It has been the coldest start to winter in over a hundred years.

Adelaide’s disadvantaged and homeless are facing a long, hard and frosty winter season.

Those who do have a roof over their head can’t catch a break. Soaring energy bills, record fuel costs and rising food prices make the never-ending battle to put food on the table harder every day.

More and more people are reaching out to UnitingSA for help as they struggle to make ends meet, are pushed out on to the streets or into unsafe living arrangements.

For Adelaide’s homeless, like John, the challenges of living on the street become even harder with the cold. It’s impossible to keep warm. It’s hard to find a hot meal. And they don’t know where to turn.

John has been living in his car since a back injury a few years ago changed his life irrevocably. In what seemed like an instant, he could no longer find work. His signwriting business of 15 years went bust, and he couldn’t make the repayments on his home. He’d exhausted all his savings and, as an older Australian at retirement age, he couldn’t find anyone to lend him money.

The bank repossessed his home and John found himself on the street.

“Within three months, my health really deteriorated,” John said.

“I wanted to get better, but things just got worse.

“I had absolutely no money. I could not afford rent.”

With sleep apnoea – so common in older males – John usually slept with a CPAP machine. But forced to sleep in his car, John had no access to electricity.

He has spent every night sleeping upright in the front seat of his car in order to keep his airways open.

His ordeal worsened when he developed diabetes. He was also diagnosed with a hereditary blood disorder called Thalassaemia, which made his diabetes difficult to monitor.

And then, COVID-19 forced the world into shutdown.

Already isolated from friends and family, COVID-19 meant John was further separated from his community. He couldn’t even use the barbecue where he parked.

But still, John – a well-spoken, hard-working, honest man – battled on.

He saw families living on the street as well as single parents, kids and couples.

He once met a mum with a severely disabled, adult son living in their car.

“She was the only one that brought a tear to my eye,” John said.

“It was terrible.”

Violence was everywhere. John was once held at knifepoint while he was trying to wash his few clothes. He faced constant danger.

“You are living in such bad conditions. But I really couldn’t do anything about it.”

Two years in, John reached out for help. He called UnitingSA’s Western Adelaide Homelessness Services, who gave him a grocery voucher and accommodation in a motel. He was able to ‘lie down straight’ and have some respite from the street.

During this time, our Homelessness Services team helped John make it through with hot meals, kind words and access to medical services, such as dentistry.

They also gave him petrol cards to enable him to get to medical appointments.

In early June this year, as an arctic blast of cold hit South Australia, UnitingSA was finally able to find John a public housing unit in the strained rental market.

He is so grateful for this help but, even as he begins to rebuild his life with a roof over his head, he’s already worried about how he is going to afford rent, keep the lights on and feed himself.

The rising cost of living is going to stretch his pension to the limit.

And he knows his new neighbours are all facing the same struggles.

The first night he moved in, as he stood outside to take in his surroundings, he noticed that all the other units were in darkness.

“I know there are people living in every one of them. But no one has their lights on,” he said.

“Because they are all afraid it will raise their electricity bill.”

Thousands of South Australians share this experience.

John is just one of thousands who find themselves homeless through no fault of their own.

Our Western Adelaide Homelessness Services usually support about 1,500 people every year – but we’ve seen the need for assistance increase threefold for families this year.

With rental vacancy rates in metropolitan Adelaide as low as 0.3 per cent, they often have no choice.

Our Emergency Relief services are also seeing an unprecedented number of individuals and families walk through their doors seeking support.

Their supply of non-perishable food items often runs dry. Even with all of the generous in-kind donations received, our stock never seems to keep up with increasing demand.


We are seeking urgent monetary donations, from as little as $5, to help us purchase items of critical need.

Your kind donation, no matter how big or small, will not only provide practical relief but also give hope to some of the 130,000 South Australians living in poverty.

Your gift of:

  • $20 will provide a warm meal or grocery voucher for a family in need
  • $50 will purchase a durable outdoor sleeping bag and warm blanket for someone sleeping rough
  • $75 will purchase a petrol voucher so that an individual or family doesn’t miss out on work, school or critical medical appointments
  • $100 will help us keep the heater on for someone struggling to pay the bills

Please donate today to help people like John focus on getting their life back on track.

Together we can make a real difference to the lives of those doing it tough.


There are many ways to make a tax-deductible donation to our campaign:

  • Make a secure donation online. You’re able to make a once-off donation or set up a regular, monthly donation to provide ongoing support.
  • Call our friendly team on: (08) 8440 2200
  • Send a cheque payable along with your contact details to: UnitingSA, PO Box 3032, Port Adelaide, SA 5015

Together, we can make a difference in the lives of those who need it most.

Thank you for your support of our 2022 Winter Appeal.