Devastated, Felicity stared at the smouldering embers of her family home. All her possessions, her memories and her security had burnt to the ground – she had nothing left and nowhere to go.
She sat alone; thankful that her children hadn’t been home as the bedrooms filled with smoke and the life she’d created burned to the ground. How could this have happened to her, after all she’d been through? What was she going to do?
For more than 15 years, Felicity had felt the pressures and struggles of being a single parent. She had done everything to provide for her children… and now it had all turned to ashes.
“By the time the smoke alarm woke me up, my bedroom was starting to fill with smoke,” Felicity remembers. “I had no time to grab any of my things. We lost all our possessions. We had nothing.”
Overnight, Felicity was homeless, vulnerable, and empty-handed, with three children to care for. It was a nightmare come to life. Increasing numbers of families in our community are doing it tough like Felicity. On any given night, over 100,000 Australians are homeless – including over 44,000 children and young people.
Felicity was put in touch with Uniting and, only a few hours after she’d run from her burning bedroom, our team had arranged emergency accommodation for her and her teenage children. Uniting supported Felicity in transitional housing, providing food parcels, vouchers and essential personal items to the family.
“I don’t even remember who called Uniting, but I know they were a Godsend,” she recalls.
After a few weeks, Felicity made the difficult decision to send her children to live with her parents while she continued the hunt for a new family home. Little did Felicity know, the devastating house fire was just the beginning of her battle. Now separated from her children, alone and traumatised from the fire, her mental health started to spiral.
“I think that was my lowest point. I didn’t have my children with me and I was living in a garage with next to no belongings. There were days where I couldn’t get out of bed and I wanted it all to end.”
After months of dark days, Felicity finally secured a safe home for her family. Uniting assisted with moving costs as they settled into their new house and began a new chapter in their lives. And Felicity did all she could to embrace the fresh start. For almost four years, she worked to keep her family afloat. But nothing seemed to help. No matter what she did, she felt her family slipping back into crisis.
She lost her job, she lost confidence and, eventually, she lost hope.
Once again, the trauma of the fire resurfaced and it felt like all she’d worked for was burning to the ground around her. Her self-worth hit rock bottom as her son succumbed to alcohol and drug addiction and became increasingly violent.
After years of striving for a positive fresh start, Felicity felt her life was out of control. Felicity felt like a failure. Racked with guilt that she couldn’t save her family on her own, Felicity was reluctant to ask for help again.
“I know there were people out there in worse situations than me. People that need help more than me. I felt like I’d failed myself and I’d failed my children.”
At risk of losing her home for the second time, Felicity gathered her courage, reconnected with Uniting and accepted the help she so desperately needed.
“I wouldn’t be here without Uniting. And that’s not an exaggeration. They saved my life.”
Felicity was relieved to not have to find a new home, but she knew she still had a long way to go before she’d be able to cope on her own. Uniting was there to help her get back on her feet and excited for a brighter future.
“[Uniting] has been able to support me in so many ways. With housing, food and helping me to access support for my mental health.”
Felicity was connected with a Uniting support worker, Maree*, and found a listening ear and help in her in times of need. With Maree’s support, Felicity found the strength she needed to keep going. When her mental health meant she could no longer work, Uniting linked her with a local GP to develop a mental health plan and supported her through the complexities of Centrelink.
“Having someone to sit and listen to what I was going through made such a big difference,” she said.
Now, with the support of Uniting and her psychologist, Felicity can happily say she’s experiencing good mental health. Even better, she has reconnected with her son, who has undergone drug and alcohol treatment, and says she’s “in a really good place for the first time in a long time”.
Felicity is making the most of this positive new chapter by making plans to re-enter the workforce. She is looking at studying accountancy and is excited for her future career options. “I’m only 51, so I’ve got another 15 or 20 years of work left in me,” she said.
Asking for help was one of the hardest things Felicity ever had to do. “No-one wants to admit they need help. But sometimes you have to swallow your pride and accept it.”
That simple step of reaching out has changed Felicity’s life for the better. With compassionate people like you by her side, she has taken charge of her life.
“Thanks to the support of Uniting, I’m feeling more happy and confident in myself.”
Together, we can build hope out of the ashes.
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**This is a true story about a real person. Some details such as names and locations have been changed to respect the wishes of the person whose story and image are featured.