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10 October 2021
Halting the spiral of debt and poverty
Words Naomi Singlehurst
In Australia, over three million people are living below the poverty line. That’s one in eight people. As we approach Anti-Poverty Week – 17-23 October – the Salvos are encouraging those doing it tough to reach out for help. Financial hardship can happen to anyone at any time, and accessing support early is important for a positive outcome.
Sixty-year-old June* had been in the same job for 14 years. It was becoming increasingly harder for her to work after a back operation and increasingly severe health issues, but she was still independent. Rent was high, and she was slowly slipping into credit card debt but could still maintain her rent and repayments.
Then, a series of circumstances took her to the edge financially and emotionally.
“I had been forced out of my employment due to a new management takeover,” she shares. “I had applied for a disability pension due to the osteoarthritis crippling my body but was rejected. I appealed the decision, which was also rejected. I was finally eligible for unemployment benefits, which was $702 per fortnight. The rent alone was $760 per fortnight!”
The reality of constant pain, worry, debt collectors phoning, letters of demand and seeing no way out took a huge emotional toll on June. She had suffered hardship in her early life, and all the feelings around not fitting in anywhere rose sharply again.
June says at one stage she had no hope and seriously contemplated ending her life.
June contacted the Salvos and was introduced to Nerida, a financial counsellor.
“By this time, I had sold all my possessions just to pay the rent,” she explains. “I had no food, or even so much as a toilet roll. I was devastated, embarrassed and basically at breaking point. This was the end for me now; I had been pushed to my limit.”
Nerida listened as June shared her dilemma and explained that she would assist in relation to her debt. “She also put together a grocery pack for me and made me feel so comfortable,” says June. “I had never been in a situation like this ever before.
“Nerida also put me in contact with the Benevolent Society [to support me] with obtaining government housing. There seemed to be some hope that I might get out of this dead-end street.”
With hard work and persistence, Nerida was eventually able to have June’s debts waived. June also secured a small, affordable unit for herself and her beloved dog.
Nerida says that in her experience, financial stress can hit anyone through health issues, ageing, job loss, and more.
“So many people are closer to financial difficulty, and even homelessness, than they realise,” she explains. “We try to put layers of support around people to build their strength and resilience and help with the hand-up they need.”
Now secure and without constant financial stress and worry, June recently wrote a letter of thanks to Nerida, saying: “It is now June 2021, and my life has improved over 100 per cent … I feel as though I have been given another chance at being happy. Really, it saved my life.”
For more information, go to salvationarmy.org.au/get-involved/anti-poverty-week/
* Names and and some details changed to protect privacy.