The Hamilton Combined Christian Foodbank has experienced a surge this year in the numbers of people needing food help. Many are occupying motels due to the city's shortage of affordable housing, according to Wendy Nickalls, who is on the food bank trust board and is also the co-ordinator at Methodist City Action.
Wendy brings both roles together in the lead-up to Christmas each year with a dedicated public appeal for food bank donations. That time has come for 2019.
Together with general manager Maxine Campbell, MCA tries to address ongoing problems affecting a significant number of people in Hamilton.
"There is still a persistent percentage of people who require food assistance, and this includes numbers of people who do have jobs. There is a major problem around affordable housing and an increase in the numbers of people requiring emergency housing.
"We get quite a few coming for food assistance who are staying in the motels in Te Rapa and there are more people living in their cars," she says.
People do their best to make the most of their circumstances, with some finding ways (such as power banks and solar panels) to be more self-sufficient in their vehicles. There is a danger of this making living in a vehicle more 'normal' however. People have become used to living in their cars.
"We have people coming in every week who have only about $50 a week to live on after they've paid rent and their bills."
Established in the late 1990s, the Hamilton Combined Christian Foodbank incorporates Anglican Action, Catholic Family Social Services, Desert Spring Ministries, Methodist City Action, St Vincent de Paul, Te Whanau Putahi and the Pukete Neighbourhood House.
These organisations provide food parcels through orders to the food bank. The Christmas appeal is promoted through local churches and social agencies, as well as schools — Southwell and Waikato Diocesan schools are regular and generous supporters of the appeal each year.
The food bank uses guidelines which govern what it can give to people needing food help and the parcels are intended to provide enough food for three days. The choice of what is provided also depends on what is available in the food bank.
Food donations to the food bank do not cover the whole demand and it spends about $60,000 a year to make up the difference with funds received through philanthropic organisations and individuals. Food bank figures show that from April 2018 to March 2019 the organisation provided food parcels to 5284 adults and 5134 children.
Other organisations active in collecting and redistributing food in Hamilton include the Salvation Army and Kaivolution, indicating that the total level of need is higher than the food bank's figures suggest.
Food donations for the Christmas appeal usually include non-perishable, tinned and packaged items.
Anyone interested in donating and supporting the HCCFB is welcome to bring donations to Methodist City Action, Methodist Centre, 62 London St or call 07 839 3917.
Women's Refuge Christmas appeal eases families' stress
Waikato Women's Refuge — Te Whakaruruhau is counting down to Christmas — one of the busiest times of the year for the organisation for all the wrong reasons.
Chief executive Roni Albert says Christmas puts extra stress on families who are on their journey to living a life that is free of fear and without the threat of domestic violence.
"Finances are stretched, family dynamics are in the spotlight and this can lead to high-pressure situations that can erupt in violence.
"Our frontline team are kept very busy attending to the needs of families in the community who are struggling to cope," she says.
Every year to spread a little cheer the refuge put on a Christmas party for the families they support. With the help of the wider community and the amazing donations of toys, games, crafts, books and more, we are able to pass on this love to the families we support."
• Drop off to the refuge office at 59 Commerce St, Frankton, or for more information contact 07 855-1569.
Sallies need your support
The Salvation Army's Christmas Appeal for 2019 is on now, and it needs your help more than ever.
In the Waikato region over the Christmas period last year, the Army provided accommodation for 65 individuals and families with 782 food parcels going to 566 individuals and families.
Throughout New Zealand The Salvation Army is preparing to make its house a home to hundreds of men, women and children who have nowhere else to stay.
It is expecting more than 1800 Kiwis to spend this Christmas in one of its transitional or social houses. across the country The Salvation Army national director of community ministries Jono Bell, says: "For most of us Christmas is a time of joy and celebration, but for many others it is another day without food or shelter and can be filled with stress and loneliness."
"We want to support people and relieve some of their pressure so they can enjoy Christmas. Our aim is to provide hope and relief while we work alongside people to meet their aspirations."
The Salvation Army manages 296 Transitional Housing properties and 26 Parenting Programme units complete with intensive wrap around services along with 360 Social Housing units.
Last year, the total number of people in these centres on Christmas Eve was 1,187 and the Army says this year it expects to house over 1,800.
"Our people find themselves without housing for a variety of reasons, suffering financial hardship, overcrowding, family disruptions, addictions or poor physical and mental health. We're here to provide a safety net, giving them a safe place and support to transition back into long term accommodation and the community," says Jono.
The Army will also be busy organising more than 15,000 food parcels along with gifts for thousands of people in need over the Christmas season – all on top of the regular services it provides to 120,000 Kiwis year-round in the fight against poverty.
"Throughout the year we help thousands of people with emergency food and housing, as well as budgeting sessions, social work and counselling. Christmas is a particularly tough time for many people who struggle without enough food or shelter, let alone gifts under the tree."
From December 2018 to January 2019, The Salvation Army supported 2689 new clients who'd never accessed its services before.
The Army also saw a marked increase in demand for help beyond basic necessities, including a 30 per cent rise in the number of families working with a social worker and a 12 per cent increase in clients receiving counselling.
The Salvation Army is seeking support from the public with its Christmas Appeal.
"You cannot help everyone, but everyone can help someone. The reality is that The Salvation Army can't help these families without the support of the public," says national director of community ministrie Jono Bell.
Along with online donations, the public is asked to pay their good fortune forward through its Gifts of Hope programme, which allows people to select from a range of gift packs to support families in need well past Christmas Day.
"People need us beyond Christmas meals and gifts. A lot of struggle is felt in the New Year as finances are tight and kids need supplies for school," says Jono.
Gifts of Hope include school uniform grants, budgeting sessions, emergency accommodation and Christmas hampers and range from $25 to $130.
• The appeal runs until December 20 and donations can be made online at salvationarmy.org.nz/christmasappeal.