STRABANE charities who provide help to families in need say the level of demand for their services has reached an unprecedented level. 
More than 150 families in the district have reached out for support in recent weeks. St Vincent de Paul, Community Help In the Local District (CHILD) and the Helping the Homeless at Christmas Appeal have all spoken about the immense pressure they are currently under. 
Set up specifically to deal with the difficulties faced by people over the festive period the Helping The Homeless at Christmas Time Appeal supported 120 families locally who were in an emergency situation. 
“We are an appeal at Christmas time only. Our mission was initially to help homeless people and we continued to do that, but this year, we were contacted by 120 families who are in crisis and needed help,” explained a spokesperson for the group. 
“Alarm bells started ringing for us. A lot of these families have been impacted by cuts to their Universal Credit, and they are in desperate need. 
“They are contacting us looking for help. Some of them are living in homes without heat or electricity and very little food.” 
The group said they assisted these families in whatever way they could, however they are extremely worried about what will happen to them now their appeal has ended. 
“Our Christmas appeal is now over,” explained the spokesperson. 
“In total we managed to raise £6,000, but our resources were stretched to the limit. Once we help one of these families, for example by giving them a food hamper, or donating fuel or electric vouchers, we physically can’t do any more. 
“We don’t have the capacity to do any more and we are very concerned about what will happen to these families if no other help becomes available.” 
Adding that the group was able to get some support for a number of these families through CHILD the 
spokesperson said they were unsuccessful in getting any help through St Vincent de Paul Strabane. 
“Several families told us they tried continuously to get help from the local St Vincent de Paul branch,” continued the spokesperson. 
“One woman said she contacted the St Vincent de Paul helpline around four weeks ago and never heard anything back. I understand the charity is probably facing pressure, but what do these people do if they can’t help them?” she asked. 
“Helping The Homeless at Christmas Time is not a registered charity, we don’t have the training or funding to deal with situations like this and it is very worrying to know that these people are struggling to receive any help,” she added.  
A spokesperson for St Vincent de Paul said they are also feeling the pressure. 
“We have been inundated with an unprecedented volume of requests for help over the last few weeks and our volunteers have undertaken more than 50 home visits in Strabane to provide financial and practical support,” they explained. 
“We provide assistance to all sections of the community across Northern Ireland, including those in need within Strabane. The society’s focus is on working to deliver a practical approach to poverty, alleviating its effects on individuals and families through working primarily on a person-to-person and family-to-family basis.” 
Meanwhile CHILD is another charity which has seen a massive increase in demand for their services. 
”Nobody who comes to us looking for help will go away empty handed,” said a CHILD spokesperson.
“However, we have seen a huge rise in appeals for help and it is vital that other charities in the town do their part. 
“I have to commend the work of the Helping The Homeless at Christmas Time group. These women have done an amazing job. It is concerning however that these families are turning to them and not to actual registered charities. Maybe those charities should redress their policies on how people in need can approach them and how they deal with those people.

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