Meth and housing key issues for South Canterbury, Salvation Army says
The number of people seeking help for methamphetamine addiction and emergency housing in South Canterbury has increased in the past year, putting pressure on the region's social agencies.
Timaru-based Salvation Army Lieutenant Jacob Howan said while the increases were "obviously concerning", it also meant people were identifying they needed help and were asking for it.
His comments come after The Salvation Army released its annual State of the Nation report on Wednesday which painted a grim picture of New Zealand's social landscape.
The report says Government policies have yet to start addressing poverty - and any progress in reducing social and economic inequalities had stalled. Household debt and a growing gap in educational achievement between poorer and more well-off communities are also mentioned.
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South Canterbury does not escape the hardship particularly in regards to housing affordability and methamphetamine use.
An increase in demand for these services "certainly puts a bit of extra pressure on us to be able to continue to meet those needs", Jacob said.
His wife, corps officer Emma Howan, said the accessibility of meth is "an issue that is certainly something present in South Canterbury".
Since the pair arrived in Timaru a few years ago, Emma said they had noticed the need "for work in addiction and related harm areas growing".
They were not the only ones who had seen this, as a survey they sent out to 100 people in the community placed the drug and its accessibility as one of the key issues, they said.
"We see the need there, and the community sees the need there," she said.
"The report [state of the nation] identifies that these issues are here, in these areas, and it's when we know what the issues are, we can start to address these."
Housing affordability in South Canterbury was particularly concerning because about 40 per cent of the people who approached them were family units with children.
"We have people who come in, who ask for food, but say 'just for my kids, don't worry about me'."
"There are significant housing problems in terms of cost or in some cases, people don't have anywhere to go.
"It would seem [it is] a national issue that is just reflected in Timaru, just as much as everywhere else."
Another growing trend was the number of people coming in with more than one addiction to alcohol, methamphetamine or something else.
"[This] makes it even more difficult to work through their problems," she said.
Dunedin-based Salvation Army Bridge programme director SA major Peter Macdonald, who has an overview of the Timaru programme, agreed, saying there had "absolutely" been an increase in methamphetamine users seeking help.
With the age range running from 20 to 60 year-olds, the programme was also finding more family members wanting to educate themselves on how to help those affected, were coming to them.
"A lot of our work is supporting families," Macdonald said.
One of the ways they did so was holding support groups for families, and one they did just before Christmas proved so popular they were going to run a second, he said.