COVID-19 Emergency Aid in Austria

by Caritas Austria
COVID-19 Emergency Aid in Austria
COVID-19 Emergency Aid in Austria
COVID-19 Emergency Aid in Austria
COVID-19 Emergency Aid in Austria
COVID-19 Emergency Aid in Austria
COVID-19 Emergency Aid in Austria
COVID-19 Emergency Aid in Austria
COVID-19 Emergency Aid in Austria
House Elisabeth Food Distribution (c)Caritas Sbg
House Elisabeth Food Distribution (c)Caritas Sbg

Poverty has arrived in the middle of society. The story of Leo (name changed to protect client’s privacy) shows how much Corona has changed people’s life’s. When you meet Leo at House Elisabeth in Salzburg, it doesn't take long for him to talk about his great love: the theatre. Even as a child he was a statist at the world famous Salzburg Festival, and after his studies (music and Italian communication studies) he worked in Vienna, Graz and Salzburg. "The beauty of the theatre is the diversity, that you can also learn something about history through the plays and work together with so many different people on- and offstage," says the 55-year-old enthusiastically. 

The first time experiencing poverty

Leo never thought it would happen to him: Poverty. "I was employed by the Landestheater in Salzburg and at the State Opera in Vienna, was insured, went to the coffee house. And now I'm going here to get a warm meal," says Leo. In recent years, he has worked as a freelance artistic director and assistant director. Due to the repeated lockdowns during the pandemic, he lost all of his assignments. For several years, Leo has lived in a Garconniere which his grandfather had given him. Otherwise, without an income, he would probably be living on the street.

Social counselling centre: Help when nothing else works

Soon his savings were exhausted and the AMS (Labor Market Service) stopped payments because he couldn't get enough job applications together. "For example, I applied to be a museum supervisor but I wasn't accepted because I was overqualified," Leo says. When he didn't even know how he was going to afford food, he turned to Caritas. Here he was given a few hundred Euros to make ends meet for the next few weeks.

During social counselling, Leo also learned about House Elisabeth, a day centre with social counselling, which also offers a winter emergency sleeping accommodation for women. There, people who find themselves in emergency situations receive a warm meal, can chat with others during the day, play games, or simply relax and get some peace and quiet. At the beginning it was difficult for Leo to come here, since he had never needed help before. But he is grateful that he gets warm meals here and can exchange with others. “To chat with the two fellows at the meal distribution is very refreshing. They bring such a coolness and are very professional at the same time."

The biggest dream: Working again

Soon, however, Leo would like to return to a normal everyday life. "At the moment it feels like being retired, only without money," he says, "Yet I still want to work for a long time. As long as I am mentally and physically fit." His greatest wish would be to have a fixed commitment again and to finally get back on his feet.

CS_Food package distribution_ (c)Reiner_Riedler
CS_Food package distribution_ (c)Reiner_Riedler
Food packages_(c)Caritas Salzburg
Food packages_(c)Caritas Salzburg
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Volunteers at Caritas Salzburg
Volunteers at Caritas Salzburg

Covid-19 increases the number of people in need

"The phrase 'the crisis is over' is still not appropriate. Not from an epidemiological point of view and also not when it comes to the social consequences of the pandemic. In Austria, 1.22 million people are at risk of poverty," warned Caritas Austria President Michael Landau at the beginning of November 2021. The Corona crisis has brought new groups of people into precarious situations. One third of those currently seeking help in the Caritas social counselling centers have never made use of Caritas support in their lives before.

This becomes particularly clear during the cold season. Prices rise while incomes fall due to the Covid-19 pandemic. More and more people in Austria have to choose between a warm apartment and food at the end of the month - in one of the richest countries in the world. For those who can no longer make ends meet on their own, there are 56 Caritas social counselling centers throughout Austria that offer quick and unbureaucratic help. More than 62,000 people in Austria were supported in Caritas social counselling centers in 2020.

More than 70 tons of food distributed

To support people that were no longer able to put food on the table and to prevent children to have to go to bed hungry Caritas distributed food packages and food vouchers in Austria – above all Caritas Salzburg. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis in Austria, Caritas Salzburg distributed more than 5,000 food packages totalling more than 70 tons of goods for people in need. How important this support is can been seen in the gratitude of those affected. As one single mother wrote: “I would like to say thank you again for the food package. I am a single mom with two kids. My youngest is autistic and has care level 3. Even though I go to work there is not much left at the end of the month.”

