Former Vinnies national president and current State Council member, Claire Victory, said in her nearly 30 years of volunteering with the lay Catholic organisation the current demand for need – and those people who were seeking help – was unparalleled in her experience. She attributed rising cost of living expenses, housing and rental shortages and even the lure of ‘buy now, pay later’ schemes as contributing factors.
“It’s probably as bad as I’ve seen it in terms of what people are going through,” she said.
“In the time I’ve been volunteering for the Vinnies city conference – maybe eight years – I feel that previously we would see a lot of the same people fairly often. While they might budget well, when they got one bill and it was a bit high they needed help, and would contact us.
“Now we see a lot more people for the first time. People who have previously managed OK, but it’s just got harder and harder as the cost of everything has gone up.
“More people who are calling us are of no fixed address, so they are living in their car, in the parklands.
“And we are seeing more women, more younger people. A lot of women who are in domestic violence situations or have fled domestic violence…and they are incredibly damaged by that.”
Ms Victory (pictured) said Vinnies provided assistance, without judgement, in several ways. Fred’s Van locations around the metropolitan area offer a hot meal at nights and the organisation also distributes vouchers to Foodbank, gift cards to Vinnies shops for clothing and bedding, as well as making contributions to the payment of some bills.
“Something we’ve been doing a lot of lately is assisting with bills,” she said.
“Making a contribution to someone’s extreme gas bill can make a difference to them falling behind and getting financial fees or being able to pick themselves up until the next pay period. We are also seeing quite a bit of people in difficulty meeting their Afterpay debts.”
Vinnies conferences around the State will this year distribute hundreds of Christmas hampers to provide some cheer to those who are struggling, with an estimated
50 packages earmarked for individuals and families in the city.
Ms Victory said the Christmas season was an opportune time for members of the community to reflect on how they could help those doing it tough at the moment.
“Christmas is a good time to start doing this as a regular thing – start donating good quality secondhand items because that means we can give the people we assist the dignity of choice,” she said.
“For them, that could mean buying clothes they need for themselves or their kids, or going and purchasing Christmas and birthday presents for their kids, and that is huge. A lot of parents don’t get to do that for their kids because they are struggling.”
“And of course, donations of money are always important as that helps us to be able to assist with bill payments.”