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Home at Last

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How your gifts sheltered Coleen and her three grandchildren last Christmas, and this Christmas helped them to find a home of their own.

LAST year, Coleen spent a big part of her holidays on the phone with local housing agencies. She would call almost every day, but they rarely had any good news for her or an update. “Sometimes they would tell me I was second on the list for affordable housing,” she says, “and I would call a couple days later and hear that there were ten people ahead of me now. It was very frustrating.”

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kids-for-webColeen’s grandchildren playing outside their home after she secured rent-to-geared outcome.

Coleen was staying at Mission Services’ Inasmuch House, a shelter for women who are homeless or abused, and had her three small grandchildren in tow. Coleen’s daughter, their mother, left them for long periods of time, giving Coleen no choice but to stay home and watch her grandchildren. At that point, the youngest was just one year old. “Eventually I had to quit my job because I just couldn’t go in and leave them alone.”
With barely any income, Coleen fell behind on her rent and soon had to leave the single-family home she had lived in for years. Then, like many women in our city who become homeless and can’t find a shelter with available beds, she moved into a motel downtown. “It was tiny, and not a place to try raising children.”

like many women in our city who become homeless and can’t find a shelter with available beds, she moved into a motel downtown. “It was tiny, and not a place to try raising children.”

Coleen was extremely grateful when Inasmuch House called her a few weeks later to offer her a room. “The kids loved Inasmuch House,” she recalls. “There were always other children to play with and the food was wonderful.”
“Spending Christmas at the shelter was a unique experience,” Coleen continues. “We ate turkey until we couldn’t imagine eating any more, the staff made everyone their own stocking, and the gifts were overwhelming. I sure can’t compete with the Santa Claus at Inasmuch House!” she says with a laugh.

“We ate turkey until we couldn’t imagine eating any more … and the gifts were overwhelming. I sure can’t compete with the Santa Claus at Inasmuch House!”

Coleen worked hard to find housing that Christmas. The shelter staff helped her with her search and filled out her applications for city housing. While her grand-kids loved the friends they had made at the shelter, Coleen was anxious to find a place of her own again. “It’s nice to have someone cook your meals, and it was eye-opening getting to know some of the other women. Their stories are all unique. I remember one woman I got to know took off her burka after she felt comfortable around the other women in the shelter. For me, that was pretty special.”
She continues: “Making a donation to Inasmuch House is really worth it. A lot of women show up at the shelter with just one small bag of belongings. That’s all they have in the world.”

After a while, Coleen’s persistence paid off and she was accepted for geared-to-income housing with Hamilton City Housing. “I know I’m lucky to be here. Many rental places are in bidding wars nowadays. I’m so grateful to have a home of my own again.”

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Coleen plans to take care of her grandchildren for the foreseeable future. She knows this will set her back in terms of working and finding a long-term job. “I would really like to work, but they need me,” she says as her three grand-kids, all girls, play on the steps outside her home in the north end. “Maybe when the youngest starts school, I can take some college courses and find some good work. I would like to go to Mohawk College for a culinary program or something like that.”

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