Temperatures in Rotorua are dropping to 3C overnight this week and no one is feeling it more than families struggling to make ends meet. Whānau are prioritising warmth over other necessities and the demand for support from local services is forever growing. But now The Salvation Army is asking for help so they can help others. Reporter Leah Tebbutt finds out why.
An increasing number of struggling families are walking through the Rotorua Salvation Army's door with needs more complex than needing food parcels each week.
Some families are being forced to choose between food and warmth this winter and the Salvation Army is pleading for support to help those in need.
Last year, the demand for food parcels rose by nearly 14 per cent over winter, with the Salvation Army distributing 264 food parcels to 236 families in the June 2018 quarter of the year.
The demand for social work services has also continued to increase, and in that same quarter, The Salvation Army helped 138 families with social work, advocacy, social support and Positive Life Programmes.
As a comparison, in the quarter ending March 2019, the charity helped 189 families with social work.
Rotorua Salvation Army corps officer Kylie Overbye said people were coming to the Salvation Army because they were having to make choices with their limited money in order to make it to the next week.
"They may be needing adequate heating so they are forgoing food in order to get it.
"This time of year people get unwell and sick and they are just trying to make the best choices to dodge around that."
The Rotorua centre has a consistently high demand across winter with more than 30 people walking through the doors every week seeking social welfare.
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Overbye said the food bank was tracking well but she wanted to be able to provide help in other ways such as fuel for cars.
"At this stage, if people are willing to provide any financial contribution so we can give it back to those who need it, it would be really helpful and certainly give relief to people.
"It is really difficult to keep up with the cost of living especially in winter when heating makes the bills go up."
Overbye said families were doing their best but sometimes it wasn't enough.
"It is essential we help people when they really need it because no one should have to pick their highest need to get through the colder months."
The Salvation Army's national director of community ministries Jono Bell said vulnerable people struggling with warmth, shelter and food over winter could exacerbate or cause health problems.
The latest Ministry of Health annual data explorer found around one in seven adults were not visiting a GP due to cost and this figure had not changed significantly from 2011.
"It's not only the fees that can be a barrier, but also transport costs to get there," Bell said.
"Even with free doctors' visits for children under 13, if there's no car, no petrol and no bus money, it's near impossible for some whānau."
Bell said children from the most disadvantaged communities were twice as likely to end up in the hospital for medical conditions and three times more likely to be hospitalised for respiratory conditions compared to those from advantaged communities.
Dr Harry Pert from the Ranolf Medical Centre said there was no question that some families struggled come winter but free doctors' visits for children under 13 had made it easier to see a doctor.
"It is still a barrier for many families but it has improved a lot.
"Up until recently we have been seeing more than ever before but I think with the new funding for patients it is much easier."
He said it was important to rest and have lots of fluids if you were feeling unwell and sometimes the sickness just had to run its course.
"If people are concerned they can ring their local doctor for advice and check if they should come in but avoid the emergency department."
The Salvation Army Winter Appeal runs from July 8 until the end of the month. People can donate by visiting The Salvation Army website.