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by Greta Yeoman

Drug abuse, youth disengagement, housing issues and inequality have all been raised as issues for Timaru in a recent Salvation Army report.

The Salvation Army’s “State of the Communities 2018” report, which focuses on six locations including Timaru, was released in December.

Good gifts  . . . Timaru Salvation Army corps officers Emma and Jacob Howan show off some of the hundreds of toys and other gifts that have been donated for 100 families in the town for Christmas. PHOTO: GRETA YEOMAN

The survey interviewed 100 people accessing the community ministries or Family Store at the Salvation Army’s Wai-iti Rd base.

Those surveyed raised drug and alcohol abuse as a big issue for the town, along with youth disengagement, and also wanted to see more economic growth in the town to provide work for those already living in Timaru.

Residents commented on diversity issues, particularly racism experienced by non-Pakeha residents in the town, as was raised by a Filipino woman, and a Pasifika interviewee said social isolation meant people did not mix as much.

Timaru corps officer Emma Howan said it was pleasing to see that people were generally happy with Timaru as a town, and that the wider community was becoming more aware of the issues reflected in the report.

“You can be tempted to go ‘oh, that’s an Auckland issue’ or ‘oh, that’s a big city issue’ but actually we’re seeing the same issues in Timaru as well.”

“It was awesome to see the positive feel that people had about this place .. but the issues raised, none of them were really surprising.

“You can be tempted to go ‘oh, that’s an Auckland issue’ or ‘oh, that’s a big city issue’ but actually we’re seeing the same issues in Timaru as well.”

Even within the two years she and her husband, fellow Salvation Army officer Jacob Howan, had lived in Timaru it seemed the town had experienced a rapid growth in diversity.

“[The challenge is] how do we come together as one community, instead of being several different communities living in one town?”

The number of people coming in to seek help with addiction had been rising but “very few” people had only one substance they were addicted to.

“Which makes it more difficult to help people through that.”

Mr Howan said some clients were people who had “just got to that point in their life” where enough was enough and they decided to seek help, but others were referred by other service providers.

Also, growing numbers of parents, siblings and partners of people with addiction problems were coming in to find out how they could help their loved ones, he said.

Presbyterian Support South Canterbury Family Works manager Liz Nolan

Presbyterian Support South Canterbury Family Works manager Liz Nolan said she supported the comments in the Salvation Army report.

“It’s not just the person with the addiction that’s affected.”

“I believe that it reflects the social issues here in Timaru and the wider South Canterbury community.”

Anglican Advocacy Social Justice advocate Ruth Swale said the inequality mentioned in the report – around homelessness, house prices and poverty – often came as a surprise to many people in Timaru.

“I have sometimes been startled by remarks that well-meaning people have made to me when I’ve drawn attention to levels of deprivation in parts of Timaru: ‘Are there people living in poverty here?'”

She “found it hard” to understand how inequality was invisible to such people.

Anglican Care social justice advocate Ruth Swale

“I’d like to find ways to raise awareness in a positive way, that would make everyone question why there is this social division, and to recognise the need to change things for the better.”

Her advocacy workload was “quite steady”, and consisted mainly of supporting people with employment and Work and Income issues.

Timaru’s increased diversity was good for the town, but newcomers were not always made to feel welcome.

“Timaru can be a very welcoming place for people of other ethnic groups, but sadly newcomers can also experience the complete opposite of that, with some nasty racist attitudes present here, too.”