The Herald is profiling 12 charities awarded $8333 in grants from Auckland Airport's Twelve Days of Christmas programme – now in its 13th year. The $100,000 funding comes from generous travellers who donate money at the airport.
Pensioners are going hungry in South Auckland due to skyrocketing rental prices, says Māngere Budgeting Service chief executive Darryl Evans.
"We've seen a 46 per cent spike in pensioners coming to us needing food in the past two years," he says.
"The problem is the rents are simply crippling. There are pensioners like my parents who have worked all their lives but never achieved home ownership. If you're paying market rent on a pension, the rent is usually greater than the pension coming in."
Evans says pensioners often rely on their children for help with food and bills.
"During lockdown the need was really high because they weren't able to see their families. We delivered 6900 pensioner parcels during that 14-week period. Kainga Ora gave us a list of all the South Auckland superannuitants they knew needed help. With the support of about 70 volunteers we were able to load up our vans and be out there every day making sure they were fed."
Auckland Airport's grant will go towards the purchase of a new van.
Evans says more needs to be done to bring down rental costs. "Our organisation works with around 13,000 families a year. Those living in state houses pay 25 per cent of their income in rent and they're treading water. Those living in privately owned homes are paying up to 63 per cent and they're drowning. Pre-Covid there were five food banks in South Auckland – now there are 39. Demand for food is growing exponentially."
Long-time Māngere Budgeting Service client Margaret Perry says lockdown hit her family hard. The mother-of-eight lost her part-time job teaching korowai-making at Te Puke o Tara Community Centre. Her children were unable to attend school, where free lunches are provided. "The first four weeks, all we were eating was baked beans on toast and porridge," she says.
They were grateful to receive some of the 16,700 family food boxes handed out by the service during that time.
"Whenever I've needed help, I've always been able to ring up Darryl and he's always been there for me. When I was homeless, he helped me to get on a benefit and into a Housing New Zealand house. It's not just a budgeting service. To me, he's like family. I've actually named one of my sons after him," says Perry, who also volunteers as a Māngere Maori Warden.
She sought advice from the budgeting service to manage a $20,000 debt she accumulated with mobile truck companies which Evans says target low-income areas and Kainga Ora housing estates, going door to door offering things people need like school uniforms and laptops for school.
Work and Income now offers loans for school uniforms, but they're capped.
"In the past, trying to get grants out of Work and Income was like pulling teeth. It's got a bit better. Around half of our clients can't advocate for themselves at Work and Income for a range of reasons so that's where we come in. We make sure people have accessed their full entitlement before they receive a food parcel," he says.