Escaping her violent partner was the hardest decision Amy* has ever been forced to make. But for own her safety and the safety of her three young children, Amy knew she had to leave.

With no money of her own or family around to support her, Amy's future was unknown. As hard as it was, fleeing her abusive relationship was the only option she had to give her beautiful children, Lily, 9, Aiden, 6 and Emma, 3 a safer home.

Every year, thousands of women and their children are forced into homelessness as a result of domestic violence. Tragically, one Australian woman is killed every week at the hands of her current or ex-partner*.

When Amy first left her partner, she used what money she had to secure a cheap rental property for the family. “It was meant to be our first step to a new life. But a few months later the unit was sold and we were evicted. I looked non-stop but couldn’t find anywhere else we could afford. We had absolutely nowhere to go and it was terrifying," she painfully recalls.

"It's hard to explain what it feels like to have three young children, no home and no money. I felt so hopeless and ashamed. I didn't know how things would ever get better."

With barely enough money for food, let alone a cheap motel room, the only option for Amy and her three young children was to sleep in their cramped car, with a cold, hungry winter ahead.

We had to park on a quiet street so that we were out of public view. Because we washed in the toilet block in a local park, the kids and I didn’t shower as much as we needed to. I constantly felt dirty. We were always stuck in that small space, with me thinking how I could make our groceries stretch.

Amy says she would wait until Lily, Aiden and little Emma were asleep and then let herself cry. She had hit rock bottom.

Alarmingly, this is a daily reality for thousands of Australians, forced into homelessness by sickness, job loss, the death of a loved one, mental illness, or domestic violence. Any combination of these problems can leave families unable to pay the rent and other bills and at risk of homelessness.

For Amy, hope of being able to provide a safe and secure home for her children had all but faded when a friend connected her with Mission Australia. This was the last night the family was forced to sleep in the car.

Mission Australia settled Amy and her children in crisis accommodation where they were able to live until a new home was found for them. Our social workers helped Amy start to build a new life by connecting her with the support she needed. This included a financial counsellor to help sort out her bills, and a childcare provider so she could go to TAFE and learn new skills to find a job. With this help, Amy began to get the confidence to stand for herself and support her children.

When Amy was told that a house had been found for her and the children, she almost couldn't believe it. "Those words took months of stress off my shoulders. I was so grateful. It was like I could finally breathe again."

With Mission Australia's help, Amy, Lily, Aiden and Emma now have a stable and independent life, free from the threat of violence. Lily and Aiden have settled into their new school. Amy has a part-time job and will begin studying next month. With a safe place to sleep every night, Amy can see a brighter future for her children.

*AIC, 2015

Independence is precious.

When lives like Amy's are disrupted, a helping hand is the first step towards supporting vulnerable people on the path to independence. You can help mothers like Amy by donating today.

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