Natalie and Jaime

Meet Natalie and Jaime

It was November 30th. I remember thinking “How could this be happening to us, and just before Christmas?” It was too much to bear. You always think that bad things only happen to other people…

We were just your average family; with a loving husband, four beautiful children, and a good job, homelessness was far from our minds. There’s no one way a family ends up homeless, and it’s never simple.

Our story started when we discovered that my youngest son, Jack had a severe physical disability. I started working part time to be home to care for him. Then one day Jaime lost his job at the steel company. That was really hard for us. Before long we were behind on our car payments, the bills started to pile up, and we couldn’t afford to pay our utilities, let alone our rent.

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That night in November is seared in my mind, the night the landlord told us we had to leave. We had nowhere to go. We packed up what little we had, put our furniture in storage and left. Christmas had always been our favourite time of the year – the lights, the smells, the carols. But leaving home last Christmas left me feeling sad and lost. Seeing happy people out enjoying the holidays… that time was the lowest in my life.

That’s where you, and the YW came in. Did you know there are only 4 Emergency Family shelter units in all of Niagara? If we weren’t able to move into one of them, we might have had to split apart. But because of the YW, we were able to stay together over the holidays – that was so important to us. I didn’t want my children to know that we were homeless, or feel different from other kids. I think throughout everything, the hardest part was not being able to give my children the Christmas we always used to have.

We were at the shelter for about 6 months. That’s how long it took us to find a house we could afford. Looking for affordable housing is like a full time job, but our advocate, Amanda was there for us for every step of the way. She helped us find resources that we didn’t know were available, like employment workshops for Jaime and other programming that helped us on individual goals and life skills. She worked with each of us – our children too – on our individual issues. And on Christmas morning, our kids woke up with a gift to open. Amanda told me that was from donors like you!

Today, Jaime is working full time. I’ve started a home daycare so I can care for Jack and save for any more bumps that may come along the way. The YW provided a safe place for us and our children to sleep at night, and with Amanda’s help we found a place of our own.  Our time at the shelter wasn’t easy, but gave us what we needed – an opportunity to overcome our individual struggles, and to grow as a family because of it.

Last Christmas the YW gave the greatest gift of all… the YW gave us HOPE.