A chance encounter, which never happened, with a young family…


I was walking to catch the bus around 7 pm and noticed an attractive young woman crossing the street. She had just got off a bus.

She had long hair in a top-knot, a tank top covered with a loose blouse; she wore cut-off jean shorts and new-looking Nikes. She pushed a nearly 2 year old girl, in small light weight stroller. Another girl – maybe 4 years old – ran along beside the stroller.

Both girls wore pink clothes and lilac coloured Crocs. Both girls were blonde and animated.

homeless    The 4 year old complained she didn’t want to walk – but the mother didn’t seem to pay attention. She ploughed ahead on the dusty and still hot street.

I watch as the family turned to enter the women’s shelter near by.

I began to realize this young woman, not yet 30 years old, had already suffered for years. Obviously she had left an abusive boyfriend or husband. Clearly, she no longer had a home. In the shelter, she probably had to share the same room with the girls. She had to comfort at least the older girl by telling her that everything would be okay. How does she explain that daddy is not in the picture right now.

Maybe the young mother has no job. If she has a job, maybe it’s only part-time, or maybe she’s a student. Money will be in short supply, as will the kindness of strangers. Even if she can enroll the older daughter in pre-primary in a few weeks’ time, what about the younger one who sits in the rickety stroller? There’s also the cost of after-school care, care on school holidays. Childcare for the younger girl will not come cheap.homeless2

There is a wait list for “second stage” housing in HRM. Where will the young family live; how long can they stay at the shelter? Will the mother be forced to return to her partner – because she has no option? Will she try to move in with her mother or a friend? How will she afford the first month’s rent and the security deposit required by virtually every landlord who has a rental apartment.

And there will be the endless rounds of appointments, with doctors, with social workers, with counselors, with day care staff, with legal aid – if she wants to split from her partner and get support money.  She will have to fend off the ex-partner, at least for a while.

There will be no such thing as relaxing; the mother has to be on alert. She always has to watch the children; make sure their clothes are clean and they get to sleep at night; hope they are not fussy about food. She will scramble to get enough money to pay the bill for her mobile phone, and to have bus fare. Not much time for relaxation…

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