A young woman who has been through some tough times is counting her blessings after winning close to $9,000 through a 50/50 draw at a Halifax hockey game.

Claudia Covalciuc was born in an Austrian refugee camp in 1990 and moved to Canada with her mother, but the pair eventually returned to Europe in the hopes of securing child support from Covalcuic’s father – support they would never receive.

“It was just me and my mother. We ended up being homeless for the next five years on the streets of Romania,” said Covalciuc. “I started selling school supplies on the streets and at the flea markets. I earned enough money to be able to buy a one-way ticket back to Canada.”

Life hasn’t always been easy for Covalciuc, who arrived in Canada in 2006. It was just a few months ago that she was able to rent her own apartment, instead of staying with friends.

“I’m going through a different set of challenges now,” she said. “I’m starting to realize as I get older, life doesn’t necessarily get easier.”

After paying the last of this month’s bills, she had just $20 in her wallet, and a little over $7 in her bank account.

To cheer her up, Covalciuc’s friend treated her to dinner and a hockey game in Halifax.

“I felt like I needed to buy a 50/50 ticket. Somehow there was a part of me inside that felt the need to buy this, but I never thought I would win.”

Covalciuc says she was shocked when the winning number on the big screen matched the number on her own ticket.

“I went to open my purse and I could see the very last number on the ticket was the same number. My heart jumped out of my chest,” she said.

“There was a row of people behind us and I told them, ‘can you please check my ticket?’ I’m crying at this point. They all checked my ticket, they said, ‘go up dear, go get your money.’”

Days later, she says she still can't believe she won $8,700.

"More shock than anything. Just feel grateful," she said, wiping away tears.

After putting some of the $8,700 aside to pay her bills, Covalciuc spent $500 on gift cards for local food banks in the hopes of making a small difference in someone else’s life.

She plans to save the rest for law school.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Matt Woodman