It's payday and the bank account has finally been topped up. But there are bills to pay.

There is enough to cover the rent, the water bill, rates, phone and internet bill, insurance, but not enough to pay for both groceries and power.

This is the choice - to ration food or live without power during cold winter nights - more and more single working people are facing.

TO PAY RENT? OR BUY FOOD?
Tauranga Community Foodbank manager Nicki Goodwin has seen an increase in workers struggling to make ends meet.

Advertisement

"These are working people not being able to meet the costs of living," she said. "These are the people who often find it the hardest because they have never been in this situation before."

Goodwin says heating costs increase as the temperature falls. The food bank helps those who choose to sacrifice groceries to keep the power on.

"It is very basic needs we are talking about," he said. "It is sad it has come down to, 'Do I pay my rent, power or buy food?'"

"... people have been struggling to make ends meet but once the cold season hits they are not coping."

The food bank packages up about 20 food parcels on average each day. That number jumps to about 30-35 on a busy day over winter.

The food parcels include enough food for a family or individual to get by for at least three days.

Helping vulnerable people is second nature to Goodwin, who often sees people at their lowest point.

"When people arrive they don't want to be at the food bank. It's their last resort," she says.

"But when they leave we know we have helped make a difference. It is very humbling; it makes you realise what you have and how quickly things can change."

Goodwin says those who walk through the door have often used every resource they have before seeking help.

"By the time they come to us they have used every credit card, every resource."

Tauranga Community Foodbank manager Nicki Goodwin said she had seen an increase in working individuals trying to manage on their own. Photo/File
Tauranga Community Foodbank manager Nicki Goodwin said she had seen an increase in working individuals trying to manage on their own. Photo/File

A KINDNESS KAI FOR THE 'SILENT SUFFERERS'

Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust director Tommy Kapai Wilson says many single working mothers with two or three children are scraping by with "a dollar-a-day" left to live after all the bills are paid.

"They are worse off than many of the families we are looking after," Wilson says.

Wilson says the Trust is helping 53 families. However, he says there are many more families in Tauranga - possibly as many as 500 - who are suffering in silence and in desperate need.

He describes these families as "silent sufferers" - too proud to ask for help.

"The help is there ... we can't help those until they come in looking for it and that is a hard step to make."

Wilson suggests a Kindness Kai project where families who can afford to help get together and cook for those who were less fortunate.

Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust director Tommy Kapai Wilson. Photo/Andrew Warner
Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust director Tommy Kapai Wilson. Photo/Andrew Warner

A HEART WARMING INITIATIVE

Variety the Children's Charity launched its first Warm Hearts Winter Appeal which provides winter essentials to families in desperate need on July 23 to August 12.

There are nearly 30 vulnerable Bay of Plenty children on Variety the Children's Charity's emergency waiting list for vital winter essentials, and more than 400 families nationwide.

The Warm Hearts Winter Appeal will provide beds, warm bedding and winter clothing, as well as help to pay medical costs for disadvantaged Kiwi kids on Variety's emergency list.

Variety's chief executive officer Lorraine Taylor says the charity has never seen such an influx for winter essentials, particularly for beds and bedding.

"We hear from families who sleep together in one room every night because body warmth is the only way they can keep warm," she said.

Taylor says Bay of Plenty families are among an increasing number nationwide asking for help buying beds, bedding and adequate clothing.

Since October 2016, Variety has provided Bay children with individual grants totalling $27,620.

"These grants vary per child and have covered the likes of beds, bedding, clothing, school uniforms and help with medical costs," Taylor said.

A further 288 children from the region are also sponsored through the Kiwi Kid Sponsorship programme.

A recent Kiwi Kid sponsorship application from the Bay of Plenty says rising rent costs were putting a financial strain on the family.

"[It] meant they were unable to purchase basic essentials like warm winter clothing and footwear."

To donate to the Variety Warm Hearts Winter Appeal, visit www.variety.org.nz/winter

A TAURANGA FAMILY'S CALL FOR HELP

A Tauranga father-of-five who lost his partner a year ago has been gifted warm clothing and bedding to help his youngest children, who have asthma, through the winter.

The father, who did not want to be named, was with his partner for 27 years before she took her life about a year ago.

The tragedy of losing their mother so suddenly shook the family.

