homelessness in jeffco

Off the streets with a grandson to raise

Posted 7/27/18

“What’s not to love about raising a 6-year-old boy?” Melissa Winters asked. Winters, 54, who is about nine months away from earning her massage therapy licensure, is raising her grandson Jaiden …

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homelessness in jeffco

Off the streets with a grandson to raise

Posted

“What’s not to love about raising a 6-year-old boy?” Melissa Winters asked.

Winters, 54, who is about nine months away from earning her massage therapy licensure, is raising her grandson Jaiden in Arvada. But it wasn’t too long ago that she was homeless.

Winters came to Colorado to work as a physical therapy assistant in 1995. Her daughter Nadine was 9. When she was 12, Nadine went to live with her dad in Ohio and Winters decided to get her commercial driver’s license (CDL).

As a truck driver, “I got to visit every state in the country,” Winters said, “and see lots of old friends and family.”

Nadine returned a year later and the mother and daughter moved to Commerce City. Eventually, Nadine got mixed up with the wrong crowd, Winters said, and when she turned 18 Winters sent her to live with family in New York.

Winters was working in the trucking company’s office when she got laid off in February 2011. She met her current husband Frank Ventura through the trucking company and the two got an apartment together in May 2011. Just two months later, Frank was injured badly enough that he couldn’t work. He was on worker’s compensation until 2013.

“We had some income. At one point, I was working two jobs,” Winters said of her jobs at Lowes and Walmart.

But in August 2015, she and Ventura lost their apartment because the landlord decided not to renew the month-to-month lease. They had nowhere to go, so they lived out of their car in the day and slept in a friend’s pickup truck at night.

“We decided that wasn’t going to work for us,” Winters said.

A month later, her parents gave her an old motor home.

“It was not the greatest thing, but it was better than sleeping in the car,” Winters said. “It kept us warm. It kept us dry and it kept us safe.”

They lived in the RV park in Golden until February 2017, when Winters was grandfathered in to Nadine’s housing assistance.

Nadine had moved back to Colorado when she was 21. She eventually established herself and was raising her son in Arvada. Jaiden was in Head Start and Nadine got involved with Jeffco Prosperity Partners, which helps parents become self-sufficient and ensures “children from low-income homes graduate on time and have access to post-secondary opportunities,” its website states.

When Nadine died of cancer at 30, Winters gained custody of Jaiden, then 4. Because of her daughter’s connection with Jeffco Prosperity Partners, Winters got involved with the program in December 2016.

The program is funded by grants and offered to parents with children in the Wheat Ridge or Arvada Head Start programs. The goal is to break the cycle of generational poverty in Jefferson County and provides resources by working in collaboration with Jeffco Schools, the county’s human services department and The Action Center, a local nonprofit that offers programs that support self-sufficiency for Jefferson County residents and the homeless.

Winters is thankful for the guidance and assistance the program has provided her, she said. And she is thankful to be raising Jaiden.

“He’s my love,” she said. “He makes it all worthwhile.”

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