The Salvos are experiencing the greatest demand for help in their 140-year history, as they hope to raise $36 million in their upcoming Red Shield Appeal.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and devastating floods in Queensland and NSW, coupled with rising costs of living and increasing housing stress have all contributed to “unprecedented demand” for Salvation Army support services.
“We are seeing more people present to our services around the country, as well as new faces who have never reached out to a charity before,” says Salvation Army spokesperson Major Bruce Harmer.
“The people we’re seeing for the first time typically have been financial supporters of the Salvation Army themselves, and yet through COVID they’ve lost their job. They’ve been able to pick up other work, but it doesn’t pay as well. And so they’ve found themselves still with a mortgage and still with utility costs and families to support. So they’ve needed our support.
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“Plus, certainly during COVID, we saw a lot of people who fell between the grooves of government support, for example, international students and itinerant workers from overseas, like fruit pickers. There were lots of people in these situations who came to us for support,” Harmer tells Eternity.
The number of women and children seeking support has also increased because of the escalating rates of family violence during lockdowns, in particular. In the past year alone, the Salvos have supported 5,800 Australian women and children experiencing family and domestic violence, many of whom were left homeless.
The Salvation Army distributed more than 1.5 million meals to those experiencing homelessness in the past 12 months through its network of 400 centres across Australia. It also provided over 880,000 crisis beds and $70 million in financial assistance.
The need for their support services will continue to increase, Harmer says, due to the rising costs of living and the lack of affordable housing.
“Mortgage stress and rent stress are real, and they hit people very quickly.” – Major Bruce Harmer
“Mortgage stress and rent stress are real, and they hit people very quickly. That has an impact on their bottom line. So we are going to see people coming to the Salvation Army for support, possibly through our Moneycare financial counselling service that we run as well.”
Almost 13,000 sought financial counselling from the Salvation Army in the past 12 months.
Despite increasing financial pressure on Australians, Harmer is confident the Salvos will meet their $36 million target for the 2022 Red Shield Appeal.
“I really believe that the Australian community understand that the Salvation Army is a conduit for their support to get to the people who really need it. We have the trust and confidence of the Australian public. And so even in the midst of COVID, even on the back of fires and floods, when it’s time to raise money for those who are doing it tough, the Australian community just respond beautifully,” says Harmer.
This has certainly been the case for the Salvation Army’s 2022 Flood Appeal, which aims to raise $10 million for those affected by recent floods in NSW and Queensland. After repurposing $3 million from its Red Shield Appeal donations towards flood relief, the Salvos received other generous donations that enabled them to assist over 26,000 households. So far they have distributed over $5 million in financial assistance and in-kind support (such as food parcels, clothing and household items) and issued over 25,000 recovery grants.
“I think that’s because [donors] have confidence that their donation will get where it’s intended if they work through the Salvation Army and that we will be good stewards of their gift,” says Harmer.
“But more than that,” he adds, “God knows the resources that we require to deliver our services and he will provide from his vast warehouse as he always has. So we have every confidence that the Australian public and God’s provision will come through for us once again – not so that we have the money but because there are people who need that support.”
The 57th annual Red Shield Appeal Doorknock Weekend is being held on May 28-29, 2022 – after two years without an in-person doorknock due to the pandemic.
Donations can also be made by calling 13 SALVOS (13 72 58) or online at salvationarmy.org.au until June 30.