Since a new Austrian-wide lockdown came into effect at the beginning of this week, food packages are currently being put together again. For all those who need support in the current situation: Minimum pensioners, large families, single parents, homeless people, people with disabilities and those who had never thought they have to turn to Caritas for support in their lives. Thanks to the help of dedicated volunteers, corporate partners and generous donors like you Caritas is able to support these people in an extraordinary time of hardship.

Food packages by Caritas Salzburg
Food packages by Caritas Salzburg
Food package distribution by Caritas Salzburg
Food package distribution by Caritas Salzburg

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Manuela received COVID-19 emergency aid by Caritas
Manuela received COVID-19 emergency aid by Caritas

“Things have never been as bad for me as they are now”

When Austria came to a sudden standstill in March 2020, many people in the country found themselves in emergency situations. Manuela, a single mother from Salzburg, was also desperate - until she turned to Caritas.

Manuela had been working throughout her life – first as a hairdresser and then in tourism for many years. Before the first lockdown, the single mother of a daughter had two part-time jobs – as a waitress in a guesthouse in the morning, and in a ski lodge in the evening. She was making a good living and had no financial worries. The lockdown, however, changed everything. The guesthouse and the ski lodge had to close, and Manuela lost both of her jobs from one day to the next.

“Things have never been as bad for me as they are now. I’ve been unemployed since the end of August 2020, and meanwhile I’m receiving emergency assistance. Not only is my salary missing, but of course also the tips, which make up a large part of my earnings. The alimony for my daughter comes in only irregularly. It’s demoralizing and stressful. I managed to pay the fixed costs, but then – in the dead of winter – my heating pump broke down and I just couldn’t afford to have it repaired.”

“This was the best day I’ve had in a long time”

The repair was not affordable with less than 1,000 euros a month that Manuela currently has at her disposal for herself and her daughter. So Manuela sought help from Caritas Salzburg: “This was the best day I’ve had in a long time. I received two food packages from Caritas and some financial support on top of that. That was such a relief. I was able to get my heating fixed with the money.”

Similar to so many people, Manuela would have never imagined getting into this kind of situation and having to ask for help: “I would never have believed that something like this could happen to me. My father supports me as much as he can. At one point, however, that was no longer possible. The best advice I can give to anyone is to overcome the shame and accept help.”

Today, Manuela looks forward to the future with cautious optimism. She has a promise for a job as soon as the restaurant can reopen: “I am a positive person, a fighter. But I hope this will be over soon.”

Corona emergency aid has prevented the worst for many

When it was announced in March 2020 that Austria would be "shut down" and only system-maintaining infrastructure would remain open, it quickly became clear to Caritas that we would have to greatly expand our assistance services for people in Austria - even for those who would never have expected to need Caritas assistance themselves:

  • Caritas set up the Corona emergency help hotline at the very beginning of the pandemic. People who are in acute financial crises and do not know how to pay the rent or make their next grocery purchase can call +43 05/1776-300 for rapid and unbureaucratic help and advice.
  • In Vienna, for example, additional emergency shelters for homeless people were set up, some of which were also open during the day during the lockdown.
  • Numerous emergency food distributions and home deliveries were organized. Emergency financial assistance for rents, electricity and heating costs was expanded.
  • In Upper Austria, around 1,260 adults and children received help in the form of cash and food assistance.
  • In Salzburg, 4,000 food parcels were distributed and 7,500 overnight stays in emergency sleeping facilities were made possible.

Even if the health crisis caused by Corona seems to be gradually over, the social and financial effects of the Corona crisis will continue to burden people for a long time - especially the most vulnerable in our society.

For those people who turn to Caritas' 53 social counseling centers, it's often about the most basic necessities: food, energy and rent costs. It's about being able to cope with childcare costs or being safe after a separation or domestic violence. It's about not looking away now, but continuing to stick together.

Thank you for your ongoing support for people in need in these challenging times.

4,000 food packages were distributed in Salzburg
4,000 food packages were distributed in Salzburg

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Food distribution (c)Caritas_Christian Leitner
Food distribution (c)Caritas_Christian Leitner

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, more and more people who never would have thought it possible have turned to Caritas. Corona has finally brought poverty to the center of society, says Michael Landau, President of Caritas Austria: "Many people who were able to provide for themselves well before the pandemic now fear for their livelihoods and are increasingly turning to Caritas for help. One million people are unemployed or on short-time work. We are experiencing a health crisis, but also an economic and social crisis, an educational and psychosocial crisis. We need to look at those who are having a particularly hard time now."

