Demand from struggling Tasmanian families for fresh food and clothing is at its highest, a Launceston charity has seen in 10 years.
- A representative from the non-profit charity Strike it Out says she has ‘never seen such a request before’
- A charity worker said the number of people seeking help was ‘not something I’ve seen in the 10 years I’ve been here’
- A new free shower and laundry service in northern Tasmania is expected to be used by 50 people a week
Launceston City Mission said it sees up to 25 new clients in need of help each week – and many of them have jobs.
“It’s not something I’ve seen in the 10 years I’ve been here… but we haven’t had a private rental market like the one we have at the moment,” said Stephen Brown of Launceston City Mission .
“We have a range of people coming in. Some have jobs but find they can’t keep their private rentals, with prices going up at the end of the lease.”
For Sophie McKenna, it is difficult to find enough money to pay her weekly rent and do her shopping.
She lives in a small one-bedroom unit with her two dogs in East Devonport, northern Tasmania.
“I try to be positive about things, but it’s hard,” she said.
“I have to watch everything I spend.”
McKenna moved back to Tasmania a few years ago to be closer to her family.
She volunteers at the local community center while looking for full-time employment.
“There just aren’t a lot of jobs, especially in this field,” she said.
“When I was living in Melbourne there were so many more opportunities.
Lynda Ivory, a single mother of two, said the cost of living was currently the highest she could remember.
“One of my sons is still at home…he’s helping out financially with food and things, but he also has his own bills to pay and his own responsibilities,” she said.
“Rent takes up a lot of that…so you really have to think twice about buying things.”
Ms Ivory, who also volunteers at East Devonport Neighborhood House, said being able to bring home fresh vegetables and pantry items at the end of a shift was a lifesaver.
“It’s extremely valuable,” she said.
“We see a lot of people coming for help and they’re doing it very hard…without the community house, a lot of people wouldn’t have vegetables.”
Increase in demand for help
Kirsten Ritchie and a team of volunteers run the non-profit charity Strike it Out.
It provides food, clothing, sleeping bags and tents to people in need.
On average, she says, she saw 40 new families and people asking for help each month.
The organization initially started helping homeless people get back on their feet, but they’ve noticed a different trend in recent months.
“The new demand we’re seeing is from people who are still working,” she said.
“COVID-19 has been difficult for a lot of people. There’s so much going on there [such as] domestic violence.
“Mostly [with] the price of renting a property, people just can’t afford to buy food.
“They might also have a broken down car or something, [and] lost income and it prevents having the means to repair this vehicle.”
Shelves in the organization’s storage shed in Launceston are often empty, with the supply of donated food unable to meet demand.
“It’s hard to keep up…a few weeks ago we completely ran out of shelf stable milk and cereal,” she said.
Ms Ritchie said she was worried about what winter demand would be.
So what is done?
After years of fundraising, Strike it Out has secured a block of 24 lockers – fitted with lights and security cameras – installed at Launceston Seaport.
“It provides a safe, dry space to store personal items, clothing and food,” Ms Ritchie said.
“That means people don’t have to carry everything in their backpacks…they can also have larger items and they can also have a place to put a change of clean, dry clothes.”
Gran’s Van in Devonport has also launched a free shower and laundry trailer for those in need. It is entirely funded by community donations.
“It was developed for those who don’t have access to laundry service or showers,” said Alistair Ollington, of Gran’s Van.
He said up to 50 people had to use the van each week.