South Park – North Park – Golden Hill

Friday, October 20, 2017

Retreats for the homeless

The organization that puts on retreats for the homeless
Spiritual retreats help those struggling with homelessness and addiction move forward.

Denise Vasquez awoke one night in November 2015, slumped over in a chair after drinking at least a gallon of vodka.

She knew she had to either find more alcohol to avoid a withdrawal seizure or quickly seek medical help.

For the first time in years, she wanted to stop drinking. 

For the first time in years, she prayed.

"I want to live!" the 43-year-old Denver woman recalls telling God before dialing 911.

Over the next five months a sober Vasquez, having grown up in a church-going family, reconnected with God while living at the Salvation Army's Denver Adult Rehabilitation Center. After seven years of hard, usually solitary, "blackout" drinking, where she had isolated herself from her family and friends, Vasquez had already made great strides toward regaining control of her life.

But it was an experience outside the center, presented to her and five other homeless women who were recovering from addiction, that Vasquez says gave her the tools to remain sober. The women spent a weekend in April 2016 at the Loretto Spirituality Center in Littleton, Colorado where they participated in an Ignatian Spirituality Project retreat.

"It's a beautiful environment," she recalls. "The whole area is so rich in nature, and I connect with nature. It just brings me right back to connecting with God, so the whole experience was so spiritual for me."

Vasquez says she had no idea where the retreat center would be but arrived there to realize that she had lived in apartments across the street and had grown up only five miles away.

"When I got there it just seemed like God was taking me home, taking me back to my roots, back to a time in my life when my addiction wasn't controlling my life," Vasquez says. "Being with the women and interacting, the praying and the singing and the sharing, everything about it was so soul-filling for me."

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