The Palfrey Family

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Denice Palfrey doesn’t like to dwell on her past very much. She’s made some bad choices that led to addiction and an abusive relationship that crippled many years of her life.

“I don’t want to keep telling that story of who I was,” Denice said. “That’s old. That’s not me anymore.”

Leaving an abusive relationship and trying to overcome addiction was not easy. She was homeless and crashed on couches and floors of friends. She went to shelters, but her husband followed her, trying to get her to come back to her old life. Denice had a daughter, Alexsa, now 10, and she wanted her daughter to grow up in a safe environment. The will to keep her daughter safe empowered her to make changes in her life.

“The domestic violence took everything I had, including my self esteem,” Denice said. “I had to get rid of all the people in my life that were bad to me. It was hard. I was alone. But I found a church and things are falling to place.”

Denice also went through Sheppard’s Door, a life transformation program that she credits for saving her life. The program eventually led her to her current job as a receptionist for the Department of Health and Services and out of homelessness. Alexsa also had a positive role model in a Big Sister from the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program. It was through Alexsa’s Big Sister that Denice heard about Habitat for Humanity and she realized Habitat’s Jubilee Commons—a 23 home Habitat for Humanity community in Gresham—is located a few blocks from her current apartment.

She applied, got accepted and her home is under construction. She already knows a lot of the homeowners, and one family takes care of Alexsa after school. She can’t wait to move into the community.

“Right now I am in subsidized housing, and although it’s better than being homeless, it isn’t the same as homeownership,” Denice said. “With subsidized housing every time I get a raise my rent goes up. With my income, Habitat’s my opportunity to have a place that is mine and a mortgage that doesn’t go up. I want my daughter to have a place that will always be her home. I never want her to experience homelessness again.”

Denice is allowing herself to slowly dream bigger. She hopes to go back to school and get a bachelor’s in criminal justice so she can work with juveniles battling addiction.

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