Unemployment and short-time work in particular are affecting many people, especially single parent households and large families. Two-thirds of the people visiting the Caritas social counseling centers are people with children, and a disproportionately large number of them are single parents, but also new self-employed people or one-person entrepreneurs. These are people whose incomes have been cut off by the crisis and who don't know how to pay rents or energy bills.

Direct support from Caritas in Austria

Most of Caritas’ Corona emergency aid is distributed through the 53 Austria-wide social counselling centers. They are the first point of contact for people affected by poverty, where they can receive concrete help in the form of financial assistance for covering rent or energy costs, support with the costs of schooling for their children, or, in a very pragmatic way, find out where the nearest Caritas food distribution point is. Additionally, in Upper Austria alone, around 1,260 adults and children received help in the form of cash and food assistance in 2020. In Salzburg, 4,000 food parcels (totalling 70tonns of food) were distributed and 7,500 additional overnight stays in emergency sleeping facilities were made possible. Further many Caritas emergency shelters for homeless people opened their doors 24 hours a day, providing a safe and protected place for people without shelter during the pandemic.

Our solidarity needs a long breath

"The health crisis of today must not become more and more the social crisis of tomorrow," appealed Caritas Austria and Caritas Europa President Michael Landau already in 2020. Looking at the increasing numbers of people contacting asking for Caritas support for the first time in their lives, that appeal still rings true.

The last twelve months have made it clear that our help requires a lot of patience and solidarity, because the virus and much more its consequences will keep us busy for even longer. We are not talking about days or weeks, but about months and years. We are not only talking about people who were already in crisis before the pandemic, but also about those who stood in the middle of society and are now facing new hardships.

I thank you for your support for people in need in these challenging times.

Food distribution (c)Caritas_Reiner Riedler
Food distribution (c)Caritas_Reiner Riedler
Food distribution2 (c)Caritas_Reiner Riedler
Food distribution2 (c)Caritas_Reiner Riedler

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Distribution of food packages (c)Christian Leitner
Distribution of food packages (c)Christian Leitner

Since March 2020, the Coronavirus and its health consequences have dominated everyday life in Austria. Since day 1 of the Corona crisis, we as Caritas have been working every day to ensure that the health crisis of today does not become the social crisis of tomorrow.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Austria were already affected by poverty before the corona crisis; the dramatic consequences of the pandemic, however, further increase the need. In our daily work, we increasingly encounter people who have never before been dependent on the help of Caritas, but now no longer know how to pay bills or put food on the table. Initial contacts in the Caritas social counselling centres (those people who turn to Caritas for the first time in their lives) have increased in a large part of Austria by about 40% compared to the same period last year – in Lower Austria it is even a 159% increase. This trend is alarming: the economic and social pressure increases significantly as the crisis continues and is already at the heart of our society.

Concrete help for the weaker members of our society
Most of Caritas’ Corona emergency aid is distributed through the 36 Austria-wide social counselling centers. They are the first point of contact for people affected by poverty, where they can receive concrete help in the form of financial assistance for covering rent or energy costs, support with the costs of schooling for their children, or, in a very pragmatic way, find out where the nearest Caritas food distribution point is. Between March and September 2020, around 30,500 people took advantage of this concrete help.

Those people who have already been affected by poverty before are of course particularly affected by the current corona crisis and its effects. Therefore the number of emergency sleeping places and day care centers has been increased enormously throughout Austria, so that even people without shelter have a safe place to stay during the pandemic that is spreading further and further. In Vienna alone, almost 80,000 overnight stays were registered between May and August 2020 (2019: 16,400 overnight stays).

Our solidarity needs a long breath
"The health crisis of today must not become more and more the social crisis of tomorrow," appeals Caritas Austria and Caritas Europa President Michael Landau. The last weeks have made it clear that our help requires a lot of patience because the virus and its consequences will keep us busy for even longer. We are not talking about days or weeks, but about months and years. We are not only talking about people who were already in crisis before the pandemic, but also about those who are now facing new hardships.

Thank you for your support for people in need in these challenging times.

Distribution of food packages (c)Christian Leitner
Distribution of food packages (c)Christian Leitner

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Caritas Austria

Location: Vienna - Austria
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Vienna, Vienna Austria
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