Early into the marriage, Maggie knew she was in trouble. 

Her husband’s anger, fueled by his alcoholism, would brew and brew over time before bursting into physical violence. His would manipulate and emotionally abuse her—yelling and degrading Maggie until she would push him away. Then, once she would call the police, her husband would accuse her of the physical and emotional abuse that he himself had perpetrated.

Maggie’s husband would threaten their two toddler children as a means to emotionally hurt her. He once bit his son hard enough to break the skin because the boy had bit another child. He even encouraged the youngest, their son, to be abusive to his mom, teaching him his version of “how to be a man.”

Maggie grew accustomed to living in daily fear for herself and her children.

Finally, Maggie had had enough. She was married just two years when she first came to a shelter for victims of domestic violence. But as happens so often in the dynamics of domestic violence, Maggie’s husband pleaded for her to come home, promising better behavior and an end to the violence.

Maggie returned home, but her husband’s temper and violent actions did not improve. She wanted out, but she refused to go back to the shelter. Maggie felt embarrassed, she would say, because she would feel like a failure if she returned to the shelter. She thought people she knew would find out. 

That’s when Heartland Family Service worked quickly to move Maggie and her children into Transitions, Heartland Family Service’s seven-unit transitional living facility. At Transitions, individuals and families without a home or who are living with domestic abuse can live for up to two years as they work with case managers to develop plans to meet their goals for education, employment and permanent housing.

It was at this point that Maggie began to turn around her life. She worked hard to complete her studies and receive a certificate as a certified nursing assistant. She balanced her studies with her full-time work and her desire to become a loving and caring parent to her children.

Maggie met frequently with her Heartland Family Service case manager, learning to better manage her finances and improve her parenting skills. She also worked with a therapist, learning to heal the wounds, improve her self-esteem and build a better, more independent life for herself and her children.

After nearly a year in Transitions, Maggie was approved for subsidized housing and moved into an apartment with her children and her parents. The new living arrangements helped heal the family because Maggie’s parents also feared her husband and were reluctant to visit the couple. Maggie continues to work as a certified nursing assistant and to provide for her family—confident in her abilities and free from the abuse that had tormented her life.

Maggie is such a believer in Transitions that in August she brought a homeless friend into the program.

“Our Transitions program gave Maggie a safe place to live and the time she needed to meet her goals,” said Joanie Spitznagle, the program director of Homeless Services for Omaha and Council Bluffs. “It is stories like Maggie’s that remind me why we provide housing and support services. Our ability to help her not only stopped the abuse, it changed the lives of Maggie and her children.”