An unprecedented growth in the number of Maitland people facing domestic violence and struggling with the cost of living, has resulted in the St Vincent de Paul Society opening a hardship hub in the city.
The centralised hub in High Street will meet the growing demand, not only from Maitland people but from residents from across the Hunter, who are crying out for assistance to be safe and to make ends meet.
Over the past six months Vinnies Maitland and Newcastle saw more than 12,000 people seek assistance for help to pay bills, feed their families and find a safe place to live.
The hub also provides referrals to local services, counselling and and has case workers on hand.
St Vincent de Paul Society NSW CEO Yolanda Saiz said Maitland and Newcastle members of Vinnies have distributed $900,000 in financial and material assistance in the past six months.
"The larger space that the new hub provides will enable our volunteers to deliver an improved experience to the people we assist, along with offering additional services," she said.
St Vincent de Paul Society member Helen Belcher has been a volunteer for the past 20 years and said she has seen first-hand how strong the need was for the Maitland hub.
"Before this new hub, the office operated out of the Vinnies shop which wasn't ideal for clients and we would often get over-run," she said.
From the cost of living crisis to domestic violence, Ms Belcher said they are seeing an obvious increase in the demand for services.
"We've got a group of people that we've always seen but now we're seeing people that may not have ever approached before," she said.
In fact there has been a 27 per cent increase in the Maitland area for people using Vinnies services for the first time, according to St Vincent de Paul Society NSW Regional Director Clare Van Doorn.
"Statewide it's about 22 percent and the Maitland area is sitting at 27 per cent, that's a big jump," she said.
Residents doing it tough can now access support at the hub, which is serving as a base for the society's work in the Lower Hunter, including Maitland, Rutherford, Dungog and East Maitland.
Ms Belcher said one of the great advantages of the hub is its location on High Street.
"It's on the street and it's easily accessible for people," she said.
"We're here to give people not a hand out but a hand up and help provide them with services and offer support."
Ms Van Doorn said the hub will serve as a one-stop space for people to come when they're in moments of crisis.
"Maitland is one of the highest areas of demand," she said.
Even though there's a lot of development in the Maitland area, Ms Van Doorn said they're seeing a lot of mortgage stress and people not being able to put food on the table.
"Medical costs are also a factor, including the cost of getting to appointments and the cost of specialist appointments," she said.
"People are not going to the doctors purely because they can't afford it."
Food is one of the key services that Vinnies provide, however Ms Van Doorn said they never say no to helping.
"If it's not a physical food voucher then there's always a referral pathway," she said.
The service was blessed by Bishop Micheal Kennedy at a grand opening event on Wednesday, with a crowd of more than 50 people in attendance.
Ms Van Doorn said the Maitland hub is a tribute to the hardworking members, volunteers and staff.
The hub is also a tribute to Maitland resident and long-time Vinnies member John Cootes who made a generous donation by the Cootes Family Foundation.
The Maitland hub is located at 437 High Street and will be open Monday to Friday. To get in contact, call (02) 4961 6885.