Natalie was pregnant and she her partner Joel were homeless, destitute and had just extricated themselves from the depths of methamphetamine addictions when they first made contact with The Salvation Army.
The couple had had their three children taken into care, by Child Youth and Family (CYF), because of their addictions. After a period of living on the streets, and later in a tent, they reassessed their priorities.
No matter how great the effort, they would turn their lives around and be reunited with their children. With no support, the couple went cold turkey to get themselves off the drugs.
Still homeless, they hesitantly made contact with The Salvation Army. Having had previous dealings with CYF social workers when their children were taken into care, they weren’t prepared for the more caring and understanding approach of the Army’s social workers.
The first task was for the pair to get back into a stable living environment, especially as Natalie had discovered she was pregnant. The Salvation Army organised accommodation so they could now register with a doctor and apply for benefits.
They also arranged food parcels and established a family budget – an important task in an area where rents eat up 70 per cent of the incomes of many Salvation Army clients.
Natalie says The Salvation Army Life Skills Programme which includes practical skills, but also units on self-esteem, goal setting and dealing with anger and depression, was particularly useful in dealing with life’s pressures and further strengthening the couple’s relationship.
Importantly for Natalie and Joel, The Salvation Army social worker helped them start the long process of reuniting with their children, including advocating on their behalf to allow the parents initial access to their kids. They have undertaken drug and alcohol counselling, drug tests to prove their abstinence and attended parenting programmes to show they are committed and suitable parents.
The couple, with their new son Levi, (CYF deemed Joel and Natalie reformed sufficiently to keep Levi in their care) have moved into their new family home and Joel has full-time work. Once the relationship with their children is fully re-established, they will be a family again.
Natalie says the last two years have been an emotional roller coaster at times but the guidance of Salvation Army staff throughout the process was a major contributor to the successful rebuilding of their lives.
‘When we first came here, we were surprised that The Salvation Army genuinely cared and that’s hard to find, Natalie says. ‘But you have to take their advice – you have to work with them if you want to make it.’