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When no home seems better than your home

Move to a shelter? But we’re not homeless, Dolores Duran, mother of four, thought as she considered her family’s future.

“I had to stop and think: Is it better to be (in a shelter) or be in the unhealthy situation we’ve been in every night?” she asked.

While she and her children did have a roof over their heads, the life of chaos and dysfunction they were subjected to had continually gotten worse. She knew she needed to make a change.

“It’s hard to just let go and let God help but that’s really what I did when I chose to go to the shelter,” she said of her decision to move temporarily to Catholic Charities’ Father Ed Judy House last May. “I told God: ‘I don’t feel like I can make it and I guess I’ve been trying by myself for too long. I’m going to let you take care of it.’”

For two years Duran and her children: now 20- and 17-year-old sons and 10- and 6-year-old daughters, lived upstairs in a two-story home while the girls’ paternal grandfather lived on the lower level.

“(The grandfather) promised his son wouldn’t live there because he is my ex (boyfriend),” she said of her daughter’s father. “But he frequently stayed there so it made it hard. We didn’t get along; there were a lot of domestic issues.”

“Grandpa likes to drink,” she added which made the situation worse.

“I felt like I was suffocating,” said the 46-year-old who suffers from Graves’ disease, an immune disorder resulting in hyperthyroidism. “I actually think moving saved my life because I felt so stressed, wondering where am I going to turn?”

She turned to Father Ed Judy House in southwest Denver: a ministry that provides a home for nine mothers and their children, up to 30 people at a time. While there, they provide basic needs, support groups and classes, and case management to bring mothers to independence. Ninety-seven percent of women who stayed there last year were survivors of domestic violence.

“We work with survivors of domestic violence who have found a moment of safety but remain homeless,” explained Wendy Oldenbrook, program director. “They have usually left their abuser months ago, sometimes years ago.”

According to a 2003 study cited by the Family Violence Prevention Fund, “the majority of battered women in transitional housing programs state that had these programs not existed, they would have returned to their abusers.”

“We believe that domestic violence isn’t over until the family is economically and emotionally stable,” Oldenbook said.

Duran felt paralyzed by the emotional abuse she endured.

“It really brought me down mentally, my self-esteem,” she said. “I stayed too long.”

Father Ed Judy House provided confidence, allowing her to make the changes her family desperately needed. On Oct. 5 they moved into a three-bedroom townhome in Lakewood with money she saved while at Father Ed’s and help from a county program.

“It’s perfect,” she said. “It’s three minutes from my job … and I still don’t know what to do with all the room since my daughters and I shared one room for five months.”

The “whirlwind” started for Duran when she lost her home, the house her parents had lived in for nearly 40 years, in 2007.

“It was terrible,” she said and following that they bounced from place to place, living with assistance from survivor benefits of her late husband who died in 1999.

“I’ve learned with all the loss that I’ve gone through and my (Catholic) upbringing that God has been carrying me,” she said. “I haven’t been alone, even though some days it’s hard since I don’t have a spouse, or my mom or my dad, but I can talk to God.”

She can stay connected to Father Ed Judy House through an alumni program where women can continue to receive counseling, gather for social events, be supported with legal issues, or otherwise call for help.

“I’m just trying to keep my family together and that’s all I want,” she said, “to keep them safe.

“And I want us to live in peace and be happy.”

She plans to pursue an associate’s degree and seek a new career.

“I’ve made some bad choices, I’m not perfect, there are things I should’ve done better,” she acknowledged. “But I’ve learned from them and I’m going to move forward.”

For more information, visit http://fejh.wordpress.com or call 303-866-7641.

Julie Filby: 303-715-3123; julie.filby@archden.org; www.twitter.com/DCRegisterJulie

 

BY THE NUMBERS

Father Ed Judy House 2012-2013

Families served in shelter: 35
Families served in community: 69
Survivors of domestic violence: 97% (34 of 35)
Moved to stable housing: 71%
Remain stable in the community: 96%
Average days in shelter: 93
Average income: $462/month
Average age of mothers in shelter: 38 (up from 32)

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