A woman is assaulted or beaten every 9 seconds in the United States. Across the country, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have suffered physical abuse at the hands of an intimate partner. In Colorado, domestic violence programs are overburdened and under resourced—163 victims were turned away in 2014 due to lack of resources.
Julie Duhegraham is working to change those statistics, one victim at a time.
As the domestic violence services coordinator at the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, Julie works with case managers to provide life-saving assistance to clients, mostly women and their children, by helping them find resources, seek legal services, or relocate after a violent situation has occurred.
Julie often sees women who have had to flee their homes and turn to domestic violence shelters. Jenna* was one of those women. After years in a physically abusive relationship, Jenna daringly left in the middle of the night with her son. She moved in with a close friend until she could find a place of her own. Within a week, her abuser found where she was living and showed up at her friend’s apartment, angry and aggressive. Jenna feared not only for her safety, but the safety of her son, so she made the difficult decision to go to a domestic violence shelter. That’s where she was connected with a case manager at the Coalition.
Jenna had escaped her abuser. Now, she was homeless and vulnerable, facing a whole new set of challenges. Julie worked with Jenna and her case manager to help navigate the processes and paperwork necessary to obtain services, housing, and health care. Eventually, Jenna’s case manager was able to obtain a voucher and find her an apartment. Julie helped Jenna move in to her new place, set up her own bank account, and look for a new job. With Julie’s help, Jenna had the tools she needed to get back on her feet.
Unfortunately, for so many, there isn’t always a happy ending. Women are in more danger during the first few weeks after they have fled an abusive relationship, when they are 70 times more likely to be killed. For Julie, it is devastating to hear people say, “why doesn’t she just leave?”
Imagine leaving a long-term relationship with your children in tow. Now, imagine that your partner is angry, manipulative, and abusive. You have no money because they have always controlled your finances. You have no friends or family connections, because they have isolated you from everyone. You can’t even take your car, because it was purchased in their name. And worst of all, you know your life and the lives of your children are danger if you stay, but you have nowhere to turn.
Women, and men, who are victims of domestic violence are just that—they are victims. It is very difficult to walk away from everything and to risk your life doing it. We cannot allow individuals to continue to experience trauma in their relationships, or on the streets. Take a stand against domestic violence.
Stacy Miller finds herself busy these days with community meetings, coffee chats with peers, Narcotics Anonymous, and Alcoholics Anonymous. She finds support within her community and is working hard to offer the same support to others in recovery from addiction and homelessness.
Just two years earlier, Stacey was fighting to survive on the streets, where her time was consumed by finding a safe place to sleep or finding something to eat. Most of her life, Stacey struggled with addiction, making it hard to keep a job or to care for herself and her son. She knew how difficult it was to grow up with a mother who was an addict. She didn’t want that same life for her son, but she did all she could to keep him safe and off the street, moving from shelter to shelter or sleeping in vans when shelters were full.
One day, when her son was eight-years-old, Stacey was hospitalized from an overdose. That was when she knew she couldn’t provide the kind of life she wanted for her son. She asked an aunt to adopt him in order to save him from the streets and the foster care system.
With her son in good hands, she finally sought help for herself at the Stout Street Health Center. Putting together the pieces of her past—a difficult childhood, an addicted mother, depression, and drug addiction—her psychiatrist diagnosed her with bipolar disorder. Because of her history and her need for mental health care and housing, Stacey’s doctor also referred her to the Fort Lyon Supportive Residential Community where she could focus on her recovery.
Even before Stacey arrived at Fort Lyon, she was determined to change. She detoxed two weeks before her departure. Once at Fort Lyon, she began attending Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous regularly. She also attended peer support groups and continued to meet with her doctor to address and manage her bipolar disorder.
“It was great [to be] away from the people, the traffic, the places. I had a place to go, my own room. I was able to recognize the value of getting sober [versus] the pain and sorrow of being an addict. Being somewhere like Fort Lyon, it’s easier to recognize than when you’re on the streets,” Stacey recalls.
Nearly a year and a half after arriving at Fort Lyon, Stacey maintained her sobriety from the start, met her recovery goals, and graduated. She boarded the van bound for Denver and moved into her new apartment home at Renaissance at North Colorado Station.
Today, Stacey tries to maintain a positive outlook on life. She is sober, in a safe and stable home, and involved in her community. Though, she is still working on herself and her personal goal to “stay substance free, and continue the walk of a clean mind and clean body.”
With the refuge of home, she is now able to appreciate the small things many take for granted, “things people do when they have stability,” like calling friends or connecting on Facebook, and even, staying in touch with her son.
Seven years ago, Wayne spent his nights sleeping in alleys and under bridges. Without shelter during a harsh Denver winter, Wayne developed frostbite on his feet. Without health coverage, Wayne knew he could not afford the high medical bill if he went to the Emergency Room. Wayne felt he had no choice but to “tough it out.” Years later, Wayne still experiences pain daily. If Wayne were a Medicaid recipient at that time, he would have been able to seek medical intervention.
In 2011, Wayne was in bad shape after an altercation with another person living on the streets. He says the emergency room staff did not want to treat him without health care coverage. Here, Wayne learned about Medicaid, a public health insurance program for those with low or no income. The hospital provided him with the necessary paperwork and support to apply. Wayne was enrolled in Medicaid and was treated for his injuries. He left without the stress of a medical bill, knowing Medicaid covered all of his Emergency Room charges.
A year ago, Wayne began to notice a change in his eyesight – it was quickly becoming harder to see. After a visit to the eye clinic at the Stout Street Health Center, Wayne was sent to the hospital for cataracts in his eyes. Wayne was able to go in for surgery less than a month from the time he noticed a problem with his sight. According to Allaboutvision.com, the average cost in 2015 for cataract surgery, without any form of insurance, was $3,542 per eye. With Medicaid, Wayne’s cataract surgery, for both eyes, was completely covered.
Wayne is one of almost 1.5 million people in Colorado with Medicaid. This vital health care coverage not only covers everyday illnesses and injuries, it also allowed Wayne to undergo surgery to regain his vision, which allowed him to continue his work towards stability.