Hello my name is Melissa and my husband's name is Sean. We are a young couple in our early twenties. We have four children, two boys and two girls and we live in London. I have had problems with housing instability since sixteen years of age. Non-payment of rent, illegal borders, and illegal activities are some of the reasons for this.
Our first experience of homelessness was in December of 2006. Due to non-payment of rent, my family and I moved to a homeless shelter for families in London. Living in a shelter is extremely hard. You find yourself following rules you may have never had and listening to and feeling that you have to "answer" to staff. Six people living in one room is very tight and you have to try and get along with the other families. Your children's behaviours and attitudes quickly change.
Trying to concentrate on fixing your own life is all very hard and upsetting. My family was in shelter for seventy days, until we found housing. We are now a part of the Hostel to Homes pilot project, which I think is an excellent program because of the one to one action you can receive. It is very supporting.
The neighbourhood we moved to, which I have learned is one of the worst in
London, has group fights, drug use and distribution, and problematic neighbours.
My husband had some challenges with the use of crack and at one point was doing crime to feed his habit. Eventually he was caught and because the property he stole was found in my home I was charged too. My husband and I had huge fights due to his drug use and eventually one night it turned into a physical argument. All in one day, I felt like everything fell apart.
I had also tried to help someone else in the community but this backfired on me and I received an eviction notice for having a border I should not. Because of this I had a meeting with my community support worker and my Children's Aid worker (my husband was hiding the whole time in the attic as we had a non-association order in place due to his assault). My so-called "friend" went to my workers and told them a bunch of lies and I lost my mind and became angry. I had a problem with this individual's family members while in shelter and felt there would be consequences to my home and myself. My husband was arrested the same day and taken to jail for the assault on me.
My seven-year-old daughter said to my community support worker that if someone tried to hurt her mom again she was going to call 911. What an eye opener. My worker said this was enough and we needed to get away and return to shelter for safety reasons. Three weeks after staying in the shelter again and facing several behaviour issues with my boys, we returned to our unit and faced the same problems with the neighbourhood. At this point I was facing another eviction for "illegal activities" for what I have already described.
My husband had returned from jail (after a couple of months) and I am now proud to say he is receiving help for his addiction issues from Thames Valley Addiction Services. I am also happy to say that our application for a new place was accepted with the help of our workers. It is in a new area of London.
We now have been in our new place for four days. Huge differences. You can look out your window and not see people lingering around. No group fights. No kids out playing till eleven pm. No drug addicted pupils knocking on your door asking for a light. I am happy here. My children are happy here. I see a change in them in every way already and it has only been four days. The neighbourhood is clean and quiet and the kids are nicely behaved, rather than ignorant and trouble making.
I wish I could stay involved with these supports forever but eventually you have to grow up and do the right thing. Realize who is important and who is not. What's right from wrong. What needs to be paid, such as your rent and bills. It's all common sense. I hope for my sake and my family's we all stay on the right path with the right friends.
I hope this letter has given some input about what being homeless feels like and the impact it has on your life and your kids. Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you and for giving me the opportunity to open up.