Creating a Healthy Exodus
By Samantha Leader | Photography by Alexis Emm
When meeting Ashley Trahan for the first time, you would likely not realize she’s a survivor of multiple abusive relationships and had long experienced anxiety and depression. She now has a full- time job and custody of her sister’s child, along with her own three children.
She has some simple advice for anyone struggling through a situation similar to what she overcame.
“Just keep trucking. It is only temporary,” Ashley said. “Keep your head up and make sure people who love you are close. Don’t give up or it will be your biggest mistake.”
When Ashley was 10 years old, her stepfather — a man with alcohol and drug addiction problems — left the family. Ashley was left with a blurred perception of a healthy relationship. At 17, she moved out of her family’s home to live on her own, starting on a journey marked by unhealthy relationships.
“I was attracted to the same kind of men with alcohol, heroin and drug addictions,” Ashley said.
Eventually, a woman who worked with Ashley at JGB Enterprises told her about Joseph’s House for Women, an organization that provides a safe home and family environment for homeless mothers and children.
The man she was dating at the time was aggressive toward her son.
“I called [Joseph’s House for Women founder] Kitty Spinelli, who called me back a minute later, and talked to me about the next step to get into the program,” she said.
The process for entering the program starts with an interview. Ashley met with the trained staff to discuss options upon admission. The staff’s goal is to match each mother with her interests, abilities and need for employment.
When she entered the program, Ashley was pregnant with her third child. To keep space between her family and the past unhealthy relationships, she didn’t tell anyone about her plans to move and changed her phone number.
Joseph’s House for Women was a completely new world for Ashley, who’d been on her own since age 17. On weekdays, there was a 6 p.m. curfew, followed by a communal dinner with other residents, a life skills class at 7 p.m. and then an 8 p.m. bedtime.
“There are many pros and cons to the rules,” Ashley said. “And for the first two weeks, I was secluded from everyone. I was very shy and didn’t want to talk to people.”
That eventually faded, as she began the process aimed at helping mothers overcome difficult emotions and learn to do things like cook, make bottles and budget money.
“The biggest thing to remember in this program is to let your pride go,” Ashley said.
When she first joined the program at Joseph’s House for Women, Ashley never saw herself enjoying life in a place with so many people and rules. After a year, though, she couldn’t see herself leaving.
“You form bonds and lifelong friendships,” she said.
Ashley moved out of the house in March 2017, after three months of searching for an apartment. Joseph’s House for Women’s Exodus Program was a great help. The program aims to help mothers through the transition of being a part of the program to moving back out on their own.
“They give you a counselor who works with you to make sure you’re OK after moving, and helps you find the apartment,” Ashley explained.
With the help of the Exodus Program, Ashley found her own apartment. She now works full time as a customer service representative, making enough money to support herself and her children, with benefits and paid time off. If she ever finds herself in a bind, Ashley knows she can count on the Exodus Program for backup in the form of diapers, clothing, childcare and more.
Finding her footing independently hasn’t been easy, but she’s confident she’s on the right path. She credits the program for help in that direction.
“Support from Joseph’s House has helped the transition be smooth,” Ashley said. SWM
Do you want to help Joseph’s House for Women? Find a list of needed items and more information at jhfw.org.