15 Oct 2022

Food or rent? Stark choices leading to more homelessness, Salvation Army says

12:36 pm on 15 October 2022
Empty shopping trolley in a supermarket

Sometimes those who don't have much money have to choose between paying their rent or buying some food, the Salvation Army says. Photo: 123RF

Pressures like the rising cost of food have pushed more people into homelessness, the Salvation Army says.

Food prices rose 8.3 percent for the year to September - the biggest rise since 2009 - with fruit and vegetables up 16 percent.

Salvation Army social policy director Ian Hutson said the people it served were desperate, and more new people were seeking the organisation's food bank support for the first time.

"It's this kind of thing - the cost of living going up, that just squeezes them that bit more, and then they can't cover the rent and then they get back into this cycle of homelessness again."

The government needed to increase benefits and the accommodation supplement to help them make ends meet, Hutson said.

"Sometimes it's a choice between paying the rent or putting food on the table.

"When they come to us it's because maybe they paid the rent, but they've got nothing left for food."

Papakura Marae chief executive Tony Kake had a similar story. Whānau it was supporting with a food bank and free weekly dinners were struggling to choose which bills to pay for.

Kake said more whānau needed to rely on the food bank, especially when unexpected bills popped up.

"That'll just tip them over for two, three weeks before they can recover.

"So the whole idea of our food parcels is really, when that situation happens we can substitute that bill for kai.

"Pay the bill and we'll look after you for the week."

The increase in people needing support meant the marae would have to start requesting more donations to meet the demand, Kake said.

He expected that people in hardship needing help would only keep increasing as the cost of living did the same.

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