"I don't know how to tell my two youngest children how she went," he says. "It has been a real hard time for all of us."

"They [the youngest] don't like to be alone now because they are afraid if they come back I won't be here."

The father began to struggle to take care of his two youngest children, aged 5 and 8, who have asthma, and a teenager who was working part-time.

His youngest children's asthma was worsening as winter settled in, and he struggled to afford much after quitting his job to take care of the children when their mother died.

His only income was the benefit.

"It was stressful at times, but I just had to harden up and carry on. I can't let it get me down," he said.

The district health nurse where his youngest two children went to school suggested he contact Variety for help.

Hearing the father's story, Variety gifted the family $200 to spend at The Warehouse for warm clothing and bedding to help them get through the winter.

The Tauranga father says he is forever grateful Variety had come to the rescue.

"That was a huge relief ... It has made me a lot happier and more stress-free through these cold nights."

HOMES OF HOPE
Homes of Hope chief Hilary Price says there are currently 12 children living with them in foster care.

They did have 16, but Price says two recently returned home and two have been moved into a "forever home".

Price says the primary causes for children being placed in foster care include domestic violence, substance abuse, physical or sexual abuse or neglect.

"Preventing children from being removed from their families is so important, practical support is a very positive place to start," she said.

The needs of those children are met once they are placed into care, Price said.

"It is those children who remain in vulnerable situations for whom a warm blanket could mean a great deal - contributions to their wellness and reducing susceptibility to colds and chest infections," she says.

"It also demonstrates to the family the care of the community around them."

Price says Homes of Hope are blessed to receive regular donations of firewood from the Tauranga City Sunrise Lions Club and private donors.

They also receive donations of handmade blankets, quilts and woollen blankets.

However, Price says they are always in need of donations to help them meet housing, transport, power, maintenance and wage costs.

"Any amount, particularly regularly, greatly assists us," she said.

Tauranga's Ben O'Dea is taking the plunge for charity this winter. Photo/George Novak
Tauranga's Ben O'Dea is taking the plunge for charity this winter. Photo/George Novak

DIVING IN TO HELP

Tauranga's Ben O'Dea has raised more than $2000 by braving the cold water every day to buy warm clothes for children suffering through the winter with the bare minimum.

The Commonwealth Games medallist will complete 76 icy dips from now until the end of winter to raise funds to buy thermal clothing for children whose families were struggling to make ends meet.

Since starting his challenge in the first week of July, the 26-year-old has raised more than $2500.

O'Dea says retail store Kathmandu has offered him a significant discount on its winter thermals and accessories to support the initiative.

It means he can distribute the first lot of children's clothing to community centres at Merivale, Welcome Bay, Katikati and Maketu within the third week of the challenge.

O'Dea hopes to raise enough funds to buy quality gear to last the children through the next winter.

"I know children can grow fast but things like winter thermals can last for a while," he said.

O'Dea is working alongside Tauranga Youth Development Team, which works in partnership with a network of agencies, to strengthen the youth sector.

The professional volleyballer uses cold swims as part of his training routine to improve his breathing but has taken it a step further for charity.

O'Dea says a lot of people have jumped on board the idea and have either joined him on his swims or posted photos of themselves taking the plunge on social media.

"There have been about 25 different situations where people have gone for a swim and posted about it," he said.

He had also seen donations trickling in following the posts on social media.

O'Dea says companies including Mount Brewing Co and Sidetrack Cafe have also jumped on board to offer some incentives including vouchers and weekly free breakfasts.

With more support rolling in, O'Dea vows to keep his promise of a daily cold dip until the end of winter.

"I am not chickening out yet," he said. "I am enjoying it ... It has been nice to get out of the comfort zone."

O'Dea encourages people who were also up for braving the cold to post a photo of their winter swim on social media with the hashtag #coldnoseforwarmclothes

To donate, search A Cold Nose for Warm Clothes on www.givealittle.co.nz

LIVING ON A BUDGET:

Tauranga Budget Advisory Service manager Diane Bruin says an average of 15 people seeks help to better manage their finances each day across all of their clinics from Katikati to Maketu.

"The number is fairly consistent, but families' concerns change dependent on the time of year," Bruin says.

