COVID-19 had a double impact on St Vincent de Paul in Alice Springs: A drop in numbers of people visiting from communities and interstate reduced the income from their store, selling mainly used clothing, while the demand for help increased, including from people who never had to seek it before.
Peta Brand runs the St Vincent de Paul store in Alice.
“We’re having a change in demographics,” says Fran Avon, Vinnies CEO for the NT: Refugees from Africa who lost their jobs but as non-Australians do not qualify for Jobseeker; stranded backpackers and students; casual employment hospitality workers now without income.
They’re looking for emergency food, clothing, accommodation, help with Telstra or energy provider charges, a payment plan to tide them over.
The demand from people like that increased four-fold, says Ms Avon.
Many are overwhelmed. They were not even aware Vinnies exists, “not knowing what to do, where to go”.
“We have to tell them you are not alone. They are a lot more emotional than our normal clients,” says Ms Avon (pictured).
Vinnies extended their store’s opening hours and is handing out food vouchers bought from Woolworths, providing “a meal for that night”.
The organisation at times pools resources with other aid groups to provide family accommodation for a few days.