Every day Geoff Pitt sees people on the age pension struggling to make ends meet.
The president of the Ballarat City Senior Citizens only has $50 to spare at the end of the fortnight, after paying rent, bills, fuel and food.
But Mr Pitt says he is one of the lucky ones.
The 69-year-old has joined a campaign to raise the age pension and is also calling on the federal government to increase Newstart and the Youth Allowance.
Salvation Army Ballarat has been collecting signatures for a petition to #kickstartnewstart throughout Anti-Poverty Week.
Newstart really is a very insufficient safety net for people.John Clonan, Salvation Army Ballarat
Most single people without children on Newstart receive $273 per week, or $39 per day.
Buying the basics like housing, food, transport, health, energy, and clothing costs a single person a minimum of $433 per week, according to University of New South Wales research.
Salvation Army Ballarat community expansion aid Charlie Sam says she hears the stories of those struggling to live on a Newstart allowance every day.
“Affordable housing is the biggest problem for our clients, which means they are frequently asking for our help with food,” she said.
“One family was kicked out of their rental. They had three months to look for another house. Both parents were unemployed and they had two children under five. They were showing up to rentals where there were another 16 people going for the same property and competing with people who don’t have kids and have jobs. In that three month period they began planning for homelessness.”
The Newstart allowance has not increased in real terms in 24 years, but the cost of living has drastically increased.
More than 647,000 people receive the single rate of Newstart and Youth Allowance in Australia.
More than half of the people on the Newstart allowance live below the poverty line, according to the Australian Council of Social Service.
Salvation Army Ballarat team leader John Clonan said a lack of affordable housing in Ballarat, particularly one and two bedroom units, was putting pressure on welfare organisations.
Rental vacancy rates have dropped below one per cent in Ballarat in recent months.
“Newstart really is a very insufficient safety net for people,” Mr Clonan said.
“The last thing people buy is food because they have to meet other day to day living costs of housing and basic utilities. We have had a consistent number of people present to us for food assistance this year.”
More than 12 per cent of people in Ballarat are food insecure.
A survey of 100 clients in Ballarat accessing charitable food relief found 72 per cent had gone one to two days without eating in the past week.
Salvation Army Ballarat is supporting the Australian Council of Social Service’s call for Newstart and related payments to raise by $75 per week.
Those interested in signing the #kickstartnewstart petition can visit the Salvation Army Ballarat Community Church on Friday.
The petition and a letter will be presented to City of Ballarat and the federal government.
The Salvation Army Ballarat Community Church will host an Information Exchange on Friday from 10.30am to 12.30pm. Welfare organisations including Centacare, Berry Street and Headspace will provide information to the community at the event.