On a chilly winter’s morning recently, four people who came to get emergency relief supplies from the Launceston Benevolent Society kindly shared their story about why they were there. Their experiences highlight the different reasons why people on low incomes run short of money, and the extra challenges that winter brings to managing a budget. Their names have been changed for privacy.
Sean has lived in a housing department house since he got out of jail 18 months ago. He has worked in many different jobs during his life, but had to finish up due to an injury. He has had difficulties controlling his alcohol use, and has had depression and anxiety problems for a while. He has come into the Benevolent Society today because he has bills to pay that won’t be covered by his DSP. He’ll be taking a box of food and a supermarket voucher. They have also helped him in the past with furniture and clothing. He comes every 3 months because it makes his money go further if he can get some assistance. He puts $20 a week aside for his hobby, restoring an old motorbike – Sean says, “It’s better spending it on that than alcohol, and it gives me something to do. When I’m finished I’m going to take my 80 year old Mum for a ride on the back”.
She does not normally come to the Benevolent Society, but they have run out of money because two people in the household are unwell with respiratory problems and they wanted to buy wood for the winter to heat the house better.
47 year old grandmother Heather, says has had a hard life. Her mother died at a young age, and it was very difficult to live by herself with her Dad. She left home and school at 16 and now she and her partner have 3 kids and 5 grandchildren. She has worked as a cleaner for years, but recently became unable to work due to health problems. Her family of four live in a private rental, any pay $380 per fortnight. She arranges for Centrepay to pay her rent, her payments for a new washing machine, and some driving related fines that have built up over the years. She currently pays $50 a fortnight toward getting rid of these. This leaves her with $119 per fortnight spare. Her partner has intermittent work, and he pays the hydro bills and all the car costs. She does not normally come to the Benevolent Society, but they have run out of money because two people in the household are unwell with respiratory problems and they wanted to buy wood for the winter to heat the house better.
John has come for emergency relief today because his power bill has “knocked him out”.
John is a 51 year old fellow who has come for emergency relief today because his power bill has “knocked him out”. Last winter his 3 monthly power bill was $800, because the heater in the house is expensive to run. He works intermittently, and has had a wide range of different jobs, including as an Aboriginal heritage officer, council worker, and working in cheese factories. He has a permanent lease on a house through Aboriginal housing, which means he doesn’t have to worry about not having somewhere to live, and the rent is good. He regularly gets support from the Benevolent Society when he is not working. Today he will take some clothing, food vouchers and groceries. He suggests that politicians need to “come out and live like us for a couple of months” to get a proper idea of what it’s like.
Anne is a single mum who lives with her child and mother. She only comes to the Benevolent Society at times like Christmas and Easter, to get extra help. She is receiving the parenting payment. She and her mum had a bad experience with the gas heater in their house. They used the two heaters, and they drained the gas bottle in one week, which cost $285. “$285 in one week and it wasn’t even hot, just on warm”, she explains. Now they use the electric heater. She doesn’t drive, because she can’t afford to run a car. Someone has been making payments using her paywave card, and she is waiting for the bank to sort the problem.