MORE than 300 families in desperate need for help this Christmas have reached out to the Salvation Army for assistance, double the number of those who required help last year.
Donated Christmas hampers would be the only means to celebrate this Christmas for many families, according to Salvation Army Doorways Program Latrobe coordinator Paul Gray.
The severe spike in those in need have been attributed to the rising cost of living, increase in mental health issues and single parenting as well as increased publicity for the Salvation Army, Morwell support centre.
“(These hampers are the only means of) survival for most of them, they don’t have the means to pay the bills and buy the food,” Mr Gray said.
“(The food hampers) is the difference between eating and not eating sometimes.”
Despite most people seeking support being welfare dependent, Mr Gray said the Salvation Army had seen an increase in minimum wage income families struggling to pay rent and rising utility bills.
He said also contributing to the growing number of people in need was an increase in unemployment figures due to job cuts throughout the region.
“It is also harder to find rental accommodation now, there is a transient population coming through trying to find permanent accommodation,” he said.
With most people seeking support being those from permanent and temporary housing, Mr Gray spoke of desperate cases of local homeless families living in cars and parks.
“Most who come to us have found accommodation but the next stage is to set them up (with furniture),” he said.
Mr Gray said elderly people were also seeking help with technology pressures, tapping into internet services and paying bills.
“Older people don’t know how to use the system and don’t have access to internet, they come in and we try and advocate for them,” he said. The Salvation Army will also provide gifts to 300 local indigenous families this Christmas, which Mr Gray said was the result of a volunteer program to support families in need.
He said, despite resource pressures, the community had stepped up to help the Salvation Army’s support services, donating all foods and donated gifts.
“The community has been great,” Mr Gray said.
“We have been able to provide Christmas hampers with all the things needed for a Christmas meal; cake, ham and vegetables as well as toys and presents for the children.”
For more information on emergency relief or to donate visit the centre, Chickerell Street and Bridle Road, Morwell.