QUEENSLANDERS facing winter in homes still gutted from January and February’s devastating floods and other natural disasters will benefit from a $10 million State Government funds allocation to the St Vincent de Paul Society.
The allocation from the Premier’s Appeal Fund, announced on May 25, came as the society spent the last of about $4.5 million it had raised to assist almost 5000 vulnerable disaster-affected households across the state.
Assistance from the St Vincent de Paul Society so far this year has ranged from the supply of fencing material to farmers in the St George and Surat region to plasterboard for the interiors of homes around Kenmore to the handing out of cash, something the society would rarely do in normal circumstances.
State president Brian Moore welcomed the Government’s decision and said no means test would be applied, but “demonstrated significant hardship as a result of natural disaster will need to be clearly evident on a case by case basis”.
Society disaster relief committee chairman Ron Sullivan said the money would be a vital means of assisting people in areas such as Goodna and Ipswich whose homes were yet to be repaired.
“Many of these people are quite elderly,” he said.
“We’re talking about people whose insurance policies paid nothing or next to nothing for flood damage.
“In many cases their homes are just shells – all the walls have been taken out after becoming waterlogged during the floods.
“These people have got no real shelter and warmth and the winter cold is rapidly coming in.”
Mr Sullivan said the society was working out a process to allocate the funds and was in negotiations with the Government to decide what the upper limit of financial support to disaster-affected families would be.
“Obviously the money the society has just received will not allow the complete rebuilding of homes but in extreme cases maybe the society could allocate $50,000 or more,” he said. “We’ve increased staff at the society’s state call centre to take enquiries about the support.
“These calls are being directed to diocesan councils which in turn are directing calls to conferences who then send members out to visit those needing help.”
Mr Sullivan paid tribute to St Vincent de Paul Society conference members and volunteers who have been helping communities throughout Queensland get back on their feet after 2011’s natural disasters.
“For example in Tully which was badly hit by Cyclone Yasi more than half a million dollars has been handed out in support by only about half a dozen members working at the coalface,” he said.
Mr Moore said the $10 million funding allocation meant “that our strong volunteer network of over 8000 people across the state can continue this important work”.
“All the funds provided go directly to people in need, with no administrative costs taken out,” he said.
“We acknowledge that all levels of government have done a great job to date, and all members of the community have a part to play in responding to and recovering from natural disasters.
“These funds that were generously donated from all over Australia will be a boost to the work that we are already doing.
“The funding will be used to make flexible payments to households (individuals or families), who are directly impacted by the floods and cyclones and who have limited capacity to recover.”
Mr Moore said it was also anticipated the funds would enable the society to provide food, third-party payments such as electricity bills and rent, purchase of household goods, such as fridges, furnishings and school necessities, and may be available to assist with the purchase of secondhand vehicles so people can get to work.
The funding will be available for households for domestic purposes only, and will not be available to businesses.
“We understand that recovery from a disaster of this magnitude will take time and compassion,” Mr Moore said.
“The society is committed to working with the State Government and other community groups to do all we can to get Queensland lives back on track.”
Anybody requiring disaster relief from the St Vincent de Paul Society can call 1300 NEED HELP (1300 633 343). People looking to volunteer to assist can vis-it vinnies.org.au or call (07) 3010 1000.
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