A SERVICE which is helping homeless people and those with financial difficulties in Monash is struggling to meet the increasing demand.

More and more people are turning to SHIFT – Supporting Homeless Individuals and Families in Transition – based in Mt Waverley, for counselling and financial support.

SHIFT, established seven years ago by the Wheelers Hill Family Centre as an agency auspiced by the Uniting Church, is funded by Monash council and the Federal Department of Family and Community Services.

At any one time, five workers provide support to 35 clients, either families or singles, who are homeless.

Team leader Leigh Woolcock said this included emergency relief as well as access to its a primary program.

Ms Woolcock said SHIFT offered emergency relief to people living in Glen Waverley, Mt Waverley and Mulgrave.

“We provide assistance to low-income families, primarily towards payment of overdue utility bills,” she said.

Ms Woolcock said January was a particularly busy period with SHIFT helping 28 clients – which was more than previous years.

“There has been a dramatic increase in assistance for back to school costs. This year we have a much higher demand … we can’t cope with the demand at the moment,” she said.

“People sending their kids to Year 7 are looking at around $800-900 to send them to school, including school uniforms, bags, books and so on.”

SHIFT workers also help up to 25 homeless families and singles living in Monash, Knox and Yarra Ranges.

Ms Woolcock said SHIFT was constantly turning people away who were seeking temporary housing.

“Some people are waiting 12 months to two years for permanent housing … there are a lot of people we just can’t help,” she said.

“We are turning away three out of four families and it’s not to say they are not in high need.”

Ms Woolcock said counsellors dealt with issues which contributed to or resulted from homelessness. “We are dealing with drugs and alcohol, people escaping from abuse and domestic violence, gambling and health issues,” she said.