The Salvos are experiencing the highest demand for aid 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 flooding in Queensland and NSW, coupled with rising costs of living and increasing housing stress, have all contributed to an “unprecedented demand” for Salvation Army support services.
“We are seeing more people across the country attending our services, as well as new faces who have never had contact with the charity before,” said Salvation Army spokesman Major Bruce Harmer.
“The people we first see were mostly Salvation Army financial supporters, yet they have lost their jobs due to COVID. They have been able to pick up other work, but it doesn’t pay that well. And so they are still left with a mortgage, energy costs, and families to support. So they need our support.
“In addition, especially during COVID, we saw many people who fell between the grooves of government support, for example, international students and itinerant workers from abroad, such as fruit pickers. Many people in these situations came to us for support,” Harmer tells Eternity.
The number of women and children seeking help has also increased, mainly due to increased levels of domestic violence during lockdowns. In the past year alone, the salvos have supported 5,800 Australian women and children affected by family and domestic violence, many of whom were left homeless.
The Salvation Army has distributed more than 1.5 million meals to people experiencing homelessness through its network of 400 centers across Australia in the past 12 months. It also provided over 880,000 crisis beds and $70 million in financial aid.
The need for their support services will continue to grow, Harmer says, due to the rising cost of living and the lack of affordable housing.
“Mortgage and rent stress are real and affect people very quickly.” – Major Bruce Harmer.
“Mortgage stress and rent stress are real and affect people very quickly. This has consequences for their business results. So we will see people coming to the Salvation Army for support, possibly through our financial advisory service, Moneycare, that we also run.”
Nearly 13,000 sought financial assistance from the Salvation Army in the past 12 months.
Despite mounting financial pressures on Australians, Harmer is confident the salvos will meet their $36 million target for the 2022 Red Shield appeal.
“I truly believe the Australian community understands that the Salvation Army is a channel for their support to reach the people who need it. We have the confidence of the Australian public. And so, even amid COVID, even after fires and floods, when it’s time to raise money for struggling people, the Australian community is just responding beautifully,” said 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 flooding in NSW and Queensland. After using $3 million of Red Shield Appeal’s donations for flood relief, the Salvos received other generous donations helping more than 26,000 households. They have distributed over $5 million in financial and in-kind assistance (such as food parcels, clothing, and household items) and provided more than 25,000 rehabilitation grants.
“I think that’s because [donors] are confident that their donation will go where they are intended as they work through the Salvation Army and that we will be good stewards of their donation,” says Harmer.
“But more than that,” he adds, “God knows the resources we need to deliver our services, and he will deliver from his massive warehouse as he always has. So we’re confident that the Australian public and God’s provision will come through for us 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 will be held May 28-29, 2022 – after two years without a personal knocker due to the pandemic.
Donations can also be made by calling 13 SALVOS (13 72 58) or online at rescueleger.org.au until June 30.