Faces of Hope: Stefanie

Stefanie struggled to re-enter the job market after surviving a period of homelessness triggered by the fleeing of an abusive relationship with her former husband who held the housing voucher for the apartment where they lived.

“I’ve struggled with alcohol and drug addiction since I was about eighteen. I’m doing a lot better now. I left a five-year marriage. He had a housing voucher that he won in a lottery that got us off the streets.”

When their voucher ran out, the couple had to search for another apartment.

“When we were looking for another place, it was almost impossible. They’d tell us: you’ve got to have a good credit score, pay a non-refundable application fee and have a monthly income three times the monthly rent.’ How’re you supposed to do that when you’re just barely hanging on?” said Stefanie.

“A lot of apartment complexes would judge us by the way we looked. My husband and I worked as an arborist and we both dressed in our work clothes, the only clothes we had.”

The couple eventually received another housing voucher that would hold them over for a few months. But with the domestic violence in the household worsening, Stefanie’s hierarchy of needs was in jeopardy once again. Stefanie’s husband had the voucher and that left her without a secure place to stay.

“I tried to get into a domestic violence shelter. But there were no beds available at the time. That’s how I ended up at Samaritan House.”

Catholic Charities of Denver’s Samaritan House provides single women with safe dorm beds, three nutritious meals and support services including case management, goal setting, holistic wellness, employment readiness, housing navigation, financial and life-skills classes and referrals to community resources. Stefanie’s been using these tools to heal from the traumas of domestic violence and receive housing of her own.

“My advice to someone in a situation like mine? You’ve got to want to be clean. Be patient. Be aware of your surroundings. Be careful. I learned that if you breathe and take it one day at a time, it’ll work out. Everyone deserves a chance at a normal life.”

Marisol Health offers compassionate options for mother of twins, Alyssa 

The news of Alyssa’s pregnancy was unexpected. As many do in this position, she found herself contemplating different options and next steps. She took to the internet and started scrolling.

Towards the end of her search that was filled with frightening keywords, Alyssa came across Marisol Health and filled out a general inquiry. The very next day, she was accompanied by both nurses and case workers who walked her through the process with dignity and compassion. When the news came about her carrying not one, but two babies, she was understandably overwhelmed.

Alyssa shared that she felt cared for when the nurses showed her that first ultrasound. She walked away from the reception desk and knew that Marisol Health staff would be there to support her on this uncertain journey. And they did, they took her step by step.

Her twin girls Amelia and Brielle were born in July 2022, and Alyssa reflects on the many blessings Marisol Health continues to provide her, even beyond the gift of her beautiful daughters.

“I never thought motherhood of twins would be this hard. I feel like I can get up and do it every day, even when I am so exhausted, because I have support and resources such as Marisol Health.”

On top of offering prenatal care, Marisol Health assisted in the items needed for a mother of twins. They even helped Alyssa set up a baby registry. The postpartum counseling at Marisol Health that Alyssa receives from the support she needs as a new mother.

“I am blown away by the love I have received, even after my twins were born. From care packages to diaper donations, I am so grateful to have found Marisol Health,” Alyssa shared.

With help from Marisol Homes, Nichole regains custody of her son

When she entered Marisol Homes, 27-year-old Nichole had been fighting a battle with addiction for eight years. When she was in her early 20’s, despite her opioid use, she had been able to maintain jobs in Crested Butte and Breckenridge. Soon, however, her coworkers noticed challenges that came from her drug use, and she lost her job and her stable income. Her journey into homelessness began.

“I would stay on friends’ couches, in their garages or their sheds. I even slept in my own car more times than I care to remember,” shared Nichole.

Life took on a new meaning in October 2020 when she gave birth to her son, Aiden. Although she hoped the arrival of Aiden would force her to get clean, she continued to struggle with sobriety. Nichole moved to Denver with Aiden to find a new community and a fresh start.

“At first Denver was far worse, because we didn’t know many people and I was without a vehicle. For the first month, we stayed with some friends, but then they lost their housing. I had little money but was able to get a hotel room for a few nights to try to figure out what to do next,” said Nichole.

In her fight to get sober, Nichole suffered a seizure due to withdrawals. A trip to the hospital led to Aiden being temporarily placed in the custody of Child Protective Services (CPS). Looking back at this traumatic event, Nichole considers it a “blessing in disguise.”

