Demand for a hot meal and warm shelter at Greater Victoria social service agencies has increased dramatically this winter.
In December, Our Place served more than 62,000 meals, bringing its total for 2014 to more than 526,884 meals. For comparison, in 2013, Our Place served 343,464 meals.
Victoria CoolAid Society executive director Kathy Stinson said her organization has also seen increases of people looking for help.
Individuals seeking shelter increased from 1,600 people in 2013 to more than 1,700 this year.
Stinson, who also chairs the Downtown Service Provider Table, an organization of social service agencies, said “services generally are being over-subscribed.”
Grant McKenzie, director of communications for Our Place, said his organization is breaking records almost daily for people looking for a hot meal. On Thursday, Our Place served more than 400 people at breakfast, an increase of more than 100 people from 2013.
“We certainly weren’t expecting the increase to be as significant as it has been. We were expecting there to be some increase just because there’s more programs and services being offered now, but we certainly weren’t expecting to see the amount of jump that we witnessed,” McKenzie said.
“It definitely caught us by surprise.”
Both Stinson and Don Evans, executive director of Our Place, agree that affordability in Victoria is a major issue.
The price for rental housing continues to climb. In April 2014, the average rent for a private apartment was $904, up from $894 in 2013.
“Things are becoming less and less affordable. People aren’t seeing their wages increasing or income assistance rates going up. When this happens there is going to be more demand and more need,” Stinson said.
She added more seniors are also accessing services, more than ever before.
“It shows just how essential every donation is,” adds Evans.
“We rely on the generosity of the community, and any amount, large or small, helps us serve the needs of Greater Victoria’s impoverished citizens.”