Homes First’s shelter helps bring troubled homeless woman home for Christmas


Tyyra remembers Christmas when her parents were still together. A beautiful balsam fir decorated by Tyyra and her siblings graced the living room of their bungalow. Christmas Eve, after a big family meal, her parents tucked them into bed and in the morning gifts engulfed the tree.

But the Christmas magic didn’t last. Tyyra’s mom battled substance abuse. Tyyra fell into the wrong crowd at school, dropped out, and began experimenting with drugs. After her mother passed away, Tyyra’s addiction worsened and her relationship with her family fell apart. Tyyra became homeless and spent the next fifteen years on the streets.

Numb and lonely, she tried to suppress family Christmas memories. Holidays became a little easier when she moved into Homes First’s Scarborough Shelter. “Christmas was nice, but still sad because I wasn’t with my family,” Tyyra recalls.

“There’s a story I want to share with you,” Tyyra says as she fumbles for something in her coat pocket. “My most memorable Christmas was when this couple brought their two young daughters to the shelter to serve Christmas dinner. I went up and introduced myself to the children. We started talking about Christmas and school, and hair clips, and our favorite bands... I loved every minute of it. When it was time to say goodbye, the children came over, gave me a big hug and handed me a lovely handmade bracelet and card,” Tyyra places something on the table. It’s a bracelet made of clear, red, and black beads strung together on red cord. The card has a pencil drawing of a heart with hands, or hair, we’re not quite sure. The girls wrote: I like you. I am so glad to meet you! Merry Christmas! Halley and Nicole. “I was so overwhelmed. I started to cry.  These children didn’t care that I lived in a shelter. To them, I was a human being and a friend. To this day I treasure the bracelet and card.”

Tyyra moved out of Homes First’s shelter and into her own home with her husband and their two dogs. She’s looking forward to joining her family for Christmas dinner this year. With the loving support of not just Homes First staff, but volunteers and their families, Tyyra made it through the hardest days and back home again.

As we bundle up to head into the cold, Tyyra turns to me and says, “You know, I am so blessed to be here and celebrate what Christmas is really all about – family and love.”

Thank you for helping us be there for women like Tyyra.

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