HUNDREDS of families in Lurgan are turning to charities for aid this Christmas as the recession grips.
Organisations such as St Vincent de Paul and the Salvation Army are recording their busiest year ever as people struggle to survive the current economic climate.
Newly appointed Conference President of Lurgan St Vincent de Paul, Sr Elise Gorman said it has become increasing bad over the past two or three years.
And she said more and more churches and politicians are ‘just beginning’ to open their eyes to the depth of poverty in their midst.
Sr Elise called on more churches and politicians to work together to help relieve the suffering of those struggling to make ends meet.
She said ordinary families who may previously had never thought of going to St Vincent de Paul are now needing help because they have lost their jobs or through illnesses.
“And because they had worked hard all their lives they aren’t entitled to any benefits or very little benefits. They are devastated,” said St Elise.
“There’s a depression and a shame of it And it’s because of their children that they feel so bad about it, not being able to provide a better life for their children.”
She said some people are so depressed they just sit there and hope it will go away. “They don’t have the energy to get up and do something for themselves sometimes.
Sr Elise is also concerned for the many young children in poverty coming up to Christmas. “It is very, very hard to explain to the children that you don’t have the money. It really is. It’s just terrible to see that.
“Families going around seeing everyone else having everything and then they can’t provide for their children and that’s just awful. Especially in the Irish nation where we are so proud.
“A lot of churches are beginning to see that they have to reach out to people. This is why we were trying to encourage some of the other churches and even to get politicians involved. Even the Mayor of Craigavon - she was absolutely astounded at the amount of work we do. She really couldn’t believe how much of Lurgan we reach and are helping,” said Sr Elise.
“The politicians are beginning to open their eyes to see and churches are beginning to open their eyes to see too. What we want to do is to shake the churches into the realisation that they have to help because a lot of the people that go to church are suffering. And even if they don’t go to church they have to reach out to people and help them.”
Sr Elise is particularly concerned about the change to the benefit system in the new year.
“Families won’t know what hit them when these changes come. They are going to be drastic,” she said.
She was speaking at the launch of a Town Versus Country GAA game to raise funds for St Vincent de Paul. The match is at St Peter’s GAA Club on Sunday at 2.15pm
And the Salvation Army in Lurgan said they had also seen a hike in the number of people needing help particularly since last year.
Major Graham Wood said: “I know from the amount of money in our holding account, it has been quite considerably dented. That is probably two things, our income has gone down whereas the outgoings have gone up. Obviously that can’t go on forever.”
Major Graham revealed that the local branch aims to help around 300 families through their Christmas Toy Appeal.
He said that while it is not like years ago when children didn’t have shoes on their feet, there was definitely a ‘worsening of conditions’.
Many are struggling with bills and are asking for help with food and heating primarily.
He said there are two ways to help at Christmas, through donating toys through the Christmas Family Appeal and donating to the Salvation Army band which goes carol singing every year.