Calls for emergency relief surge

March 29, 2023

Wild weather, natural disasters and the rising cost of living has seen a spike in demand for CatholicCare’s emergency relief services. “Towards the end of the financial year, our requests for help just went ballistic,” says Emergency Relief Lead Kristy. “There are just so many people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. So much of their money goes towards paying rent that they can’t afford food and other essential items.”  

For Rachel and her two children, CatholicCare’s emergency relief program helped them go from absolutely nothing to a home that was furnished and stocked with food. “Rachel and the kids had been victims of domestic violence and were homeless for a period of time. They eventually secured social housing but had nothing,” says Kristy. CatholicCare connected the family with another service on the Central Coast who had a warehouse of furniture – both new and second hand – and they were able to fully furnish the house. “We were able to pay for the removalist costs and assist with stocking their pantry,” says Kristy. “We also helped them with vouchers for clothes and things like that.” Through the support they received from CatholicCare the family were able to move forward with their lives. “I can’t tell you how happy they were,” Kristy says.  

Earlier this year, CatholicCare provided emergency support to many households who were affected by the NSW floods. “We provided that support in a multitude of ways,” says Kristy. “In some cases, clients purchased things that were destroyed in floods but did that straight up without considering their other expenses. This then left them short of money for food, fuel, and other essential items, so we helped them out with those. In other cases, there were clients who lost almost everything, and we helped them out with some of the bigger ticket items like fridges, washing machines and furniture. For some clients, they had to relocate because their home was no longer habitable, and they required assistance with paying for a removalist.”  

In Laila’s case, she had been living in social housing and was required to relocate into a new house after significant flooding. “Her former house had been set up with a security system because of her experience of domestic violence,” says Kristy. “Laila was able to purchase a new security system but couldn’t afford an electrician to install it. We helped Laila pay the electrician fee so she could be safe and secure in her new home.”  

Kristy explains that referrals are a big part of the team’s work. “Many of the clients we work with are also dealing with other issues such as homelessness, domestic violence or isolation.” The team take a holistic approach to every client encounter, listening to the caller’s needs, providing emergency assistance where possible and, if needed, referring them to other services for ongoing support.  

A seemingly small contribution can go a long way to helping people get back on their feet. “It might be as simple as loading money onto an Opal card so they can get to an important appointment,” says Kristy. With no sign that the cost of living is reducing, this team are bracing themselves for another big year.  

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