Penny often refers to the three years she spent living on the streets when she was just 14 as the hardest time of her life. That was the first time the Auckland City Mission met Penny nearly 20 years ago.
She says that without the Mission’s support, she wouldn’t be the well, happy grandmother she is today.
“The Mission has been in my life right from the get go. From my first marriage, second marriage, first baby, domestic violence, and to where I am today”.
It’s clear that family means everything to Penny and she likes to keep them close. “It’s all about staying together and staying safe,” she says. She and her partner, children and grandchildren all share a two bedroom house in central Auckland. “It’s a real full house!” laughs Penny with a cheeky grin, but two bedrooms is better than no bedrooms “I want my children to come home to a warm house, have food in their tummies and a warm bed to sleep in safely. I don’t want to worry that they are out there on the streets like I was.”
It’s easy to mistake Pennys’ cheerful demeanor as not having a care in the world, but her history tells another story.
“I raised my brothers and sisters when I was a child because Dad left and Mum loved to drink.”
Having no food taught Penny how to fend for herself, often going without herself, but at the age of 14 she left home and found herself on the streets. She worked the streets and in massage parlours to earn money to send to her brothers and sisters. The Mission supported Penny with food and safety during this time and Penny remembers it well.
“I remember I would get a cup of hot coffee at the Mission and sit and talk with friends. It’s a safe place and I felt like everything was going to be OK” says Penny.
The Mission also helped with food parcels and presents for Pennys children, especially over the Christmas period.
“It is such a struggle to feed eleven people and it gets to the point of “Oh my gosh, what are we going to do?”
Penny gets tearful talking about her children and is determined that they have everything in life that she never had. Her family have been on the housing register for three years now and want to move to Whangarei, but the lack of housing options is making it difficult.
In the meantime Penny is happy to be a Mum and look after her kids. “My life has made me strong and I teach my kids that it’s OK to ask for help if you need it. The Mission have always been there for me, never judging me or my situation”