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Vinnies swamped by families struggling with Christmas expense

Staff at the St Vincent de Paul Society in South Australia are fielding up to 100 calls a day from cash-strapped families seeking help in the lead up to Christmas.

The Southern Cross reports that demand is so great that some branches of St Vinnies have run out of Christmas hamper giveaways and are having to send families to other agencies for help.

"Our sense is that people are doing it pretty tough with increased utility costs that have really stretched people's capacity to manage their household budgets," said Vinnies CEO in South Australia John Haren.

At least 15 of the 70 St Vincent de Paul conferences had already had their Christmas hamper quota filled before the beginning of December, with increased demand expected in the next few weeks leading up to Christmas Day.

"We're expecting to distribute more than 1500 hampers this Christmas, in addition to the normal ongoing assistance we provide in South Australia each day," Mr Haren said.

"There's no doubt there is a significant number of people in the community doing it really tough and Christmas is a time that can magnify the struggles that they experience in their lives," he said.

"The economic indicators might be positive in many respects but if you are unemployed, have inadequate housing, bad health or experience social isolation then those indicators aren't helpful in improving your day-to-day quality of life."

The Adelaide Day Centre for Homeless Persons, known as 'Moore Street', reports similar pressure. "We're feeling totally swamped by demand," centre coordinator Joyce van der Sman said. "If demand continues at the rate we've experienced up until now, we can expect to deliver 1500 Christmas hamper boxes this year, compared to about 1300 last year."

In NSW, Vinnies CEO Owen Rogers said last month that Vinnies SNW/ACT has a network of more than 21,000 members and volunteers who work over the Christmas period.

"At Christmas time, many families find it difficult to meet the demands of the season. Many cannot provide their children with presents or enjoy a Christmas lunch together. Over the next six weeks, Society members and volunteers will be busy preparing thousands of Christmas hampers, providing these families with a present for their children and a meal to share together on Christmas Day. Last year alone, Vinnies distributed over 35,000 hampers to people in need at Christmas, and this year, with the support of the community, this good work will continue."

Vinnies NSW/ACT is appealing for donations to its 2004 Christmas Appeal, in the form of money, good quality toys, clean clothing, and non-perishable food.

Demand for Christmas cheer swamps agencies (Southern Cross December 2004)
This Christmas, Vinnies urges you to make your presence felt (St Vincent de Paul Society NSW/ACT 10/11/04)

St Vincent de Paul Society

Vinnies, an old friend, offers gambling addicts a new deal (Catholic Weekly 12/12/04)
Facts reveal record generosity of Australians at Xmas (Australian Council of Social Service 13/12/04)

13 Dec 2004