PEOPLE across central Victoria are seeking food and financial support they have never needed before as the COVID-19 economic crisis hits jobs.
Relief agencies have reported a rise in the number of people asking for financial help and food relief in the past months.
Most believe it is just the beginning of the hardship to come.
The Bendigo Salvation Army has seen a growing number of clients, many of whom have never accessed its support before.
It comes as the organisation launches its annual Red Shield Appeal, which will take place online this year.
Bendigo Salvation Army Major Andrew Walker said normally between two and five per cent of the Bendigo Salvation Army's clients were new. Now the number is closer to 20 per cent, he said.
Mr Walker said the Salvation Army was just seeing the beginning of the financial strain caused by the coronavirus crisis.
He said there was an emerging need from people affected by coronavirus, while all the normal needs remained.
Mr Walker expected the situation would get worse in the coming months, as bills begin to roll in.
He said there could be quite a big demand in a few months when government support measures end, as many people the Salvation Army normally assisted were accessing these.
"It's still early days. The need is just starting to grow now, in recent weeks," Mr Walker said.
"What we're starting to see already is a greater number of new clients, people that have never accessed our service before.
"In a normal week, we'd usually see one or two people that have never accessed our service before. That number is now growing."
Mr Walker said most people seeking help were struggling to put food on the table, or pay bills, or rent.
Volunteers said Uniting Bendigo Emergency Relief has also seen more new clients, after a short lull. Many were still waiting on Centrelink payments.
Volunteer social worker Heidi said many clients were new, or had not used the service in the past five years.
She said about half the organisation's clients had not needed Centrelink benefits previously.
In Mount Alexander a number of agencies began a community pantry in April, after seeing an increase in people unable to meet their basic needs.
Central Victorian Primary Care Partnership was among the groups to establish the food bank.
Read more: Job numbers will get worse, Morrison warns
Prevention and Planning manager Emma Shannon said about 84 households were using the service. She said the group responded to the initial stage where people were losing their jobs.
"We predicted that the need would increase as time goes on. We're still thinking that will happen," Ms Shannon said.
"We know that once the government supports wind back before Christmas that there will be ongoing need for some people."
Mr Walker said the Salvation Army's Red Shield Appeal was more important than ever, as a lot of its income sources had dried up because of COVID-19 shutdowns.
The Salvation Army has set up a collection website, in lieu of the normal doorknocking and face-to-face collection.
Mr Walker said the organisation encouraged people to set themselves up as a fundraiser, or send the link to family, friends or work colleagues to encourage donation.
The money raised goes towards the Salvation Army's community support programs, such as emergency relief, food assistance and help for those experiencing homelessness.
Mr Walker encouraged anyone needing help to call the Bendigo Salvation Army, so it could connect them to services.
"A lot of people don't like asking to help, but it's almost like if your house burns down, you seek help," he said.
"This is a bit of more of an invisible emergency, but it's still an emergency."
Donate to the Red Shield Appeal online at: digitaldoorknock.salvationarmy.org.au/t/greater-bendigo-salvos
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