UNENDING NEED: With the Red Shield Appeal coming up fast, Julie Miller and Major Brian Smith show the latest giving technology.
UNENDING NEED: With the Red Shield Appeal coming up fast, Julie Miller and Major Brian Smith show the latest giving technology. Arthur Gorrie

Homeless crisis means help needed now

THE rich and poor, the haves and have-nots - the gap is getting bigger according to front line Salvation Army case worker Julie Miller.

And Major Brian Smith agrees.

He says he has not seen such desperate times for the homeless in all his 20 years and more as a Salvation Army worker.

And that is why the "Sallys” need our help once again, perhaps now more than ever.

Those of us with a roof over our heads are being asked to help out with the sincerest offering of all - money.

The Salvation Army's annual Red Shield Appeal starts on Monday week, May 22 and ends on the following Sunday.

"The need is not getting any less,” Major Smith said yesterday.

"I have never seen as many homeless as I have in the last few years,” he said.

"In my two years in Gympie we have been helping many homeless people who live in their car, tents, outside and exposed to the elements and even a lady who lived in a storage shed with her children.

"Fortunately she has since found a home.”

Even people who cannot find accommodation can still get emergency help from the Salvation Army, especially with the basics that make life a feasible proposition.

"We have been endeavouring to help people locally as much as possible as they come to our site,” he said.

"We provide free showers and shower packs, free lunches two days a week, free breakfast five days a week, laundry facilities and free hot chocolate and cappuccinos as a special treat.”

It is a service which, sadly enough, is used every day by people who have little other choice.

"In the past 12 months our facilities and services have been used more than 5000 times, with a steady repeat clientele,” he said.

That amounts to 100 people every week, more than 13 desperate people every day.

That does not include the other services the Salvation Army provides in the course of offering us all the kind of safety net anyone can need one of these days.

And it is not only the homeless who sometimes need a hand.

Julie Miller says her helping efforts include arranging for people to obtain interest free finance for essential items and things that help them keep up with the care of their children.

"We have been able to help people with a No Interest Loan Scheme to buy necessary items like fridges, beds, a lawn mower, a water pump, oven and computers for their kids to use so they can do their homework.”

Major Smith says all this local work is still only a fraction of what is funded by the Red Shield Appeal nationally.

So how can we help.

"We need collectors to help raise funds and keep our various programs open.

And money. Donation points will be available at Gympie Central, Goldfields and Bunnings.

There is even a $%20 tap and pay machine, which will enable donations to be made electronically.