Charles Green has one big wish for the holiday season: that he and his four young daughters will get to spend it in a home of their own.
"I don't want them waking up on Christmas in a shelter," said Green, 35, a single dad from Bushwick who has been homeless with his kids since May.
"I want to be in our own apartment, cooking breakfast for them while they play with their toys under the tree," added Green, an out-of-work handyman who has found it harder than ever to find a steady job amid the plummeting economy.
Green and his children - Serenity, 10, Jamia, 8, Aliayah, 3, and Alicia, 1 - are among a record number of families who have been forced into homelessness across the city.
In Brooklyn, more than 6,000 families with kids applied for shelter this year. In October, applications were up 45% from two years ago.
"We're seeing more people enter the system than in a long time simply because of the economic crisis," said Claire Harding-Keefe, an executive at the nonprofit group CAMBA, which runs the Brownsville shelter where Green and his family are staying.
The Daily News has teamed up with the Brooklyn Community Foundation to shine a spotlight on the plight of the growing number of homeless families in the borough.
Donations to the foundation's Caring Neighbors Holiday Campaign will provide "Caring Neighbors Kits" filled with educational books and toys for homeless children.
"We're looking to help some of the most vulnerable yung people in the borough," said foundation President Marilyn Gelber. "There are quality of life issues for a child moving around, not having a permanent home and not even having a book to take with them."
For Green, getting back on his feet while caring for his young daughters has been an uphill battle.
He turned to the shelter in the spring when he took custody of his daughters after they were taken away from their mother and put in foster care.
With no steady job, no home and four young kids in his care, he said he had no choice.
"It's hard, but it's not about me, it's about them," said Green, who had moved out after he split up with their mother last year and then bounced around various family members' couches as he looked for work.
Though Green is happy for the fresh start the shelter has given him, life is far from simple.
He rises at 5 a.m. to get the girls fed and dressed and out the door by 7 a.m.
He drops the two little ones at his sister's, and then treks 25 blocks to his older daughters' school in Bushwick, before heading to a GED program.
"It's a lot of traveling," said Serenity, a fifth-grader at Public School 274 on Palmetto St.
In the evening, he then juggles fixing dinner, cleaning and homework.
"He does everything," Serenity added. "Sometimes he has the baby in one arm and he's pushing a mop with the other."
Green said he's often up until 2 a.m., hand-washing clothes in the bathtub and ironing.
"I get maybe two or three hours of sleep a night," he said.
Green said he feels bad that his girls have gone through so much turmoil, so he's working as hard as he can to make it up to them.
He has found a three-bedroom apartment in their old neighborhood and, thanks to a government housing subsidy, hopes to be moved in by early this month.
"Last Christmas, I wasn't with them like I should have been," said Green, adding that he's determined that they'll have a tree and presents to open.
"They'll have a beautiful Christmas, and my Christmas will be the smiles on their faces."