Kristy knows how important The Salvation Army’s support can be to turn around a life, because she experienced it firsthand at Christmas.
Six years ago, Kristy was at rock bottom – struggling with ice addiction and separated from her family. However, her life has turned around and she says it’s because of the good news that there is always hope, even in the darkest times.
Today Kristy is a support worker at The Salvation Army’s ‘The Beacon’ (WA) service helping men, women and couples facing homelessness.
She is passionate about her role and says, “I know it works when somebody cares about you and believes in you – they actually give you a chance to be able to change your life and shine.”
Kristy grew up comfortably, with loving parents and no childhood trauma, but says school was not easy. She doesn’t use it as an excuse, but believes her drug use may have started because she felt very unpopular, highly isolated and regularly bullied at school.
When she began to hang around with others in the drug scene, she says she finally felt accepted.
In the years that followed, Kristy became deeply addicted to ice. She went through periods of severe family and domestic violence and homelessness. She lost custody of her children and spent time in prison.
“I was lost, I was broken. I tried to stop (in addiction) but I couldn’t. I needed someone to simply believe in me when I stopped believing in myself,” she says.
After being released from prison, Kristy was offered support through The Salvation Army’s Graceville (which supports women who need assistance following family and domestic violence incidents or are homeless due to such incidents).
“I arrived at Graceville and from the moment I entered the service I felt a kindness and warmth that was so unexpected from the caseworkers who I will never forget,” she says. “I remember thinking if there is a heaven, this must (be what it is) like.”
Kristy was determined to turn her life around, but says: “I cannot thank the Salvos enough for supporting me until I was strong enough to stand on my own … I wanted to change not only for my kids but for me as well. I started to attend programs The Salvation Army had to offer.”
Kristy worked through The Salvation Army Positive Lifestyle Program and she began to see a psychologist through the service. Her caseworker helped her with a referral to the women’s legal service and attended the family court with Kristy.
She says: “I also began to implement some weekly activities which helped change me from the inside out (and) I began to attend church …”
During this time Kristy also began to re-build bridges with her family, she was helped into secure accommodation and was reunited with her children. The Salvation Army supported Kristy and her children over Christmas for the next few years, until they were back on their feet.
She was later offered 120 hours of work placement after she finished her Certificate IV in Community Services and then successfully applied for a support worker role.
Looking back to 2015, Kristy says: “I met my new caseworker Kate when she came to the refuge to sign me up for my new house. She had also told me that she was able to help me out with furniture. She had organised for me to go to the (local) Salvos Store and pick furniture out for my home.
“It was less than a month until Christmas and I started to worry about Christmas presents, but, yet again I was blessed by The Salvation Army. Kate put me on the list for Christmas presents and a food hamper.
“The generosity of the people who donate gifts to The Salvation Army is amazing and the smiles on my kids’ faces when they saw the presents under the tree, brought me to tears.
“I was able to select presents from the Salvos and have food on the table … They had given me a supermarket voucher, so I was able to get a roast and have a nice cooked meal with the kids for the first time in years.”
Kristy now also has a deep Christian faith. She says: “It makes me teary to think about it, because Jesus saved my life and Christmas is when we celebrate his birth. Not only does Christmas have the whole aspect of being together with the kids as a family, and is special for the kids because they have their mum back, but it is also really all about thanks and appreciation for Jesus.”
Kristy says her faith has been as crucial as the support of others.
“I asked God for his help and he has given it to me. By his grace I have been saved. It is all undeserved and I know that I love him so much. I wanted to change, I have always loved my kids, but I couldn’t do it on my own. I opened my heart to Jesus and he has changed my life so much,” she says.
“To come from being rejected to being accepted is an amazing feeling and one I will never forget (and) I now have a purpose in life, for which I am eternally grateful.”
The message of Christmas – Christ coming to the earth as a newborn baby – is good news. It is a message of joy because it means we are not alone. It means God is there for us, to journey with us, to guide us through every step, challenge and celebration.