File shotTHE cold snap that has gripped Araratin recent weeksis placing enormous pressure on the city’s emergency relief services.
Nanjing Night Net

Demand for food, clothing and blankets among both struggling families and the homelesshas risen as temperatures drop to near-freezing levels.

Support services have received reports of up to four families without accommodation forced to live from their cars at a recreational reserve on the outskirts of town.

Ararat Emergency Relief Committee president Howard Hutchison said winter was an especially difficult time of year for people who did not have the financial means to support themselves.

Howard Hutchison

He said his church alone was helping about 26 families a week try to stave off the dual ravages of hunger and the cold.

“There has been an increase in demand for assistance,” he said. “We had a good supply of doonas until recently but there’s been great demand for them.”

The Ararat Emergency Relief Committee comprises representatives from the Uniting Church, St Vincent de Paul, Salvation Army, Church of Christ and Anglican Church.

It receives some government funding to carry out its work but also relies heavily on the goodwill of volunteers and donations from the community.

Mr Hutchison said a lack of steady jobs combined with the ever-rising cost of living had contributed to the number of local families battling this winter.

“One of the reasons that demand has increased is because of the power bills,” he said. “A few families had to pay their power bills and then couldn’t afford to pay for food.”

A dearth of short-term crisis accommodation in Ararat is another problem hindering the committee’sefforts to get people back on their feet.

Mr Hutchison said it was an issue that needed to be addressed, particularly due to a surge in demand from domestic violence victims.

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