After 20 months of being homeless, Sharon and her 12-year-old son Tre once again have a place of their own and the stability and security that comes with that home. Now that they don’t have to worry about where they are going to sleep at night, they are now focused on their futures while appreciating the present.
“It’s such a load especially being a single parent, worrying about where you can safely rest your head at night,” Sharon said, admitting she never in a million years would have predicted that homelessness would be a part of her journey in life.
Sharon was a soccer mom with a very good job who lived in the suburbs and hit a Starbucks every day.
“I worked for 22 years in mortgage banking,” Sharon said. “I owned homes. I had a very successful life.”
But then, her partner got ill with a neurological disorder that changed his personality. He got addicted to prescription medication and became violent. That’s when things spiraled out of control and quickly.
Sharon and her son moved out of the home but had no where to go. Some nights, they would huddle behind dumpsters and pray they’d be left alone. They spent some nights emergency shelters but it wasn’t until the two of them moved into Catholic Charities of Denver’s Samaritan House that things started to turn around.
“I participated in all of the life skills classes, the money management class, the budgeting class and the women’s dignity courses,” Sharon said. “They also provide mindful meditation and therapeutic art classes for adults and children. There is private individual counseling as well as group counseling.”
“It’s not just ‘let’s get you income, let’s get you savings, let’s get you housing,” Catholic Charities’ Family Services Manager Josh Zielinski said. “It’s also ‘how are you taking care of yourself? What do you do to relax? How do you cope with stress?'”
During Sharon and Tre’s seven month stay at Samaritan House, counseling was also readily available for Tre.
“Things were very hard at first for Tre,” Josh Zielinski said. “Towards the end of his time here, I just think things kind of stabilized a bit more for him and he was really burying the trauma and the ‘I need to protect my mother….we don’t know where we’re gonna be tomorrow.’ I hope we were able to give him some stability to just focus on being a kid.”
Tre just started a new school near the home he and his mom moved into over the summer. He also got a new bike and went to a few summer camps.
Sharon has a full-time job she loves, supporting others who are homeless and dealing with obstacles when trying to find and secure jobs.
“Denver Day Works offers people who are on the streets an opportunity to come to work for three days a week for a 15 week period,” Sharon said. “We pay them $70 a day in cash, provide them breakfast, lunch and transportation. We also set our participants up with an employment specialist who helps them make a resume, practice interviewing, stuff like that.”
Sharon helps those who are homeless find their purpose.. like she has found.
“I’m not weary anymore,” Sharon said. “Having been through all of this has given me a greater compassion and empathy for my fellow man because we all go through something. For me, it was overcoming homelessness.”
Sharon credits the support and love she received from Catholic Charities and Samaritan House for helping her find a strength deep within that allowed her to get through the toughest times. And she feels blessed to have uncovered a renewed hope for the future.. and the future of her son.
Sharon and Tre are just two of the success stories that emerge every day out of Samaritan House. When single adults and families finish their stay at the shelter (which extends no further than three months), 92% have an income. 64% of the single adults have affordable housing. And, 62% of the families have moved into homes they can afford. Catholic Charities is constantly working with community partners to ensure more participants find a place of their own.
“Not everybody comes to homelessness from the same place,” Sharon said. “When you get here, you pretty much have the same fears and it gets to be overwhelming. But, God sent me on this path. He knows where I’m going to end up and it’s going to be good.”