Marisol Homes wants to be the last shelter a family ever needs

Children play in the playground at Marisol Homes on Oct. 30, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. Marisol Homes is a shelter for women and children, 90% of whom are survivors of domestic violence. The program’s goal is to help the women achieve financial and housing stability while staying at one of four houses Marisol manages.

In the past year, Marisa and her four children have bounced from a family member’s home to a shelter to a motel to another shelter and, finally, to Marisol Homes.

The family soon will move into a furnished apartment and have money in the bank after living since February at a Marisol Home in Lakewood.

“At first, I was nervous because nobody wants to be in this situation,” said Marisa, whose name is being withheld by The Denver Post because of safety concerns for her family. “They’re really supportive, and if I had any issues, somebody was there to talk to.”

The Marisol Homes program is part of Catholic Charities of Denver, and the four homes it manages provide temporary housing to homeless mothers, many of whom are survivors of domestic violence, and their young children. The program operates on a $1 million annual budget.

The homes are much more than temporary shelters, program director Amy Eurek said. Marisol’s staff guides the women toward financial and housing stability and then supports them with an alumni group once they are living on their own.

“We meet our families where they are,” Eurek said. “Our caseloads are really small, so we can go deep, go big.”

The counselors discuss everything from spending habits to social influences to credit scores with the women. The residents must follow house rules, including curfews, sharing chores and abstaining from drugs and alcohol. And the women are required to save 90 percent of their income after paying for some basic personal expenses.

There is no time limit for a family’s stay at a Marisol home as long as the mother is proving a willingness to work and save and follow the rules. The average stay is about six months, Eurek said.

The program started in 2005 when founders realized most shelters provided short-term relief during a crisis and helped women obtain legal documents and enroll in public assistance, but weren’t equipped to help women focus on long-term stability, Eurek said.

While there is intense support at Marisol, the women must take responsibility for themselves and their children. For example, if they want to run an errand or keep a doctor’s appointment, they can’t just ask a staff member or a fellow resident to watch their children; they must arrange for a sitter. When they are on their own, that support network won’t be around, so they have to learn to manage all aspects of life and parenthood, Eurek said.

“We mimic as much as we can the real world,” she said. “We don’t want to create a utopia or a bubble. In the real world, you have to get up and do something and get things accomplished.”

Marisa said she and her children are ready to make it. She just started a better-paying job as a cook, and she expects to have more than $1,000 in the bank when they leave the Marisol home. The guidance from Marisol forced her to stay on a budget and plan for the future.

“This time around, I was so confused,” she said. “I was so down. I was so stressed. By staying here, it helped me put my foot down and get back in the habit” of creating and sticking to a financial budget.

When a family is ready to leave, Marisol provides furniture for the new apartment and a small cash stipend for household basics such as towels, dishes and cleaning supplies.

“Our end goal is to be the last shelter this family stays at, period,” Eurek said. “Once they move out, that’s it.”

Children, whose names had to be withheld due to security reasons, play in the playground at Marisol Homes on Oct. 30, 2017 in Denver. Marisol Homes is a shelter for women and children, 90% of whom are survivors of domestic violence.
Catholic Charities and Community Services of the Archdiocese of Denver Inc. – Marisol Homes program

Address: Jefferson County
Year it started: 2005
Number of employees: 20
Annual budget: $1 million
Percent of funds that goes directly to client services: 87 percent
Number served last year: 175 people between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017

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