Joanie had been married to her abusive trucker husband for 25 years. The physical, emotional and mental abuse that she and her four children experienced on a daily basis became too much to handle. “Day by day, our lives began to unravel due to my husband’s controlling ways,” said Joanie. “I recall times when he would leave us for days without any money or food in the house. We moved around constantly. During a period of six years, our children attended five different elementary schools. I was tired of living in fear — fear for my life and fear of having no hope for the future,” she said.
With nowhere to turn, she asked elders at her church for help. They offered her a safe place to stay. “Once we had a place, I had to go home to get clothes and other essentials for the family,” she said. “When my husband saw me approach the house, he locked me out. There was an unfortunate incident and the police were called. I ended up getting charged with assault and my husband accused me of abusing our youngest daughter. As a result, I didn’t get to see my daughter for three and one-half months during the investigation,” she said.
Thankfully, the investigation proved her innocence. “My divorce was granted and I received full parental custody,” she said. “I was afraid, but also hopeful for the first time in a very long time.”
This was the beginning of a new life for Joanie. “For the first time ever, I was the decision-maker. My abusive husband was no longer controlling every move I made,” she said. But it didn’t take long before he tracked her down to threaten her and those who were offering her assistance.
Joanie began working temp jobs to make ends meet. “I didn’t stay in one place for very long. Eventually, I ended up in a shelter until I got a call from Warren Village,” she said. “They shared awesome news — there was a one bedroom apartment available for me and my daughter Jeneva. Once again, she had hope for the future.”
In May of 2008, she and her daughter moved into Warren Village. “It finally felt awesome to have a place of our own,” she said. However, not long after moving into the transitional housing project, she lost her job. “Once again, extreme fear took over as I did not know what would happen to us.” Joanie worked with the staff in family services and housing to make sure her residence at Warren Village was secure. “They adjusted my rent so we could continue living at Warren Village. In addition, I was able to start school and found a flexible part-time job. It wasn’t easy, but with the assistance of my family advocate, evening life-skills training and the overall support of Warren Village, I will soon finish school with a human services degree,” she said. After she graduates, Joanie hopes to work with domestic violence victims. “I am certain that I can help other abuse victims overcome their fears.”
Joanie’s daughter Jeneva is doing well in school and continues to receive counseling for post traumatic stress syndrome. “She is so brave and I tell her that every single day. Jeneva knows that she no longer needs to live in fear and she knows abuse is wrong. The cycle has been broken.”
Today, Joanie is giving back and working to promote more affordable housing in all of Colorado through an internship with Housing Colorado for her Community College of Denver Human Services Practicum. Her advocacy efforts at the capitol lead to an invitation to the signing of HB1017 – a bill clarifying rules regarding the rent control statute. Joanie was also among a group of Warren Village representatives in attendance at the capitol for the declaration of Single Parents’ Day on March 21, 2011.
“We wake up every day knowing we are blessed. We have found the courage, the strength and the ability to succeed because Warren Village believed in us and offered us a home and hope for the future,” she said. “In looking back, I realize that the tears I shed are no longer tears of fear or sadness — they are tears of celebration and joy that God has provided and that we have hope, no matter what obstacles get in the way.”
Joanie & Jeneva in attendance when Governor Bill Ritter signed HB1017
Jaonie & Jeneva with Rep. Angela Williams for Single Parents' Day