Vinnies and the Young Adult Vinnies. But the centre still spends more than $30,000 annually to make up the food parcels that they give out.

SSVP South Auckland’s area covers Otahuhu, Manurewa, Papakura, Mangere Bridge, Mangere, Papatoetoe, Otara, Pukekohe, Howick and Pakuranga.

Mrs Greatbatch said they have clients that they support with food every week because these people just couldn’t make ends meet. She said they couldn’t keep up with rising rental costs and prices of goods.

“Most of the clients that our financial coaches work with, if they are on a benefit and they’re living on a boarding house around here, they basically have between $4 and $50 to spend on everything after their rent is taken out,” she said.

“A couple of years ago, most of the people we were helping were on a benefit. Now, a significant number of the people that come to our doors are what we call the ‘working poor’: people who are on minimum wage, working two or three jobs in the family and they still can’t get ahead.”

Some might have medical problems that set them back in terms of finances.

Others would be deeply in debt to the mobile trucks that sell goods through credit with exorbitant interest rates. SSVP South Auckland’s financial coaches help these people declare bankruptcy and put their finances on track.

But to improve the lives of the vulnerable people in the community, Mrs Greatbatch stressed, Government needs to deal with the housing crisis.

Soaring rental prices worsen the problem of homelessness, particularly in Otahuhu, she said.

“[The homeless people are] … especially concentrated around shopping centres like Otahuhu where people may have been in a boarding house before. Some of those boarding houses locally have been closed down because they (houses) were sub-standard,” Mrs Greatbatch said.

People who lived in these houses were forced to live on the streets. Some found their way to the centre.

SSVP South Auckland works with Monte Cecilia Housing Trust, LinkPeople, the Ministry of Social Development and Work and Income New Zealand to help people who need emergency housing.

The SSVP Centre was started ten years ago by former SSVP South Auckland area president Frank Heffernan who still helps out with the delivery of food parcels.

They started out giving furniture to people who need them. “We’re always desperate for furniture. We’re the only charity agency in Auckland that give away furniture to families,” she said.

Mrs Greatbatch added the centre will be doing between 50 to 100 Christmas hampers, apart from the hampers that the different conferences in that region will be preparing.

Centre manager Renee Joseph said another great need they have is for a delivery truck.

“Our Vinnie’s truck is well-loved and well-used and is on its last legs. We’re in desperate need of another truck so we can pick stuff up and deliver to those who are in need,” she said.

Mrs Greatbatch gave a shout out to NZ Catholic readers, particularly in the South Auckland area, for donations of beds, furniture, clothing and food.

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