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Homeless woman remains positive despite financial woes

A refuge in times of trouble: For Mary, the Salvation Army's emergency housing complex is a godsend.

When Mary moved to Bermuda from the Caribbean, she never thought she’d find herself homeless, much less in just five years.

But the 65-year-old hairdresser, now living in the Salvation Army Shelter, said that if she could do it all over again, she wouldn’t change anything.

“I have a room for myself,” Mary (not her real name) told The Royal Gazette, “and I now have a roommate – and that is challenging sometimes, but I think the onus is on me to adjust to any situation.”

It is times like Christmas, she added, that remind her how lucky she is despite her hardships.

"You just need to pace yourself and brace yourself and not get too caught up in the commercial aspect of it all. Remember the reason for the season.”

Mary lives in the Salvation Army Shelter on Marsh Folly Road, Pembroke, with her husband of four years.

The pair have been in the gender-separated shelters for the last seven months.

Mary, a well-known stylist back in the Caribbean, said that she came to the island on a work permit in 2017 for new opportunities.

She met her husband, a Bermudian and taxi driver, shortly after and they married a year later.

Mary said the pair were stable and could comfortably make ends meet – but things took a turn when her employment contract was terminated in 2018 without warning.

She and her husband relied on her social insurance and, later, her husband’s early pension for several years.

But Mary added that the Covid-19 pandemic quickly drained their shared funds.

Things became even more difficult when the Southampton Princess, her husband’s biggest source of revenue, closed down for repairs and her husband was forced to return the taxi.

Mary added that their previous landlord had died and when his sisters took over the property this year, they evicted the couple, forcing them to go to the Salvation Army for help.

Despite having been made homeless, Mary said the only thing she could say at the time was: “Thank God I have somewhere to rest my head”.

She said that she enjoyed living at the shelter – they gave her a hot meal and quiet privacy every day, which she added gave her peace of mind during her busy schedule.

The showers came with hot water, and everyone from the staff to the residents were very kind.

She said: “To me, it’s a beautiful place to be in the interim. You have showers and hot water. You have bathrooms. You have tea some nights, which is really relaxing.”

Mary added: “There a unity among most residents. I think they’re learning to trust one another and show sides of them that they’re not really proud of, but they know they’re not being judged – they’re being accepted, promoted and encouraged.”

Mary said that, despite the distance and hardships, her marriage with her husband became stronger.

“It has brought us closer. We have had to rely on the better parts of us – support, understanding, no nitpicking or anything like that.”

She added: “We were close before, but I only discovered it months after we had been here that we are actually closer.

“He is not afraid to show his love for me, and I am definitely not afraid to show my love for him.

“Yes we have disagreements, but nothing major and nothing that lasts for ever. He is an amazing man.”

When asked if Mary ever felt sorry about her situation, she said: “Not for one single moment.”

She explained: “I had somewhere to lay my head, I had somewhere to take a bath, I had somewhere to hang my clothes and I had somewhere to commune with other people.

“I have never felt sorry for myself – I feel like I’m going through this for a reason and it’s only for a temporary reason.”

Mary said that she owed much of her resilience to her Christian faith.

She said: “I have great faith I God, and I don’t believe that He would ever leave me alone.

“What I’m going through is for my development, my education, and my blessings – I’m just trying hard every day to be grateful.”

Mary said that she would be spending Christmas with her husband and other residents at the shelter – a far cry, she admitted, from the lavish celebrations her family in the Caribbean would throw.

But Mary added: “I consider everyone here my family. The workers and I get along very well, a respect them, and I love them – and I think they love me too.”

There are more than 600 people estimated to be homeless in Bermuda, according to the charity Home. You can help by contributing to Home or the Salvation Army this holiday season.

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Published December 28, 2022 at 2:18 pm (Updated December 28, 2022 at 2:18 pm)

Homeless woman remains positive despite financial woes

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