Salvation Army Family Store manager Gordon Adams is calling on people with spare blankets to bring them in to the shop.
Salvation Army Family Store manager Gordon Adams is calling on people with spare blankets to bring them in to the shop. Renee Pilcher

Help warm winter for homeless

TONIGHT, when you are snuggled up in front of the television after a hearty meal, spare a thought for the homeless, who are cold, hungry and sleeping rough.

It’s the plight of some families right here in the Gympie region, says Salvation Army Major Royalene Maynard.

“I had two phone calls yesterday where families with kids are living in cars,” she said.

“Some are living on river banks. It’s getting cold, it’s dangerous and the kids get sick.”

As Salvation Army community welfare centres prepare for the cold winter months, increasing numbers of people coming or help report being homeless.

One thing that can help is something as simple as a warm blanket.

Major Maynard said they were desperate for blankets.

“We need sleeping bags and army-style blankets. These are what people need when they are sleeping rough,” she said.

Salvation Army Family Store manager Gordon Adams said they were completely out of blankets at the moment.

Like many centres across Queensland, the Salvation Army in Gympie has recorded a massive 50 per cent increase in the number of people who report being homeless or sleeping rough, in cars or tents.

Statewide numbers have increased from around 1000 people in 2008 to more than 1500 people in 2010.

“Numbers are still going up. We’re seeing three to five new people every week,” Mr Adams said.

“They are struggling and they are people who have never asked for help before – their mortgage has increased ... the whole ‘poor’ demographic has changed.

“More and more people are just not able to make ends meet. It’s often a case of either paying the rent or feeding the kids.”

Salvation Army spokesperson Rhonda Gregory said most of the people they helped had family members, including children, living with them, making the actual number of people at least two to three times higher.

The increases were even more dramatic in central and north Queensland, where there has been a 60 per cent increase.

In south Queensland, the increase in people reporting homelessness was 40 per cent and in Brisbane 45 per cent.

The Salvation Army say figures indicate the main leap occurred from 2008 to 2009, during the peak of the economic downturn.

However, recent figures (May 31 2010) suggest the numbers have continued to increase from 2009 to 2010.

“This highlights that those we assist may still be struggling from the effects of the economic downturn.

“In our experience, those who are most vulnerable in the community are not only the first to be impacted by an economic downturn, but the last to recover,” Ms Gregory said.

Research released by The Salvation Army in May also revealed that 20 per cent of people (one in five) coming to the Salvos in 2009 had never asked for help from them before.

Major Maynard said of particular need in Gympie at present was robust blankets, sleeping bags and non-perishable food items.

Gympie Times


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