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