The Rotorua Salvation Army is holding its first winter appeal and is welcoming donations to help provide for those in desperate need.

The appeal launched nationwide this week and is ongoing for the winter, with cash, food and other donations all welcome.

Rotorua Salvation Army corps officer Ralph Overbye said the Rotorua service was busy throughout the year, but winter did create extra challenges for families who were already struggling.

He said they noticed a number of problems in Rotorua at this time of year.

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These included cold-related illnesses due to a lack of home heating, some families being so impoverished they had no warm clothes or bedding, and costs such as doctor's fees and transport stopping parents from seeking medical care for their children and themselves until it became a medical emergency.

Others were overcrowding and homelessness, many clients no longer being able to afford public transport to collect food parcels or to visit the doctor, and more time being spent negotiating with clients' creditors to avoid power disconnections or eviction.

"Even though my wife and I have only been here a short time, we have noticed that the Rotorua community is very supportive and generous.

"People living in hardship is a very real issue here in Rotorua and it's important that we respond to this problem as a community."

Salvation Army head of social services Major Pam Waugh said the current depth of poverty - driven primarily by rising house costs - now appeared deeply entrenched as the Army continued to focus on helping people move beyond poverty.

"In winter, people's needs are worsened by the additional costs of seasonal illnesses, cold homes, inadequate bedding and clothing, and compounded by overcrowded and substandard living conditions.

"Parents are trying hard, but many cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel, only despair.

"In response to this reality, we have launched a winter appeal, with funds raised helping meet seasonal demand for the basics of food, warmth and shelter."

Financial donations can be made online at www.salvationarmy.org.nz/WinterAppeal or by phoning 0800 53 00 00.

Rotorua Salvation Army Statistics, July 1 2015 to June 30 2016:

-1016 families have received food
-40 families are in budgeting service at the moment
-Just over 200 families are receiving social work assistance
-60 families have received practical assistance, such as blankets and clothing