Newly vulnerable Aussies are turning to the Salvos during the COVID-19 pandemic
19 May 2020
With almost one million Australians already facing unemployment due to COVID-19*, now more than ever, people from all walks of life are turning to The Salvation Army for urgent help. And with the national unemployment rate forecast to hit 10% by June 2020, The Salvation Army is bracing itself for dramatic increases in the number of people seeking help for financial hardship, homelessness and domestic violence.
As the annual Red Shield Appeal weekend approaches (23-24 May), the Salvos are asking for this call for help to be answered. Funds raised during the Appeal support personal hardship relief services across the country and there has never been a time where that support has been needed more. Below is a snapshot of some of the initiatives from around Australia:
Providing meals, clothing, counselling and other services to the most vulnerable in society, Project 614 in Melbourne has seen the demand for emergency relief triple since the COVID-19 crisis began, with many of those being people who have never reached out before. Project 614 has also helped 216 of the city’s homeless off the streets and into hotel accommodation.
“We had to move fast, since the people we assist are in a high-risk category, so it truly was a matter of life or death. We immediately enforced social distancing in all our services and secured donations of essential safety supplies including masks and gloves,” says Major Brendan Nottle, manager at Project 614.
Salvos teams have been reaching out to the 140 adults and children who reside at their Magpie Nest homes[i] to check on their physical and mental wellbeing. They have also been providing meals to those in emergency accommodation, ensuring their welfare and maintaining a connection in these isolating times.
New South Wales
Sydney Streetlevel Mission in Surry Hills are still connecting with the most vulnerable in the community. They are providing assistance and emergency relief to anyone in need – including those in crisis – through free meals and emotional and personal support. With a 60% increase in demand for their meal services due to COVID-19, Sydney Streetlevel are now providing more takeaway lunches daily.
“We’ve been providing about 80 takeaway lunches every day. It’s a great opportunity for us to still connect with our most vulnerable community members and see how they’re going, both mentally and physically,” says Mitchell Evans, Mission Leader, Sydney Streetlevel Mission.
They are also contacting community members who have no family and are extremely isolated.
Liverpool Salvos have been serving 250 meals per week (an increase of 130 meals from before the crisis). The demand for Emergency Relief services has also increased by 60%, to 240 people per week.
The Salvos in Sydney’s North Shore have been able to give out 450 boxes of fruit and vegetables and loaves of bread to people experiencing hardship – with another 160 boxes being delivered to the elderly, people with disabilities and the unemployed.
Already facing the highest unemployment in the country before COVID-19, South Australia saw over 44,000 jobs being lost in the state in the first three weeks* of restrictions being imposed.
The Salvation Army in South Australia are currently seeing new demographics of people present to their services for assistance, including many hailing from affluent suburbs who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19.
Many Salvation Army centres, including Noarlunga Salvos Corps are still operating and providing essential services to those in need within their community. The Salvos in Port Lincoln have started a drive-through welfare service which runs every Monday and Wednesday morning, providing fresh bread, fruit, meat and pantry items.
“Anyone requiring assistance should contact us and we can organise the delivery of an essential care pack,” says Captain Karen Armstrong, Copper Coast Corps Head Officer.
The Salvation Army’s free financial counselling service Moneycare has supported 5,454 community members across South Australia over the last 12 months, with a steady increase in need from a wide cross-section of the community over recent weeks.
“This increase in requests for help mostly stems from loss of employment, the need for food and concerns about how to pay the rent,” says Sharon Maslen, Program Manager, Salvos Statewide Financial Counselling Services.
Brisbane Streetlevel Mission has adapted its services and is currently providing pre-packaged takeaway meals, and grocery items along with other essential services to those in need.
“This meal pick-up service gives us the opportunity to continue to connect with our community members and to offer them support with other aspects of their lives, including referrals for housing and other financial support as needed,” says Paul Maunder, Team Leader, Brisbane Streetlevel Mission.
The team is also connecting with community members through regular phone calls and social media.
Right across Brisbane, Salvo teams are delivering food hampers and providing fresh fruit and vegetable boxes to those in need during isolation, along with emergency financial assistance to those in crisis.
The Salvation Army is one of three agencies selected to partner with the Tasmanian Government to provide emergency services and support to people in crisis during the COVID-19 emergency.
Tasmania’s Doorways services are still operating, providing support across the state as they help people meet day to day expenses, pay unexpected bills and support those in crisis. They are purchasing and delivering food hampers across the state to support the elderly, those with disabilities or illnesses and other people currently in isolation as a result of the pandemic. Products are being bought locally to support local businesses.
“With the economy likely to suffer in the years to come, we’re expecting a larger than normal need from people from all kinds of socio-economic backgrounds,” says Stacey Milbourne, State Manager of the Doorways program.
Australian Capital Territory
The Salvation Army’s Recovery Services in Canberra are currently operating at maximum capacity, providing essential rehabilitation services to those in their community struggling with alcohol, drugs and gambling addictions.
As per COVID-19 restrictions, visitors are not currently allowed. Technology is being used to keep participants connected with their loved ones. Meal times and room set-ups have been modified to meet social distancing rules and additional sanitisation measures have been implemented.
“We know that isolation increases the risk of addiction and abuse in heavy drug users, so we expect even more people to contact us for help,” says Captain Daniel Ross.
Call for donations as crisis continues
The Salvation Army is aware that the number of people needing urgent support will continue to rise, as even more people lose their jobs and government supports like JobKeeper, and other associated payments, are rolled back in the coming months.
As COVID-19 sees everyday Aussies facing greater physical, mental and financial hardship than ever before, The Salvation Army is here to help.
We are looking forward to the generous support of Australians, and the continued generous support of the states and federal government towards our life-changing work. We encourage everyone to dig even deeper this year in support of the Red Shield Appeal.
To leave no one in need, please make a tax-deductible donation here or call 13 SALVOS (13 72 58).
For more information or media comment, please contact The Salvation Army Media Department on (02) 9466 3143
* Australian Bureau of Statistics
**Magpie Nest is a partnership between the Collingwood Football Club and The Salvation Army. It provides housing and health services for the homeless as well as support services for women and children family violence.