More than 400 families sought assistance from the Deniliquin St Vincent de Paul Society over the last 12 months, with 82 of them declared homeless or in need of temporary accommodation.
These families made 1200 requests for assistance combined throughout the 12 months, resulting in more than $200,000 in support being administered in the local community.
The average of 100 families per month in the 2018-2019 financial year is an alarming increase on the previous financial year’s figures, which averaged at about 70 per month, according to Conference secretary Daphne Greaves.
And she said, like last year, the need for help is only expected to increase over winter.
Mrs Greaves confirmed that ‘‘quite a few new families’’ have approached the Conference for help and support this year.
They come from across the Conference’s support area, which includes Deniliquin and district, Moama, Mathoura, Moulamein and Wakool residents.
Mrs Greaves said the largest area of concern for many of them is the ability to pay for rent and electricity.
‘‘This last financial year has been very hectic,’’ she said.
‘‘We saw 126 new families seeking assistance, giving us a total of 404 families for the year.
‘‘High rent and electricity is causing a big problem. With no increase in Newstart payments, some are paying nearly half their income on rent, and a lot of these come under private rentals.
‘‘We have 82 on our books who come under homeless or temporary accommodation.
‘‘This last year we gave out food vouchers to the amount of $36,490, food parcels to $19,900, medical $1200, accommodation $27,200 and fuel to $8238.
‘‘Government Energy Accounts Payment Assistance vouchers amounted to $92,650 and Telstra bills $14,430.’’
The Conference relies heavily on donations to be able to support families in need.
Last year’s inaugural Deniliquin Vinnies Community Sleepout managed to raise $18,000 for such support, but clearly it’s only a portion of the total amount needed to help the local community.
The Deniliquin Vinnies Sleepout will be held on Thursday, August 8.
Twenty people have already officially registered to sleep in the Deniliquin CBD that night, but Vinnies Services team leader Reconnect Vanessa McKay said they hope to get more registering online to help raise awareness of homelessness in Australia and our own community.
‘‘Last year we had 35 people participate and all of the $18,000 raised went to the local Conference,’’ she said.
‘‘As our first year, our expectation was it would only be Vinnies staff and we might raise $1000.
‘‘This year we really want to focus on raising awareness of homelessness and financial hardship.
‘‘Homelessness is not just the people you might see sleeping under a bridge, and without the Conference coming to the party and helping, Deniliquin and district would be lost.’’
For those who take part in the Deniliquin Vinnies Sleepout this year, and any supporters who want to provide moral support during the evening, there will be live music throughout the night.
A ‘soup kitchen’ will also be operating with free soup and bread rolls, and each registered participant will go into the running to win Deni Ute Muster passes and an accommodation package from Deniliquin’s Cottages on Edward.
‘‘We are lucky to have government vouchers for electricity and Telstra vouchers to assist with phone bills, which allows us to use our donations and income from our well supported centre (in Napier St, Deniliquin) to be used for food, accommodation, medical scripts and treatment, transport costs to out of town doctors or any other emergency that may come up.
‘‘We are so glad Vinnies Services is holding its sleepout again, to bring awareness to this growing problem.
‘‘This town is very generous in getting behind these nights, even though many families are doing it tough themselves.’’
To register to sleep out and start collecting sponsorship, go to https://www.communitysleepout.org.au/deniliquin.