"At the start of the year it is more about overflow of Christmas and pending back to school. This month it is the increased cost of energy due to cold weather."

Bruin says the most common mistakes people make budgeting is not sticking to budget and planning their menu around what money they have to spend.

Replacing groceries with takeaways is another common mistake.

"You won't get dollar value from takeaways the same that you can prepare a meal at home," she said.

Bruin says it is important to be careful getting into debt unless you have budgeted for it.

"Things happen and then people get caught not able to afford to pay for the treats they have put on hire purchase," she says.

"Cash flows work really well so you can manage when your income comes in and what needs to be paid.

"Don't put your heard in the sand as it doesn't help pay bills."

People also make purchases based on how they were feeling, Bruin says.

"Buying a dress or treat may be great today but it can be tomorrow's worry if you can't afford it," she said.

"The emotions change again and you wonder how you are going to put food on the table."

Bruin says to challenge each purchase - is it a want or a need?

"Write down all your purchases in a notebook and analysis your spending weekly," she says. "You will be shocked at how easy it is to overspend."

FAMILIES IN HARDSHIP - AT A GLANCE
Child poverty is coming into sharper focus, partly because Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has made it a personal priority.

The main ways of measuring poverty in New Zealand are through income and material hardship.

If a family earn less than 50 per cent of the median income after housing costs, they are classed as below the poverty line. For example, if a single parent with two kids earns less than $400 after their rent is deducted, they are in poverty.

On latest figures, 20 per cent of New Zealand families are at or below this poverty threshold – around 210,000 families.

To measure material hardship, families are asked whether they have 17 basic items, such as two pairs of good shoes, a separate bed, or daily fruit and vegetables.

If a family does not have seven of the things on this list, they are considered to be in material hardship. At last count, there were 135,000 New Zealand families in this category.

Ardern has set poverty reduction targets that are centred on children. She wants to halve the number of children in poverty from 20 per cent to 10 per cent in a decade.

And she wants to cut the number in material hardship from 150,000 to 80,000 over the same period.

Some steps have already been taken to help families in hardship, including a lift to the minimum wage, law changes to improve rental standards, and efforts to increase affordable housing – though the last of these is yet to get going.

Support was increased for low and middle-income families through tax credits, accommodation support and help with power bills and newborns.

There are also plans to overhaul the welfare system to make it fairer and less punitive.

- Additional reporting NZ Herald

IF YOU NEED HELP:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.
Or if you need to talk to someone else:
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (Mon-Fri 1pm to 10pm. Sat-Sun 3pm-10pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Samaritans 0800 726 666


HOW MANY NEED HELP?
- There were 27 Bay of Plenty children on Variety's wait list
- Variety has helped 160 new Bay children so far in 2018
- Variety helped 245 new Bay children in 2017
- There are currently 288 Bay children being sponsored through Variety's Kiwi Kid Sponsorship programme

HOW TO HELP:
-$8 can buy four pairs of winter socks
-$15 can buy a wool beanie
-$16 can buy a polar fleece blanket
-$24 can buy flannelette pyjamas
-$25 can buy a pair of lace-up shoes
-$32 can buy a waterproof jacket
-$100 can provide help with doctor visits and healthcare costs
-$118 can provide a winter bedding pack for one child
-$237 can buy a child their own bed
-$525 can buy bunk beds for two siblings

- Source: Variety the Children's Charity
BUDGET TIPS:
- If you are receiving the energy payment pay it to your power bill weekly, fortnightly.
- July is always high power bills so check out how you can make savings. Eg: make sure you have checked out recommendations by your power company.
- Pay off high-interest debt items first and don't take on additional debt especially over winter.
- Reduce food wastage and get creative about turning that food into a nutritious meal or soup adding a tin of tomatoes.
- Replace meat with lentils to make your meal go further and be healthy. Make great meals out of cheaper vegetables like pumpkin.
FOR SINGLE PARENTS:
- Make sure you have a budget to help manage over the tough high-cost months.
- July is high power costs so with a cash flow to manage the highs and lows you will better prepared.
- Have an emergency savings account even $5 a week saved can make a big difference.
- Plan your food shopping with a list and planned meals.
- Avoid takeaways instead have a fun evening preparing your own takeaways.

- Source: Tauranga Budget Advisory Service