Published On: 3 August 2022Categories: Stories

We asked some of our 350 food partners to comment on increased hunger and homelessness as a result of rising costs. Here’s what they had to say.

Clarendon Vale Neighbourhood House has given away a record 4.5 tonnes of food in 29 minutes, such is the unprecedented need as cost-of-living pressures savage household budgets and force thousands of Tasmanians into homelessness and helplessness for the first time.

Neighbourhood house manager Kristy Leishman said food demand on the eastern shore was the worst she has seen in her 19 years serving the local community through the neighbourhood centre.

“Between the fresh produce and frozen meals from Loaves and Fishes, and the collections from Coles on behalf of Loaves and Fishes, we’ve been giving away 1000kg of food a day,” she said.

“The record was yesterday when we gave away four-and-a-half tonnes in 29 minutes.”

Kristy said the centre was helping more people forced into homelessness, older single men, and working families.

“It used to be that most people were on some sort of welfare payment, but not anymore,” she said.

“We’ve got people living in their cars who are showering here, and kids dropping in to get food on their way home from school.

“People are very grateful for the help they get from Loaves and Fishes.”

The neighbourhood centre acts as a community hub, distributing food to local schools and other community groups.

Food demand almost doubled in six months

Demand for food in the Kentish region has almost doubled in the past six months as cost-of-living pressures take their toll.

Kentish House coordinator Cassandra Speed said the largest increase was among families, particularly retirees relying on the pension, who previously had never needed food relief.

“There’s a great deal of shame attached to having to ask for help,” she said.

“If they are willing to come through the door, then we are happy to help.”

Cassandra said visitors to Kentish House in Sheffield were taking more of the food on offer, another indicator of the growing need.

Cassandra collects a range of fresh food and staples each week from the Loaves and Fishes warehouse in Devonport.

“You guys are doing an awesome job with the resources you have,” she said.

About 20 people use the Kentish House food service each week, up from the 12 to 15 people needing help 12 months ago.

Kentish House, a part of Glenhaven Family Care, has been partnering with Loaves and Fishes for several years.

Growing homelessness hard to miss

Launceston’s Benevolent Society has begun an outreach service to the city’s homeless, providing food, tents, clothing and blankets to those sleeping rough.

CEO Rodney Spinks said the Benevolent Society worked with other charities including Loaves and Fishes to support the growing squatter camps that have sprung up by the river, the yacht club and the museum.

“There is more homelessness, and homelessness is becoming more visible as more people in private housing are no longer able to afford rising rents,” he said.

“There has been a big increase in the past few months in the number of people seeking our help and the frequency.

“People can afford to buy less food and are tending to eat less nutritious food because it’s cheaper.

“This is a crisis that is only going to get worse.”

Rodney said charities had to rescue many rain-soaked people during recent wet weather, transporting them to temporary accommodation to dry out.

“It’s heartbreaking to have to see them return to sleeping rough because there is nowhere else for them to go.”

One-in-four sleeping rough

Risdon Vale Neighbourhood Centre staff, from left, Jane Howard, manager Sarah O’Brien and Cheree Lockley.

Risdon Vale Neighbourhood Centre cannot keep up with the ever-increasing demand for food, says manager Sarah O’Brien.

“We just can’t get enough food,” she said.

“It’s our biggest need.

“About a quarter of those who need food are either sleeping in cars or on friends’ couches, including with kids.

“If you can’t afford rent in Risdon Vale, then you can’t afford rent anywhere else in Hobart.

“All the shelters are completely full.’’

The neighbourhood centre feeds up to 60 families a week, using a combination of donated fresh food, bread products and frozen meals from Loaves and Fishes, and purchased staples including pasta and milk from Coles and FoodBank.

“Loaves and Fishes has been fantastic. We’re so thankful for the help.

“We’re still having to spend $150 on food, and I don’t know how much longer we can afford to do that.”

This week the State Government responded to calls to increase funding to charities. Loaves and Fishes has shared in a $5 million budget booster package. Get the full story

By Paul O’Rourke

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