COUNTRY agency ac.care is calling for support from regional businesses and the community as it faces unprecedented demand on homelessness and emergency relief services.
“A shortage of affordable housing, the rising cost of living and now recent flooding in the Murraylands and Riverland has led to demand for ac.care’s services outstripping our capacity to provide the level of support we know people need to have safe homes and enough money to live on,” ac.care homelessness and community services manager Trish Spark said.
The agency has already provided support to close to 400 people in each of its three core regions for homelessness services – the Limestone Coast, Riverland and Murraylands – equating to the number of clients the organisation is funded to assist for the financial year being reached in just over six months.
“The number of people in need of our services is not diminishing but sadly increasing and we need community support to increase our impact to ensure vulnerable people have the support they need,” Ms Spark said.
“The demand for support and strain on our resources is the worst I’ve ever seen it in the 11 years I’ve been here.”
Ms Spark said the Barry Maney Group’s donation through the CMV Group Staff Foundation last year of close to $20,000 to assist with renting a house in Mount Gambier had allowed ac.care to provide a home for families in emergency situations and had proven vital, as well as demonstrating how business support could transform support for vulnerable people.
“The house has been constantly occupied for short-term use in emergencies and provided a safe and welcoming home for many families who would not have had somewhere safe to go before we acquired the rental property,” she said.
“However, we need more business partnerships, donations and financial support to meet the growing need in our community.”
Tents, swags, non-perishable food hampers and shopping vouchers are among items required to provide to people in crisis unable to secure stable accommodation or afford necessities for themselves and their families.
“Our agency embraces a purpose of local people helping locals after we formed in Mount Gambier in 1986 and have grown to provide diverse services to regions across eastern country South Australia, but we need the community’s support more than ever,” Ms Spark said.
The organisation also hopes to raise $50,000 to fund ongoing service delivery for four young people living in the Studio Purpose apartments.
The apartments were developed at a disused site in Murray Bridge through a partnership with the community, Habitat for Humanity SA, Anglicare SA, headspace, Rural City of Murray Bridge and the South Australian Housing Authority in 2021.
The innovative wraparound service has provided safe homes for vulnerable young people to develop independence, recognise their self-worth and build hope for the future through education and employment while housed in Studio Purpose.
The organisation is seeking to expand its partnerships with regional businesses to sustain and grow the vital initiative, but is also calling for one-off and ongoing donations from new and existing supporters in the community via the donation portal on the ac.care website to help meet the growing need for other support.
She said in Mount Gambier alone ac.care the Limestone Coast Homelessness Service team was currently working with 179 people, including 83 experiencing homelessness due to a lack of available affordable housing.
Teams in the Riverland are supporting 164 people at risk of or experiencing homelessness, while the Murraylands team in Murray Bridge is working with 144 people.
Staff across the regions are also supporting many other people to help families and individuals avoid a crisis.
Homelessness service staff are also being stretched from anticipated caseloads of 15 clients to around 40.
The organisation will seek to expand its partnerships with regional businesses, but is also calling for one-off and ongoing donations from new and existing supporters in the community via the donation portal on the ac.care website.
“Just $30 can provide a food hamper for an individual or $50 for a family to have enough to eat for a few days and donations of $200 are enough for a swag,” Ms Spark said.
“We are encouraging people to donate financially so we can best direct the funds we raise to the greatest needs in our community and would love to see people move from one-off to ongoing donations, which can be done easily via our website, so we can scale up our impact and develop sustainable fundraising to support our communities.”
She said sleeping bags, swags and other items could also be dropped off at the organisation’s Berri, Murray Bridge, Mount Gambier and Millicent sites.
People wanting to donate bulkier items or discuss potential business partnerships can also get in touch via Facebook, call 8724 5400 or visit a site.
ac.care is also preparing to launch various initiatives over the coming weeks to boost fundraising and increase its impact supporting vulnerable people.
“We also desperately need volunteers to assist with a range of tasks, from food handling and emergency relief to helping with cleaning and setting up of transitionary accommodation,” Ms Spark said.
Visit accare.org.au/donate to contribute to ac.care or contact the organisation on 1300 ACCARE (1300 222 273) for more information on how you can assist.