As Aotearoa plans for festive season celebrations, The Salvation Army is preparing to make its house a home to hundreds of men, women and children who have nowhere else to stay.
The Army is expecting more than 1,800 Kiwis to spend this Christmas in one of its transitional or social houses across the country.
“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,” says Jono Bell, The Salvation Army National Director of Community Ministries.
“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.
“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 2,689 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 launching today (November 18th, 2019).
“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 Jono.
Along with online donations, the Army is asking the public 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 Salvation Army’s Christmas Appeal runs until 20th December 2019 and donations can be made online at salvationarmy.org.nz/christmasappeal.