Ending A Vicious Cycle of Abuse and Homelessness


In  midst of life’s darkest shadows, there shines a glimmer of hope. Meet Jennifer*, a woman who has braved the unforgiving storms of addiction, abusive relationships, and homelessness, only to emerge stronger and more determined than ever before. Her journey from a painful cycle of abuse to finding a beacon of hope at Opportunity House’s emergency shelter is a testament to the human spirit’s unyielding resilience.

Early Years

Jennifer* struggled with a cycle of abuse, despite the fact that she grew up in a nice suburban area. Her mother had a thriving business selling drugs to people from all walks of life including bus drivers, EMTs, professionals, and business owners. Drugs became as commonplace as soda pop and candy.

Overcoming the Struggle

Jennifer’s life took a downward turn as she began using marijuana, pills, and eventually cocaine by the age of 17. However, her life took a positive turn at 21 when she got pregnant and decided to get clean. Jennifer embraced a career as a hair stylist and life seemed good until her partner became abusive.

A New Hope

After a few years of being on her own, Jennifer met a new partner who adopted her daughter, and together, they welcomed a son.  “It was everything I ever wanted,” noted Jennifer. She also enjoyed a successful career as the manager of a salon distribution store. Determined to break the cycle of her past, Jennifer was hopeful for a brighter future. “I was totally opposite of everything my mom was. Life was good.”

A Downward Spiral

Unfortunately, a surgery for a fractured vertebra triggered another crisis as Jennifer and her husband became addicted to Percocet, a painkiller prescribed for her post-surgery pain. When they could no longer access Percocet, her mother introduced her to meth, leading to a Xanax addiction. The family’s instability worsened, affecting their children as well.

Rock Bottom and the Long Road to Recovery

The sudden death of Jennifer’s brother overwhelmed her with grief and pushed her further into addiction and depression. At her lowest point, she attempted to take her own life but thankfully received the help she needed. While recovering, her children lived with their father.

Another hospitalization provided more setbacks. While her fractured hip was healing, she moved back in with her mother. That didn’t last and she moved back with her father. Then, she started a new relationship and moved in with her new partner. He beat her and she moved to escape his abuse.  He eventually died from a drug overdose.

End cycle of abuse - Love shouldn't hurt

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

A few years later and in a new relationship, she learned she was pregnant with her third child.  With that news, she found renewed strength to get clean and stop using drugs.  But her resolve weakened when her partner continued his addiction throughout her pregnancy.  After she delivered her daughter, her drug habit resumed without hesitation. Fighting and chaos were a way of life in their household. Finally, she fled to Safe Berks and various family members’ homes to escape the abuse.

Her life continued to spiral downward, and she took bottles of pills to make it stop. Two days later, she was found unresponsive in her car.  She was rushed to the hospital. They inserted a trach and resuscitated her several times. Then she was put into a medically induced coma while she recovered from severe pneumonia.  Once she left the hospital the cycle continued with her mother supplying her with drugs and resuming the relationship with her abusive boyfriend.

In 2021, Jennifer decided to get clean. That proved to be an easier decision than ending her abusive relationship.  He promised to change.  Things were going to get better–but they never did. He gambled away their meager income and she left him to live with family members. When family members finally asked her to leave, she came to Opportunity House.

A Brighter Future

At the Opportunity House emergency shelter, Jennifer had the chance to slow down and focus on herself and heal this vicious cycle of addiction and domestic violence. Thanks to the help of her case managers, she was able to get the help she needed, saved money, and addressed her ADHD and how to live with it. “I’m just staying here. I don’t live here,” she says with a smile.  While she is grateful for the assistance, she knows she has a brighter future.

Today, Jennifer lives in a three-bedroom apartment with her children.  This is the first time in years that they have lived together as a family. She knows that life will always throw curve balls but she’s more prepared than ever before “I keep going forward.  I can’t make excuses.  If I do the right things, I will get the right things,” she adds.

To help others like Jennifer please donate to the shelter and be part of breaking this cycle.

Get Help

– If you or someone you know is without safe, stable or functional housing please contact Opportunity House‘s emergency shelter at 610-374-4696 ext 247

– Everyone deserves to feel safe. If you need help getting out of an abusive situation please contact one of these agencies Safe Berks, Berks Women in Crisis or call the 24 hour hotline at 1-844-611-7233.

– If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). They provide free, confidential support 24/7.

– For drug addiction support contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for confidential support 24/7

* Name changed to protect confidentiality

Opportunity House is a non-profit organization in Reading, PA, that offers those experiencing homelessness a safe place to live while they rebuild their lives.  Our Success Stories share inspiring stories of our client’s journey from homelessness to finding stability, safety, and security after leaving the emergency shelter. 


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