Business people in Orange are seeking welfare help from the St Vincent de Paul Society in the wake of rising rent, electricity and phone costs and falling trade.
Vinnies executive officer Bruce Buchanan revealed the crisis facing people in Orange just before Christmas after a report found housing rental affordability in the Colour City was at its worst level in six years.
“We’re up by 28 per cent on last year for people coming in for care and support,” he said.
Mr Buchanan said that equated to about 80-100 extra people including business operators.
“At the moment retail across the board [in Orange] is down by 48 per cent. It’s a fairly significant drop for a lot of people,” he said.
Rent, electricity and the telephone are the big ones. Rents are going up by 3-5 per cent. People are finding it a bit tough.Bruce Buchanan, Vinnies executive officer
Mr Buchanan said some business people were asking to meet Vinnies officers out of hours as they did not want to be seen in the daily welfare queue.
“Christmas is going to be do or die for some businesses if they don’t get a good two-three weeks [of Christmas shopping],’ he said.
Mr Buchanan said rising costs meant they could not afford to pay their bills.
He said many households across Orange were also struggling.
“Rent, electricity and the telephone are the big ones. Rents are going up by 3-5 per cent. People are finding it a bit tough,” he said.
Mr Buchanan said in many cases people only sought welfare help ‘once or twice’ to get them through a crisis.
He said Vinnies officers spoke to landlords on people’s behalf and also offered cash and vouchers to help pay bills.
“We’re up significantly on last year,” he said.
Mr Buchanan said the number of people going to Vinnies rose last year when electricity bills went up.
“People were asking for help last year. It hasn’t gone away,” he said.
Mr Buchanan said some power bills were excessive because some electricity useage was being estimated rather than having the meter read.
He said people should ask for their meter to be read to ensure accuracy.
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Mr Buchanan said it was particularly tough for people with Christmas approaching, as they were worried they did not have enough money to buy presents and provide a Christmas meal.
The SGS Economics and Planning Rental Affordability Index released last week said single pensioners and single young people on benefits were particularly hard hit by the cost of rent as it took up a large part of their income.
However, Mr Buchanan said the crisis was hitting “across the board” in Orange.
The Vinnies welfare office in McNamara Street is open from noon-3pm Monday-Friday.
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