2-maimoona_low-resMaimoona is only 22, but the struggles she’s faced extend far beyond her years. At just 19, she was homeless, afraid and completely hopeless.

“I was being physically and emotionally abused at home,” explains Maimoona. “My options were to either commit suicide or run away.”

So she packed the few belongings that could fit in her bag and left, uncertain of what the future held. For the next year and a half, she lived in eight shelters, never knowing if she’d have a safe place to stay for the night.

“Shelters don’t keep you for very long,” she says. “But with only $32 a week to live on, I had nowhere else to go.”

Maimoona was one of the more than 28,500 individuals in Canada who experience homelessness on any given night. And it’s an issue that goes far beyond shelter alone. People who are homeless also face isolation, violence and limited or no access to much-needed health care.

In Maimoona’s case, she was battling a serious heart condition, and moving from shelter to shelter was making her sick. She was also struggling with depression and anxiety, choosing to self-harm to numb the pain she was experiencing.

“I remember crying myself to sleep every night,” she admits. “I just couldn’t take it anymore.”

Experiences like Maimoona’s are one of the reasons United Way not only addresses urgent and long-term housing needs, but also invests your gift in programs that reduce social isolation, promote mental health and encourage independent life skills.

Fortunately, Maimoona connected with one of United Way’s multi-service agencies that helped her deal with the many barriers she was facing. She accessed transitional housing—the crucial first step towards independence. She also received medical assistance for her heart condition and trauma counselling to help deal with the abuse she had endured. Most recently, she completed employment training, helping to put her on the path to a more promising future.

Today, Maimoona has a home, a job and a support system that feels like family. It’s stories just like hers that demonstrate how your gift fuels United Way’s work of helping people who are homeless at a time when they need it most.

“I don’t think I’d be alive today if not for this program,” she says. “My life got so much better. I may not have a family, but I have people who truly care about me. I am not alone.”