A family in search of shelter

 Christmas letter from Robina Rafferty MBE, director of the Catholic Housing Aid Service Dear Friends As Christmas approaches, we remember the circumstances of Jesus' birth, and imagine the desperation felt by Mary and Joseph as they searched for shelter. The threat of homelessness is terrifying for anyone, but it is even more so when you have children to care for and a baby on the way, as in the case I want to tell you about. Grace and John Fallon already had two delightful little girls, Lucy and Beth, aged ten and eight, and were expecting their third child. They also cared for Michael, John's brother, who suffered from mental health problems and was completely dependent on his brother and sister-in-law. He needed a lot of care, making it very difficult for John to get regular work to support his family. When they came to CHAS, just before last Christmas, the family was under enormous strain. Grace was six months pregnant, their home was in a state of serious disrepair, jeopardising the family's health, they were in debt and they were about to be evicted. Their problems were largely due to long delays in processing their housing benefit. Furthermore, no one had explained to them that they were entitled to a carer's allowance to help them to look after Michael. Like so many of our clients, they were confused and frustrated by having to deal with several different local authority and social services departments, and simply could not get co-ordinated advice. As you know, CHAS doesn't just address the most obvious problem. We find out what is at the very root of our clients' difficulties because we know that if we deal with the cause, we will find a lasting solution. Sometimes that can take many months of hard work, but in the end our clients have secure homes and have regained their dignity and independence. That is why professionals, like the Fallons' barrister, who know and respect our expertise, advise their clients to come to CHAS. As soon as Grace and John contacted us, Stuart, one of our advisers, immediately intervened on their behalf and persuaded the local housing department to suspend the eviction order. This was achieved because we undertook to provide the family with financial advice and support to help them overcome their problems. Stuart then negotiated with the local authority to pay the housing benefit to which the family was entitled, and helped Grace and John to apply for a carer's allowance. Furthermore, we finally managed to persuade the local authority to carry out much-needed repairs on the family's home, making it a safer and healthier environment in which to raise young children. Stuart was particularly concerned about the effect the family's circumstances were having on the children, causing feelings of exclusion and helplessness. Lucy, for instance, was the only child in her class who was unable to go on a school trip - her parents simply could not afford it. Thanks to you, our generous supporters, we were able to pay for the trip out of our Welfare Fund. Lucy had a wonderful time with her school friends and the fact that she was no longer the odd one out has greatly boosted her confidence. She and Beth are very proud of their baby brother, Paul. As is often the case, Stuart has become a great friend to the family, continuing to support and advise them in their financial planning, and he will go on doing so until he is certain that they are secure. We could not provide our service to those who depend on us without your generous support. At this CHAS office alone, around 500 of the cases dealt with each year involve children - helpless victims of circumstance. By taking a holistic view, we empower families to take control of their lives and provide a stable home for their children. On behalf of all our clients, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all you do, and we hope that you will be able to continue to support our work. All the staff at CHAS wish you a very happy Christmas and a joyful New Year. With every blessing Yours sincerely Robina Rafferty MBE Director

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