13 Jul 2017

Struggling Kiwi families hard hit by cold snap

10:13 am on 13 July 2017

As a wintry blast makes its way up the country, social services are busy making sure those without a place to stay are coping.

Someone with bare feet was walking in the hail and snow in central Dunedin earlier today.

Bare footprints can be seen in the Dunedin snow yesterday. Photo: Supplied / Karen McLean

Snow has blanketed most of the South Island, with more heavy rain and wind hitting Wellington and parts of the North Island today.

During the bitter cold in Christchurch last night, there were many people struggling to stay warm.

"As much as there's a bit of fun and activity around with kids playing in the snow, the harsh reality is that there's those where it's not such a fun time," Christchurch city missioner Matthew Mark said.

The City Mission's 37 beds are full, and Mr Mark estimated about 180 people were sleeping rough in the wider Christchurch area.

"If you look at the looser definition of homelessness where people might be sleeping rough in a shed or in a derelict building or in a car, you're actually starting to get into the thousands of people in Christchurch, and that's quite a scary thought."

He said help being provided during the day had been extended and he and his team had been out talking to those with no place to go.

"Just making sure they were well looked after or advising them that we had the ability to be able to look after them, particularly through day programmes to keep them warm and dry, and give them a hot drink and a bit of food in the belly, and if the opportunity was there for an overnight accommodation as well."

Wellington city missioner Tric Malcolm said yesterday they had been getting ready for the miserable weather in the capital.

"Our staff have been making sure that everyone has what they need, so they've got extra food, they've got blankets, they've got woolly hats, they've got all of those kinds of things.

"So that if we have anything like a power cut happening, or anything that means they might be extra vulnerable, they've got the things they might need to be equipped to cope through that."

Ms Malcolm said demand always increased after bad weather.

"Once the storm has passed, often that's when we need to do the extra bits to make sure people are cared for well at that point. They've used all their extra reserves.

"When the power bills come in at the end of the month or the end of next month and that's put extra pressure on that'll be when we'll be problem solving in different kinds of ways."

Lindsay Andrews, who looks after the Salvation Army in the South Island, said he was expecting more people to be needing help in the next few days.

"With this cold snap we can expect to see an increase in people coming to access our services. It just does put a lot of extra pressure on our families and those that were just coping prior to the winter are going to find it harder this winter."

He said some families were going days without power because they could not afford it.

"Generally what happens is they come to us for food assistance and that enables them to make their budget stretch a little bit further and helps them to be able to afford power."

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