Sonny's Story | The Salvation Army

Sonny's Story

Able to breathe again

‘When Sonny* and his family first reached out to The Salvation Army, life had been wave after wave of tough choices, just to survive. Now he's happy to say that things are well and truly back on track.

Sonny and his wife were both studying to pursue professional careers. But with young children to look after, the cost-of-living crisis soon hit them hard. 

Life's too expensive

Living in rental accommodation with his wife Marie and their three young children, it didn’t take Sonny long to realise that something would have to give. They were both students living beyond their means, the bills were mounting up, and they couldn’t afford the rent.

“I had a part-time job on top of my study, but the expense of petrol, nappies and all those daily necessities made it very hard, especially for my wife,” says Sonny

 And so the decision was made that they would all move into his mother’s sleepout. 


A mixed blessing 

“It was good of my mum to put us up, and we were very grateful,” says Sonny. “The trouble was that the sleepout was not very big. It was basically a single converted garage. No kitchen or anything, we had to use the main house for that.” Worse still, the sleepout was damp too, especially when it rained. So damp that it started to affect the health of their young children. “My baby daughter’s health was deteriorating. She was only a few months old, and she started to have breathing difficulties.

The turning point came when their daughter had to be rushed to hospital four times in a single month. “Yeah, it was bad. Real bad,” Sonny remembers, a haunted look on his face. “We just decided that enough was enough. You have to put your children’s health above everything else.” 

Back into debt   

And so the decision was made that they would move out of the sleepout. “We started house hunting. The only place we could find was $800 a week, too expensive for us. But we were so desperate, and they were the only ones who would take us in. Many of the other rental companies wouldn’t accept us due to our bad credit rating, so we took whatever we could find.” 

Sonny and family lasted about two months in the new rental before their financial pressures became too much again. “We were getting letters from the landlord telling us how much we owed. We knew, and we promised to pay our debts eventually, but you just can’t live like that, can you?” 

Reaching out 

It was then that one of Sonny’s friends suggested reaching out to The Salvation Army. “We were at the point where we said ‘hey, we’ll try anything’. I knew The Salvation Army could help with food parcels and stuff like that, but I had no idea they could help in other ways. They were amazing from the get go.” 

The first thing the Sallies did was get Sonny and his family into transitional housing. “The financial mentor just came in and said, no, you can’t live like this, pack up your stuff. That was pretty much a breakthrough for us, to have someone so obviously on our side,” says Sonny.

“That was when we felt we were able to breathe again, for the first time in years.” 

A dream worth living 

As well as securing transitional housing to ease the burden on Sonny and his young family, the Sallies provided budgeting advice to help them get out of debt. “She walked us through things, told us what we should pay off first, and how to do it step by step. She was awesome.” 

With Marie still studying, Sonny has now graduated, and has a highly responsible job as a Counsellor “I tend to at-risk people when they’re suicidal,” he explains. “So yeah, I'm the guy they call when that happens.” 

It’s a role he relishes. “I came from a broken home, so of course I wanted to make sure our kids were raised properly, they were fed, and had a roof over their heads,” he says. “That’s important. But the dream I wanted to pursue was to help people in need. To have their back and help out, just like The Salvation Army do every day, and have done for us. To me, that’s a dream worth living.” 


*For Sonny’s protection, we have not used his or his wife’s real names, and used actors to portray the family. 


You can help others like Sonny and his family by giving to our Winter Appeal this year. 




*Once you click on the button you will be taken to a new window where you can donate through our secure donation portal called Flo2Cash. If you have any questions about the security of your information please contact our supporter care team on 0800 53 00 00.