Auckland City Mission at capacity
Auckland City Mission at capacity
The Auckland City Mission’s services are maxed out.
The Auckland City Mission says its social services are “at capacity,” and staff members are exhausted by the level of desperate need pouring through the charity’s doors.
Auckland City Missioner, Chris Farrelly, says the organisation is set to distribute roughly the same number of food parcels as last year (13,714 across the whole of Auckland) – not because need has remained the same, but because staff are simply unable to assess any additional clients.
Meanwhile, the closure of nearby homeless support services means the Mission is now central Auckland’s only outreach provider of day-to-day support for people experiencing homelessness.
“The Mission’s small Homeless Outreach Team of 6 social workers have an average caseload of 25 complex clients each,” says Auckland City Missioner, Chris Farrelly. “Many of these people require daily contact and intensive care.”
He says Mission staff are doing everything they can, but that the need is increasing and services are struggling to meet demand.
“When families come in for an emergency food parcel, they sometimes have to wait for several hours in our draughty waiting room before someone can see them. Imagine what that’s like for an elderly person, or a parent with their young child? People don’t come here unless they have to – and they’re having to in greater and greater numbers.”
Mr Farrelly says a key purpose of the Mission is to provide a place for Aucklanders’ generosity to reach those around them who need it most and notes that, despite the charity’s current level of demand, this is the reality that he sees every day. However; he stresses that this generosity is needed now more than ever, particularly when it comes to funds.
“Auckland is a very generous city. School children collect food and host mufti days to raise money for us; grandmothers knit beanies and scarves for people experiencing homelessness. Local people from all walks of life cook meals and bring them in, or raise funds through activities and events around town. The kindness and compassion we see on a regular basis is incredible – and we need it now more than ever before,” he says.
Mr Farrelly says donated funds are particularly valuable, as they allow the Mission to address the deeper issues someone might be facing.
“Food is an important and immediate need, but our aim is always to help clients become independent of us,” he says.
One of the Mission’s frontline staff, Sophie Spencer, says she and her team members at the Crisis Care & Community Service are overwhelmed by the number of people coming through their doors, as well as by the complexity of the issues many people are facing.
“Over a morning, we might meet a 19-year-old taking responsibility for her younger siblings because her parents are struggling with addiction,” says Ms Spencer. “We might later see a mother escaping partner violence, a bereaved widower using alcohol in a bid to cope with grief, and an isolated elderly gentleman seeking company and healthcare support.”
Mr Farrelly says that while each of these people have immediate, pressing needs – such as emergency food, or even housing – there are almost always deeper issues residing underneath. It takes time and energy to actively listen and engage with people.
“For example, you might have an older woman come in and say she needs a food parcel, which sounds straight-forward,” he explains. “But every person who comes to the Mission for help has an assessment first and, in the course of this conversation, you might find out that this woman is a grandmother who is raising her three grandchildren. You might then discover that she’s living on a pension and doesn’t know she’s eligible for a special benefit for people raising children who aren’t their own. Then you find out she’s feeling incredibly lonely and isolated and might benefit from a network like Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, or that she’s put off going to the doctor about a lump in her breast because she’s too stressed out and worried about the cost.”
The Mission’s Winter Appeal kicks off this week and the charity is asking all Aucklanders to contribute by donating much-needed funds at winterwarriors.org.nz
“If you live in Auckland, this could be your neighbour, colleague, or a family whose child goes to your child’s school,” says Mr Farrelly. “Given a particular set of circumstances, this could be you.”