Mom and daughter start a new life


Rita Olivas found a fresh start in life after walking through the doors of Father Ed Judy House.

The shelter, located near Fort Logan in Denver, serves as a life-transforming shelter for homeless women with children—offering support and compassion to mothers, who are often the victims of domestic violence.

Rita said she is a new person because of Father Ed Judy House. She found the support she needed after a life of abuse and drugs.

Her struggles began as a child in Colorado Springs when she suffered physical abuse from her mother, she said. While her father was overseas serving in the military, she began to take drugs and start fights at school. She didn’t make it past the 9th grade.

“My childhood was hard,” Rita said. “I longed to be home, but I didn’t want to get beaten all the time.”

She later married and had a son but lost custody after a divorce.

“I was into drugs pretty bad,” she said. “I took too long in getting clean.”

Her drug addiction continued when she began another relationship that soon turned abusive. After giving birth to her daughter, Rita decided she needed to start over in a different city outside of Brooklyn.

“And my daughter needed a new life,” she recalled.

After booking a flight to Denver, Rita spent a short time at an emergency shelter for abused women. She then discovered Father Ed Judy House, which serves hundreds of single mothers when they run out of time at an emergency shelter. The shelter, founded in 2005, is named after Father Ed Judy, a former director of Samaritan House shelter known as a strong advocate for the homeless.

At Father Ed’s, staff focus on creating relationships with the single mothers and help them to see their God-given dignity and worth. They offer compassionate guidance and support through an alumni program to ensure a successful transition to stable housing. According to the shelter, 94 percent of families who lived at Father Ed Judy House remain in stable housing.

Rita said she was worried at first about her new life as a single and sober mother of a young child.

“I thought, “How am I going to do this by myself?’” she recalled. “I always cried.”

She found the support through the mother’s group at the shelter. She also earned a culinary certificate and her first driver’s license. Today’s Rita is an advisor at her daughter’s school, regularly attends parent meetings and is an active member of a local community church.

Through Father Ed’s alumni program, a drug abuse counselor is a phone call away should a former resident need support. The ongoing assistance, and God, made her new life possible, Rita said.

“(We) leave Father Ed Judy House, but it’s like you never left because they stay with you,” she said from her home in Denver. “It’s crazy—good things are happening (in my life) now. Without God, none of this would be possible.”