Single Mom Overcomes Tough Times FWD

Tom Boland (
Sun, 1 Feb 1998 18:15:21 -0800 (PST)

FWD Feb 1, 1998 from Catholic Charities, Diocese of Santa Rosa, CA


Diane Penserini is a survivor.

Born and raised in Napa by a strict pair of second-generation Italian
parents, Diane grew up in a home with few freedoms. When she left her
parents to marry, she discovered the man she thought she knew and loved
abused drugs. He also
physically abused her.

"One day when my daughter was 5 she asked me, 'Mommy, is Daddy coming home
tonight?' I told her yes. Then she said, 'But I don't want Daddy to come
That's when Diane knew she had to leave.

Without the benefit of child support, Diane raised her two daughters and
son. When she needed to work two jobs to pay their bills, she did. She
focused on her one priority in life: the well- being of her children.

She successfully supported her family until the unexpected happened: One of her
daughters suffered a ruptured spleen, and incurred $65,000 in medical expenses.
Unable to meet all of their expenses, Diane briefly considered filing for
bankruptcy. As she was frantically trying to satisfy her creditors, a bank
foreclosed on her home.

Diane moved her family into a rental with an option to buy. She had just
replaced the flooring and repaired the walls when a bank foreclosed on the

"That's when I completely fell apart," Diane says. "Everything went bad.
... I was a woman alone in my late 40s with three teens to support."

To afford the first and last months' rent and deposit on another rental,
Diane sold her car. But she was unable to keep up with the rent, and was
forced to move again.

She relocated her family five times that year.

Then one day Diane saw an ad for Catholic Charities' Shared Housing Exchange in
Napa. Shared Housing matches people who want to share their homes with
individuals or small families who need low- cost housing.

Case worker Sheila Hannaford placed Diane and her family in a home with an
affordable rent. A year later Diane moved her family into a rental of their

In 1995, Catholic Charities received a donated mobile home. Diane applied
for the home, and title was eventually transferred to her.

"I feel very fortunate," she says.

Diane believes more support is needed for people who want a helping hand, not a
handout. She's thankful that Catholic Charities provides that type of

"People can do wonderful things on their own," says the 51- year-old
mother. "If
people have an opportunity to work for something, they will. They just need a


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