Cold snap drives up need for help with food, heating bills

The recent cold snap is taking its toll on household budgets, prompting an increase in the number of people turning to the Salvation Army for help with food and oil bills. 

At the Salvation Army’s food bank in Sydney this week, Royce Madinsky was one of 30 people in the lineup.

“It seems that everyone I talk to is in the same position,” said Madinsky. “The thermometer’s up on high all the time and barely does it.” 

Kathleen Haines said she is struggling to cover her power bill while paying for food and rent.

“I’m in absolute shock — $1,255 for four months,” said Haines. “The last bill was $598 so it’s greater than my rent. So it presents a hardship.”

Royce Madinsky was visiting the Salvation Army food bank in Sydney to help offset the increase in his heating bills. (George Mortimer/CBC)

NicoleMacLean, community ministries co-ordinator for the Salvation Army in Sydney, said she sees a growing number of clients at the food bank this time of year. 

“I have a lot of people who call me who are out of oil, or show up here looking for food, because every cent they had just went on their oil bill or their power bill.”

The Salvation Army administers the Good Neighbour Energy Fund, which offers a maximum of $400 per applicant to help offset home-heating costs.  

The number of applicants is up by five per cent so far this year, from 1,142 households last year to 1,318 to date this winter.

The Salvation Army said 57 per cent of the applicants are from Cape Breton.

Kathleen Haines said her heating bill last month was more than her rent. (George Mortimer/CBC)

Those numbers are expected to increase by the time the program ends on April 30.

The provincial government and Nova Scotia Power pay into the fund.

The province is contributing up to $800,000. Nova Scotia Power is providing $150,000, according to Service Nova Scotia. 

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