“It was horrible at first, being without my son. But I knew he was safe. And at the time, that was more than I could offer him. The judge on our case said that I could get him back, but I needed to find stable, suitable housing,” Nichole shared. Nichole was staying at an emergency shelter in Denver that was preparing to close. She considers the next phase as one of God’s graces. That emergency shelter connected her to Samaritan House on Lawrence Street, operated by Catholic Charities of Denver. At the time, the family floor was full, so she was referred to Marisol Homes, also operated by Catholic Charities, which is a residence for single pregnant women as well as for single woman with children. Once her application was received, Nichole moved in almost immediately

“I remember talking to Vin (the program manager at Marisol Homes) on the phone, and I could hear the excitement that he had for me, knowing that when I moved in, I would likely get my son back,” said Nichole.

While at Marisol Homes, Nichole made it her mission to stay busy. She got Aiden back from the foster care system the day after she moved in and knew from then on, she wouldn’t and couldn’t experience life without him in her arms. With the ongoing support at Marisol Homes, she was able to provide him with the safety he deserved.

Nichole attended classes, both at Marisol Homes and at the Jefferson County Business and Workforce Center. She was earning certificates and had a newfound love for learning. At Marisol Homes, she actively participated in classes about sobriety, life skills and parenting — any class that was available to her. She said she wanted to learn as much as possible to be a better mother to her son.

During a weekly community meeting at Marisol Homes, Nichole learned of a job opportunity. She applied and has been working ever since at the Women’s Bean Project, a transitional job program that manufactures food.

Most recently, Nichole received her Peer Support Specialist certification to help women that have been in her shoes. “I want to be a Family Advocate working with families that have lost their children to the CPS system, as well. I want to pass on the resources I’ve learned and create that feeling of hope for families that have lost theirs,” said Nichole. “I gained my hope back being surrounded by the people that helped me through my toughest times, and I want to be able to give other people that feeling back, as well.”

Madison’s Garden: An Amazing Group of Volunteers. “Feeling needed and valued for the little things we do.”

“A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.” - Mark 12: 42-44 -

Receiving more than you give is a common experience for Catholic Charities’ volunteers. Serving people experiencing life’s challenges is a heart-warming and humbling opportunity to learn more about yourself and neighbors in our community.

For one special group of volunteers, the experience means even more.

Every week, a team of adults from Madison’s Garden, a day program for adults with developmental delays, spends their Tuesday afternoons at Samaritan House preparing sandwiches for thousands of neighbors Catholic Charities serves. Working closely with the food services team, these generous people know that their volunteering will make a real difference.

“I like helping people who are hungry,” said Maria Waymel, one of the dedicated volunteers from Madison’s Garden. “I put together 100 sandwiches today and that will help 100 people. I enjoy it.”

For Maria and her friends, the act of volunteering is broken down into three main categories: connection, accompaniment and fellowship.

Madison’s Garden considers itself a “community connector” by linking adults — who have developmental disabilities — to social and community needs. The organization is a day program for adults and their caregivers to grow closer to each other and their community. Since the group started their volunteer venture at Samaritan House, they have grown closer as a group, and are especially empathetic to the unhoused community.

The small but mighty Madison’s Garden volunteer team at Samaritan House has engineered an assembly line to get as many sandwiches prepared as possible during their two hours of service.

Maria ensures that all of the bread is laid out for Pete and Sandra to stack on the meats and cheeses. David oversees the operation by closing the sandwiches to prepare for wrapping.

Their record is 170 sandwiches in one day, but they plan to beat it.

Maria also volunteers at Marisol Family, a ministry of Catholic Charities that provides families with diapers, wipes and other items. Recently, Maria spent time putting together several layette baskets for expectant mothers to receive.

Madison’s Garden director Rosa Amezcua, has noticed a big difference in the group’s dynamic since they’ve started.

“As a director of a day program for adults with developmental disabilities, I find that volunteering is the most complete and rewarding activity for our participants. When we visit the ministries of Catholic Charities such as the Samaritan House and Marisol Family, we receive more than what we give,” shared Rosa. “The sense of belonging to a community, feeling needed and valued for the little things that we do, the welcoming and appreciation that our group gets when we arrive has been a great blessing for all of us. Everybody looks forward to it every week!”


Navy veteran’s finds confidence through remission

Navy veteran Michael did not have an easy transition when he returned home from service. At the beginning of 2020, Michael was diagnosed with stage three oral cancer. He quickly underwent surgery and multiple rounds of chemotherapy to successfully remove the cancer. The nature of this life-altering diagnosis made it even more difficult for Michael to reintegrate into the community. The surgery required part of his tongue and some of his teeth to be removed, creating an uncharted territory of learning how to talk and interact with others again. Not surprisingly, he said it lowered his self-esteem. He would apply for jobs and back out when he was called to the interview. On top of that, he experienced chronic pain from a blood clot in his leg that made it hard to stand beyond a few minutes.

