Help for Maitland’s homeless
“It’s hard, because we want to help so many people.”
But with an increase in demand, a desire to expand their services and a $50,000 funding cut hanging over their heads, for Jenny Fullford, a Community Support Worker at Maitland Neighbourhood Centre, this is easier said than done.
For the centre, which provides support and empowerment services for those less fortunate and assists approximately 20 people week who are struggling to make ends meet, a loss of $50,000 runs deep.
“Nobody goes away empty-handed [but] now we only do $10-$20 in vouchers for people where it used to be $80,” she said.
“Our budget is virtually gone.”
Severely effected was the centre’s ability to provide small food packages, for which Ms Fullford said demand had doubled since last year, inspiring the launch of a winter food appeal.
The drive, bolstered by a significant social media push, has seen an overwhelming amount of non-perishable donations pour into the centre from across the Maitland community, with sporting groups, banks, gyms and small businesses jumping on board.
“It’s putting food in all of our cupboards which is so, so nice,” Ms Fullford said.
“But even then, it won’t last long.”
Many of these donations go to the city’s homeless, or those on the brink of homelessness, which Ms Fullford said encompasses more people than is often realised.
“Many people come here with unpaid rent, they’ve had their water cut off or they could be about to lose their home,” she said.
“They’ve just gotten out of gaol, or lost their job, or their marriage has broken down and there’s that ripple effect that goes with it.”
The centre’s continuous appeal for donations comes on the cusp of Homelessness Week. Held during the first week of August, it aims to raise awareness of homelessness and provide assistance to those in need through community events.
Maitland Neighbourhood Centre will hosting an event called ‘Preventing Homelessness’, to be held in the carpark behind the Rutherford centre on August 4.
The free event will offer a hot meal, financial advice, haircuts and health checks as well as activities and prizes.
“We’ve even got the RSPCA coming down to do pet health checks,” Ms Fullford said.
“But apart from the services, it’s an opportunity for people to connect to others in a similar situation.”
But while one-off events and food drives provide welcome relief, Ms Fullford said that continued support is needed because the situation just keeps getting worse.
“I dread to think what Christmas is going to be like.”