Hervey Bay Neighbourhood Centre customer service officer Neil Smith and the centre's emergency relief officer Marian Keller with a client.
Hervey Bay Neighbourhood Centre customer service officer Neil Smith and the centre's emergency relief officer Marian Keller with a client. Alistair Brightman

Families choosing between paying bills and buying groceries

THE choice between paying bills and buying the groceries this week is a dilemma faced by thousands of people on the Fraser Coast, just as emergency relief charities prepare to move into the most demanding weeks of the year.


As of August this year, 1579 people in Hervey Bay relied on a Newstart or Youth Allowance payments from the Federal Government.


In Maryborough, that figure sat at 1079.


A report released last week by the Australian Council of Social Services has shown it is those groups of people, as well as those living off pensions, who were most at risk of living below the poverty line.


In Hervey Bay, emergency relief service We Care 2 has more than 3000 single people and families on its database who have needed help to make ends meet.


We Care 2's Mary-Ann Geluk said the next few months would be the most demanding for emergency relief services, as the lead up to Christmas and New Year took a bite out of family budgets.


"We find it a real challenge to make our resources stretch," Mrs Geluk said.


We Care 2 offers a grocery store for clients where they can get free milk and bread and heavily discounted food items.


Hervey Bay Community Centre principal co-ordinator Joyce Chorny said the centre's team of emergency relief volunteers had seen an increase in the number of people accessing help.

"People can find themselves in a difficult situation at any stage of their life," she said.


"The issues that present to us are becoming increasingly complex."


Mrs Chorny said she also saw people who were forced to choose between unexpected medical bills and basic needs.


"They're just so close to the line that they find they don't have the money to buy groceries," she said.


The centre holds a breakfast once a week for children at nearby schools identified by teachers.


It also holds a weekly community kitchen, where cash-strapped families come for a healthy meal they otherwise may not be able to afford.


The ACOSS poverty report was prepared alongside Anglicare Australia, St Vincent De Paul Society and the Salvation Army.


Visit acoss.org.au to view the full report.