Homelessness is a serious issue that was always close to my Mum’s heart. Her Father developed a serious addiction to alcohol in her early childhood, one which led to the breakdown of his relationship with both his wife and children. My Mum, Uncle and Grandmother experienced the feeling of unsettlement over a long period of time in their lives, as they frequently had to move house to escape my Grandfather and his violent outbreaks. He would often find out where they lived, empty the contents of their house and sell their belongings to fuel his addiction.
I can still vividly remember the look on my Mum’s face when she often told me the story of how he robbed their house of all their Christmas presents, that my Grandmother had worked and saved tirelessly to buy, on Christmas Eve. My Mum, even as a grown woman, would often cry when she recalled waking up on Christmas day in a bitterly cold house with no presents, and looking out of the window to see all of the other children playing with their toys.
Despite all the pain my Grandfather had caused her, my Mum never held any anger or resentment towards her Father, only sadness. She recognised his addiction as an illness, one which ultimately led to a life on the streets as he could not function with routine or structure. Despite my Mum trying to reach out to him many times, he refused shelter and help. Instead, he chose to spend his life roaming and, many years later, was found dead outside a church in the depths of winter.
My Mum lost her own life in 2012 after a battle with cancer. Even in her weakest, darkest moments she was still eager to tackle the issue of homelessness in any way she possibly could. She wished to volunteer at soup kitchens, although her health problems prevented this. However, as a talented and creative writer, she often used her Father’s struggles as the basis for her own stories, which she had hoped to publish in order to raise money for homeless charities before she passed away. As she often told me; every homeless individual has a story.
It is my wish to carry on my Mum’s legacy. Having always being brought up in a beautiful, loving home, I cannot imagine a life without the security of four walls and the warmth of my family around me, particularly at Christmas time. Last Christmas Eve, myself and my family made up food hampers for the homeless and delivered these around Manchester city centre.
When I qualified as a teacher, I was determined that I would raise as much awareness for homelessness with my students as possible. Working in a Catholic school provides the perfect platform for this; St. Monica’s Mission Statement is centred on charity and service to the community. When I asked my students if they would like to create some Christmas cards for homeless individuals in Manchester, they were thrilled at the opportunity. One boy in particular, without being prompted, wrote in his card ‘You always have Jesus’; a sentiment full of hope for many who are likely to need it at this time of year.
We hope you like the cards, and that they bring you some Christmas Cheer.
Miss Letcher, 7B and all the Staff and Students at St. Monica’s R.C. High School.