Char­ity spirit be­ing tested

Pilbara News - - News - Ali­cia Per­era and Louise Alling­ham

Food do­na­tion char­i­ties in the City of Kar­ratha are re­port­ing vastly dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions go­ing into the hol­i­day pe­riod as de­mand for emer­gency re­lief re­mains strong.

Sal­va­tion Army Kar­ratha cap­tain Niall Gib­son said as of early De­cem­ber com­mu­nity de­mand for their food re­lief ser­vice, which is funded by Mis­sion Aus­tralia, had re­mained steady but prepa­ra­tions for the usual in­crease over the hol­i­days meant they were well-sup­plied so far.

“We’re go­ing pretty well, much bet­ter than this time last year,” he said.

How­ever he said the ser­vice had no­ticed a marked in­crease in first­time ap­pli­cants for their Christ­mas food ham­pers in the last few weeks, with about 50 per cent of the peo­ple who had reg­is­tered new to the ser­vice.

The Kar­ratha Emer­gency Re­lief Or­gan­i­sa­tion and the dis­tri­bu­tion agen­cies it funds are re­port­edly fac­ing harder times over Christ­mas, as a Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment fund­ing cut from 2015 means their voucher sup­ply has been at least halved.

One of those agen­cies, the Pil­bara Com­mu­nity Le­gal Ser­vice, has re­sorted to ap­ply­ing for ex­tra fund­ing to pro­vide more re­lief.

KERO chair­woman Fiona White-Har­tig said De­cem­ber to Fe­bru­ary was their high­est-de­mand pe­riod for food do­na­tions, when fam­i­lies’ need for food in the hol­i­days col­lided with ex­penses for chil­dren’s school sup­plies.

She said since their fund­ing cut there had re­mained a “mas­sive de­mand for emer­gency re­lief” and re­quests for KERO do­na­tions had been “in­un­dated and over­sub­scribed”.

“The pres­sure on the or­gan­i­sa­tions is huge,” she said.

“The de­mand far ex­ceeds the sup­ply. There are a lot of fam­i­lies in cri­sis and the amount of money we can give to peo­ple has re­duced.

“So it’s a very dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion be­cause de­mand has in­creased so sig­nif­i­cantly.”

She said emer­gency re­lief re­quests to KERO had been in­creas­ing in the last three to four years “but markedly so in the last six months.” Based on that she pre­dicted a dire sit­u­a­tion for some dur­ing the up­com­ing hol­i­days.

“Our de­mand is usu­ally about 600 in­di­vid­u­als at least each year, ap­ply­ing for as­sis­tance. The fig­ures are ex­pected to in­crease sig­nif­i­cantly this fi­nan­cial year,” she said. I ex­pect our fig­ures will go up by at least 40 per cent.”

“A lot of the or­gan­i­sa­tions are find­ing that (monthly) fund­ing is gone by the fourth to fifth day of that month.”

“We try and ac­com­mo­date as much as we can — but we just don’t have the money.”

Mr Gib­son said the Sal­va­tion Army was will­ing to help out other agen­cies who were strug­gling to keep up with de­mand for food re­lief, but though it was early days “we just haven’t seen the peo­ple”.

A Food­bank Ger­ald­ton spokes­woman said the food col­lected at their re­cent Kar­ratha Christ­mas drive would be given back to one of their part­ner­ship schools in Kar­ratha, who in­tend to do­nate it to the Sal­va­tion Army.

Pic­ture: Tom Zaun­mayr

Sal­va­tion Army Kar­ratha cap­tain Niall Gib­son and Kar­ratha City Shop­ping Cen­tre mar­ket­ing manger Chanel Ni­cholas called for emer­gency food do­na­tions in April this year.

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