With the help of the Veterans Administration (VA), Michael was referred to Samaritan House on Lawrence Street when it became clear that Michael could not afford housing. MIchael said that these moments of struggle were a grace from God telling him that he needed to slow down and take care of himself. The veteran services team at Samaritan House offers support groups and case management services to help those who have served our country with the dignity they deserve.

Michael says that the first words out of his caseworker's mouth were, "’Take care of yourself and your health first, we will find a place for you.’"

He worked with his assigned wellness consultant on speech therapy and with his caseworker on interview skills. He shared that some days he would just sit and cry in frustration, trying to get the right words out, but that it helped build up his confidence to put himself back out into the workforce. Tears of joy came one day when an affordable housing opportunity came that would allow for his daughter to live with him as his caregiver.

“God gives us strength. I found courage through my time at Samaritan House,” said Michael.

Today, he has a lot to celebrate, including safe and secure housing in downtown Denver and his daughter’s high school graduation. The two plan to celebrate seeing his favorite team, the Las Vegas Raiders, in the coming year.

Single-mother finds safety at Marisol Homes after attempted kidnapping

“It was in that moment, that everything changed for me.” said Dianna. If you watch enough of the news, you can see that it is no secret that human trafficking in Colorado is on the rise. For marginalized communities including those experiencing homelessness, there is an exponentially higher risk of facing a trafficking situation, according … Read more

A great-grandmother finds support for her family — with help from Marisol Family

Lori is in the business of caretaking, so when her 21-year-old granddaughter came to her needing support, including for her three-year-old son, she rushed to their side. But Lori wasn’t the only one to answer the call. Marisol Family, a ministry of Catholic Charities of Denver that offers material assistance to families, was on deck … Read more

Mom receives dietary and maternal support at Samaritan House

Krystal was growing accustomed to a ten-minute walk to the Samaritan House cafeteria for breakfast instead of the 30 seconds it used to take. With five-month-old daughter Neveah in tow, she was often stopped by other residents who looked forward to the baby’s gleaming smile to start their days.

“I am naturally an introvert, but this baby is a social butterfly. She helps get me out of my shell,” said Krystal. “When I first got here, I had low self-esteem.”

Krystal, from Canon City in southern Colorado, has had a difficult life, with mental health struggles that have been exacerbated by long waits for a provider. She said she has previously placed six children up for adoption. Waiting a long time to find counselors was agonizing, and Krystal attributes these times of vulnerability and lack of medical attention to the choice of placing her children for adoption.

After years of struggling, she moved to Denver and was welcomed at Samaritan House.

Self-advocating was a built-in strength for Krystal, who used it to secure mental health resources, seek parenting programs when she learned she was pregnant and find healthcare services when she was diagnosed with diabetes.

“The catering staff here even created a modified menu for me. They make low carb meals which keep my insulin levels at ease,” said Krystal.

Krystal participated in just about every program offered at Samaritan House since moving in February. She was provided with parenting resources to prepare for Nevaeh’s birth, including programs such as the Mommy and Me group that gathers weekly and Cooking Matters.

The Samaritan House team offers on-site therapy and case management. They have been such close allies in fact, that when Krystal’s water broke in May 2022, Krystal ran right to Housing Navigator, Reva Stone, for assistance. Reva helped pack her hospital bag and take her to the ambulance.

Krystal and Neveah are in the process of moving to Joshua Station, a two-year residential program for families with children.

“Samaritan House was such a blessing to me. I have more confidence than I ever did. I have made friends, when in the past, it was so hard to connect with others.” said Krystal. “I am excited for this new chapter and, after we get our housing, I will come back to visit so that Neveah can bring her smiles to everyone at Samaritan House.”

Former teacher and veteran, Howard, seeks housing

Howard is a Colorado native, proud Vietnam veteran and advocate of good children’s books. “I was a first-grade teacher,” Howard said outside Samaritan House downtown. “When I got out of Vietnam, I decided to become a teacher and so I went back to school.” Howard said he served in the military from 1971-1974. Afterward, he … Read more

VIDEO: Rachel and family flourish at ECE

With Catholic Charities supporting her, Rachel keeps moving onward and upward, including her two sons attending its Early Childhood Education centers. “If my son Liam wasn’t in Head Start program before going into kindergarten, he wouldn’t be where he is at now,” Rachel said about her 6-year-old son. “I feel like he was already ahead … Read more