Rising rents and living costs in Tauranga are forcing more single people to seek help from charities.
It comes as the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) says demand for hardship grants is increasing across the country, "but more so for individuals without children".
"Single people are really struggling," Tauranga Community Foodbank manager Nicki Goodwin told the Bay of Plenty Times during a visit to the charity's Parkvale depot.
She said 38 per cent of the 379 food parcels issued last month were for single people.
"They are trying to meet their household costs on their own and they're in deficit every single week ... it's a worry."
Goodwin said when the foodbank compared 2014 and 2018 figures last year, there was a 10 per cent increase in assistance given to singles.
The same trend is being seen at the Salvation Army in Tauranga, where there has been an 11 per cent increase in singles seeking help between 2015 and 2019.
Goodwin said the single people seeking help included wage earners and those on pensions.
Some, who are working with budget advisors, are falling up to $70 short a week, she said, and that's where the foodbank is stepping in and helping – providing the week's groceries.
Goodwin said rising rents appear to be one reason for the budget shortfalls.
According to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's rental bond data (March 2009 to March 2019), the mean weekly rent in Tauranga has gone from $313 to $493 in 10 years.
That is almost a 58 per cent increase.
The Salvation Army's community ministries manager in Tauranga, Davina Plummer, said rising rents and living costs were "becoming too much" for people living on their own and singles.
"We are seeing some individuals struggling to maintain their employment because they cannot afford to rent close to their work site and equally struggle to afford transport costs and/or vehicle maintenance," she said.
"This makes it a complicated balance to maintain an income and a home."
There has also been an increase in the number of older people seeking help from the Salvation Army in Tauranga.
In 2015, 10 per cent of the people accessing its services were over 60. Now 17 per cent are.
In 2015, 1.9 per cent were receiving superannuation. Now at least 3 per cent are.
"There are many singles and elderly who come in to access free bread each week who are not counted in our statistics," Plummer said.
"Also, the 2015 statistics are for the full year (January to December) and 2019 is the year to date. We have yet to see the full impact of winter this year."
Shirley McCombe, manager of Tauranga Budget Advisory Service, said single clients are "definitely disadvantaged" financially across the board.
"An urgent review needs to be carried out on the needs of these clients as the living costs for those living alone are very close to the cost of a couple's. Often boarders aren't allowed due to tenancy rules."
Tommy Wilson, from Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust, said while there are a lot of services and groups offering help to the homeless and desperate in Tauranga, the "working poor" and those who fall in "the middle range" do not have the same support available.
Tauranga faces a new challenge as the city grows and becomes more popular, he said.
"This is the place that everyone wants to come to, but they can't afford to live here."
Wilson said the trend is "totally related" to rising rents.
He said single people also do not have a sounding board or someone to talk to about the issues they are facing and can often be too proud to ask for help, especially older people.
"They've paid taxes all their lives and now they're in a place where to survive and to eat, they're going to have to go and hold their hand out – and it's hardest for them to do that."
Tanya Smith, general manager of Age Concern Tauranga, said with the rise of rents and the everyday costs of living, "there is a struggle for some only receiving the pension".
"Work and Income is an avenue for those who have had unexpected expenses and may qualify for a one-off food grant."
Mike Bryant, MSD's regional commissioner, said increasing living costs were making it tough for people.
"We have seen an increase in hardship grants (including special needs grants) across the board, but more so for individuals without children."
The number of special needs grants approved during the March 2019 quarter was 45.5 per cent higher than the same quarter last year.
Nationally, around three-quarters of special needs grants are for food.
Bryant said the increase in hardship grants also reflects the efforts the ministry has made to ensure people knew where to get urgent help.