Mis­sion in mad rush

Central Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By JOE DAW­SON

QUEU­ING starts early and con­tin­ues un­til late at the Auck­land City Mis­sion at this time of year.

As Christ­mas ap­proaches the Hob­son St hub has teamed up with Work and In­come to func­tion as a one-stop shop to help those who might oth­er­wise strug­gle to see much fes­tiv­ity in the fes­tive sea­son.

In the mis­sion’s front area Work and In­come of­fi­cers have set up tem­po­rary sta­tions to help clients fig­ure out their ben­e­fit en­ti­tle­ments and gauge their fi­nan- cial sit­u­a­tion. From there the in­for­ma­tion is passed to the back of the build­ing where a team of vol­un­teers are pack­ing food parcels and mak­ing up bags of presents to suit each fam­ily’s needs.

City mis­sioner Diane Robert­son says with­out the do­nated presents some fam- ilies would not have any presents to share on Christ­mas Day.

‘‘For two to three weeks Work and In­come come and works with us on­site. It speeds things up so peo­ple can learn what money they have and what they are en­ti­tled to, and for the fam­i­lies we have been work­ing with all year, we make sure they get a present and some good­ies,’’ she says.

‘‘We give parcels to peo­ple who have no other re­sources.’’

Sadly but per­haps not un­sur­pris­ingly the num­ber of peo­ple coming to the mis- sion for help is grow­ing. There is nor­mally a spike at this time of year.

The mis­sion usu­ally deals with 500 peo­ple a month and that num­ber gets closer to 2000 in De­cem­ber.

But Ms Robert­son says

there has been a def­i­nite in­crease in de­mand for help all year.

In pre­vi­ous years the mis­sion would be there to help fam­i­lies in times of cri­sis by pro­vid­ing a food par­cel or other sup­port two or three times a year.

‘‘But what we’re see­ing now is chronic poverty where noth­ing is go­ing to change, noth­ing will get fixed, they can’t pay debt and they will al­ways need help.

‘‘It’s a dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tion from need­ing two to three parcels to need­ing con­stant help.’’

New clients are coming through the doors too, vic­tims of the ‘‘long grind of a re­ces­sion’’.

Peo­ple who might have had a part-time job but had that dis­ap­pear, and those who were re­ly­ing on two high in­comes only to have one part­ner made re­dun­dant are also ap­proach­ing the mis­sion for help.

‘‘Th­ese are fam­i­lies we haven’t seen be­fore.’’

So the ex­tra ef­forts to make this stress­ful time of year a bit less so are vi­tal.

It’s a hec­tic time for Ms Robert­son and her staff and vol­un­teers. They will give out 1800 food parcels in the two weeks lead­ing up to Christ­mas, cat­e­gorise and wrap more than 2000 do­nated presents for the mis­sion’s Christ­mas Day event and pre­pare meals for an equal num­ber of peo­ple.

Its an­nual ap­peal is also run­ning, try­ing to raise $900,000 over five weeks.

‘‘We try to make it less stress­ful and make Christ­mas Day some­thing to look for­ward to.

‘‘For many it can be an in­cred­i­bly hard time,’’ she says.

‘‘I had a call from some­one who said they can’t wait to come to the mis­sion for Christ­mas din­ner be­cause it is the only time they can re­lax and not be fear­ful.

‘‘Most peo­ple have ex­cel­lent ex­pec­ta­tions around Christ­mas and have lots of rit­u­als – trees, presents, lunch,’’ Ms Robert­son says.

‘‘For lots of our fam­i­lies the rit­u­als are about stress and vi­o­lence and not giv­ing kids what they’d like to.’’

Pho­tos: JA­SON OXENHAM

Help­ing hand: Vol­un­teer Jen­nifer Kolo­peaua lends a hand in the mis­sion’s food par­cel room.

Why not?: Vol­un­teer Jeanette Beg­bie was help­ing with food parcels on her first day. ‘‘I had the time avail­able and I thought ‘why not?’.’’

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