The past few years have been very difficult for Christy Hughes.
"In May of 2005, I lost my job," she said. "I have insulin-dependent diabetes and high blood pressure, and felt sick and I was tired all the time, so I called in sick a lot. Then in June 2006 my dad had a massive heart attack, so I moved in with my parents to help take care of him."
Christy, 33, also moved her family -- her husband and the couple's young twins, Aaron and Wanda, in with her parents.
This past August, Christy's father died. Christy's mother, who is legally blind and lives in a two-bedroom trailer, could no longer provide a home for her daughter and her family.
Seeing no other options, the Hugheses moved into A-Way Home Shelter in Greencastle in early March.
"Things just started going south for us," Christy said, holding Aaron in her lap with Wanda lying on the floor near her feet wrapped in a blanket in the common area at A-Way Home. "We had no money coming in and I was getting sicker. My husband didn't have a job. He'd been here before and he knew it was a nice shelter."
Mere days after Christy and her family took up residence at the shelter, Christy was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Shortly after that, her husband left her.
"He told me he couldn't handle me having a debilitating disease," Christy said, turning her eyes downward.
A-Way Home director Debbie Zigler said she has been amazed by Christy's resolve.
"She has been through an awful lot these past few months," she said.
Christy now has to have a walker to get around. She has been turned down twice for disability benefits, and her lawyer is waiting on an appellate date for another appeal.
"Sometimes it can be overwhelming," she said. "But I've got Debbie; I talk to her daily. The other staff members help me out, too. Really, I couldn't ask for a better place right now for me and my kids."
The twins, now 6, have not seen their father since he left the shelter.
"He'll call once in a while, but that's about the only contact they've had with him," Christy said.
Aaron and Wanda seem to have made themselves at home at the shelter. They spend their days watching television and videos in the common area, and other residents take them for walks and to the library to give Christy a break.
It has been difficult for Christy to come to grips with the fact that she cannot provide for her children right now.
"They've been through so much," she said sadly, running her fingers through Aaron's dark hair. "We lost my dad, and so many other things have changed. They've had a lot to deal with, but they've adjusted really well.
"The hardest part of having this disease is that I can't work and provide, and I've always been the one to do that for them," Christy continued. "They like to go outside and go to the park and play, and a lot of the time I'm just too exhausted to take them. I can't be that kind of mother to them. Since school's out it's been more difficult … they're a little stir crazy."
Still, Christy tries to maintain her optimism and hope for the best. She goes to physical therapy twice a week and is being treated with medication. She will have an MRI in August to see if the medication is slowing the growth of the MS-related lesions.
"I have to keep going for my kids," she said. "They need stability in their lives, and I have to be the one to give that to them. My goal right now is to stay out of the wheelchair and hopefully get away from the walker."
Christy, a quiet woman with gentle eyes and a soft demeanor, still holds out some hope for her marriage as well.
"I don't believe in divorce," she said. "If he gets help with anger management and gets a job, he can come back. He wasn't looking for a job when he was here and he broke curfew, so he has to do those things before Debbie will let him come back. We're not talking about divorce yet, but I don't know if I see us getting back together or not."
Christy knows there are perceptions about people who live in homeless shelters.
"We are good people who just got down on our luck," she said. "Circumstances came up that we couldn't control. We need the shelter to get back on our feet."