As we come to celebrate the miracle of the birth of Our Lord, we are called to remember that Jesus’ mother, Mary, was a homeless and pregnant teenager who was turned away from a safe place to give birth and that Jesus Himself was born homeless, poor and unwelcomed by His community.
A similar fate faces vulnerable young women in Western Sydney who are at risk of abuse, domestic violence and homelessness. Many have faced immense pressure during the COVID lockdown of the past few months.
When Lucy*, a young woman living in Western Sydney told her mother she was pregnant, she was told to leave her family home.
The baby’s father had become abusive and threatened Lucy when she told him that she wanted to keep their baby.
She had nowhere else to go.
Fortunately, Lucy was referred to a support service in the Diocese of Parramatta that embodies God’s unconditional love.
For more than 30 years, Houses to Homes, a service of CatholicCare Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains, has been empowering young mums-to-be and mothers with children to break the cycle of domestic violence and homelessness. A small and dedicated team provide transitional housing and emotional and practical support for homeless women.
“When we met Lucy, she was in a dishevelled state,” Houses to Homes Manager and Registered Nurse and Midwife, Louise Masters recalled. “She had managed to get a bit of work after the last lockdown started, but it wasn’t enough to cover rent, so she was sleeping in her car and staying a few nights here and there with friends.
“All Lucy had with her were some clothes and a TV. She has a mild disability, and was suffering from heightened trauma, which we came to learn was caused by neglect as a child.”
With health care, pregnancy and parenting support, as well as financial assistance, over time, Lucy developed essential parenting and independent living skills. By the time her baby boy, Matthew*, was born, she was able to create a safe family environment for them both.
“Very often, the young women have no family or friends to stay with, so finding them safe, affordable housing is our number one priority, along with making sure they feel safe and ensuring they have all the basic necessities and skills to care for a baby,” Louise explained.
“Over time, Lucy learnt how to create a daily routine for baby Matthew. After staying in one of our units and becoming increasingly confident, Lucy moved to one of our transitional properties. Once social housing was approved, Lucy and Matthew moved into a home of their own.
“There are still ups and downs, but we are continuing to support Lucy and she is doing extremely well. Matthew is blossoming.
“It’s a privilege to be there to see her evolve into quite a capable mum,” she said.
It takes time, love, dedication, faith and support to rebuild your life and leave violence behind, and as Christians, it is our duty to support brave women like Lucy.
Every year, more than 100 homeless women between the ages of 16 and 25, and their children, turn to CatholicCare’s Houses to Homes for shelter. The number of women turning to the service for help is increasing with the pandemic, putting an even greater strain on staff and resources.
In these challenging times, the most vulnerable members of our community need us more than ever.
With your support of Parramatta Catholic Foundation’s Bishop’s Christmas Appeal, pregnant and at-risk young mothers like Lucy can bring their baby into the world in a safe, nurturing and emotionally secure environment, setting them up for the very best start to their family life.
Your donation will help CatholicCare’s Houses to Homes to support vulnerable, at-risk young women and children who needs safe, affordable housing and parenting support.
Like Mary and Joseph, and their son Jesus Christ, who was born homeless and rejected, we can learn to recognise the same Christ who does not find welcome and hospitality on our shores, the same Christ who does not find a room in people’s hearts.
May the Christ child bless us and our loved ones this Christmas, and gives us His strength, peace and love in the New Year.
Will you please help CatholicCare’s Houses to Homes to support more young women like Lucy facing abuse, hardship and homelessness, and give them hope with a gift today? Please donate to the Bishop’s Christmas Appeal by visiting yourcatholicfoundation.org.au/bishops-christmas-outlook-appeal-21
*Names changed for privacy reasons