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Salvos’ research uncovers drastic measures to survive

The Salvation Army 3 mins read

22 May 2024



Salvos’ research uncovers drastic measures to survive

Kids are going without medical care, 1 in 10 respondents are using public bathrooms and 1 in 3 fear they will lose the roof over their heads


New research from The Salvation Army paints a bleak picture, with 94 per cent of respondents resorting to extreme measures to reduce their household bills. This includes drastically reducing the use of daily essentials, with 43 per cent unable to afford heating and cooling, and people not seeking medical help when needed, with 61 per cent unable to afford medical, dental and eye care.


Sixty-nine per cent of respondents said they go without food so their children can eat, 39 per cent said they were unable to afford essential medical care for their children and 33 per cent feared they would lose their home and become homeless.


Almost half of respondents (49 per cent) said they showered or washed less often to save money, 22 per cent are living in darkness or using candles or torches at night and 1 in 10 (11 per cent) said they used public amenities such as bathrooms in shopping centres to avoid using water at home.


The research, which surveyed 1,500 people who have reached out to the Salvos Doorways financial relief service over a 12-month period, also found that 78 per cent of respondents had repeatedly sought help from welfare organisations. On average, respondents were left with $8 per week (or just over $1 per day) after paying for essential costs, such as housing, utilities, medicine and groceries.


A 49-year-old woman who accessed support from the Salvos said: “I have had to go without food, clothes, showering, toiletries and basic necessities just so I could pay my rent and bills, to keep a roof over my head. Even though it has nothing in it like food, it’s better than sleeping on the streets or in my car.”


“We are seeing a tsunami of need across the country, with people accessing The Salvation Army’s services for the first time,” The Salvation Army’s Major Brendan Nottle said. “The lengths people are going to just to get by is shocking and unnecessary in this country. It is outrageous that 8 in 10 of those surveyed are living below the poverty line and almost 3 in 10 (29 per cent) have been impacted by family and domestic violence.”


While most Australians are feeling the pinch, the research shows households with children are really struggling:


“I have got behind in my gas and electric bills to make sure I’ve had petrol in my car to get to work and my children are fed,” said a 42-year-old woman who reached out to the Salvos for help. 


A 50-year-old community member added: “I’ve been worried about losing my house because I haven’t been able to pay my mortgage. I’ve had to borrow money from my parents. I haven’t been able to afford food, so I’ve had to get assistance from others. I’ve had my phone put on incoming calls only. It’s been extremely hard and an emotional rollercoaster. I’ve had to live in my car before and I'm worried the same thing will happen.”


The research coincides with The Salvation Army’s Red Shield Appeal, which aims to raise $38 million this year to enable the Salvos, to support Australians doing it tough in communities around the country.


Each year, through The Salvation Army’s nationwide network of over 400 centres and 2,000 services in areas such as homelessness, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, youth support, family and domestic violence, financial hardship and much more, the Salvos provide*:


  • Assistance to one person every 17 seconds
  • More than 1.67 million sessions of care to over 250,000 people in need
  • Over 1.2 million bed nights to people who need accommodation
  • More than 1.63 million meals to people who access our homelessness services
  • Assistance to more than 10,000 women and their children at risk of experiencing family violence, including more than 123,000 nights of emergency accommodation for women and children impacted by violence.


Major Nottle said: “Our research also found 92 per cent of respondents said they would not have managed without the help they received from The Salvation Army. We can’t do this life-saving and life-changing work without the generosity of the Australian public, who every year partner with us to help give a new beginning to people in desperate need.”


To give a new beginning, please donate to The Salvation Army’s 60th Red Shield Appeal by visiting or calling 13 SALVOS. You can also donate at any Salvos Store.




For more information, please contact The Salvation Army’s Media Relations Department on (02) 94663143

*The Salvation Army Annual Report 2022-23


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