DENVER -- There are nearly 17,000 reported victims of domestic violence living in Colorado. Experts say most cases are unreported, so those numbers just scratch the surface.
Because of Denver's housing shortage and a lack of resources, many victims and their families have nowhere to go.
"It was either... I die and my kids have nowhere to go, or we just leave,” said Chanel Davis, who along with her four children spent years living a nightmare.
“I could have a smile on my face, someone saying 'good morning,' (and) I'd get smacked,” she told Denver7.
Her now ex-boyfriend beat her on a daily basis. It came to a head last March, when Davis woke up to her bedroom door being kicked in and her boyfriend attacking her.
"I was raped and he went to sleep. While he was asleep I grabbed my kids, jumped in the car and just left," she said.
Davis and the kids traveled from Chicago to Colorado, with no plans and no place to go. With only the clothes on their backs, Davis and her kids slept in their car for a week before finding a shelter for abused women in Arvada.
After 60 days in the safe house, they were told they had to leave.
"It was difficult. Four kids in a car. We had to drive from place to place to take showers and eat," she said.
"Sometimes, finding housing that is safe and secure is out of our capacity, said Emma Martin with the Domestic Violence Service Center's "The Initiative" program. Martin said families like Davis' are often literally left out in the cold.
Here's why: There are 11 safe houses in the Denver metro area. All have long waiting lists. Guests can stay from two weeks to 60 days. After that, they're on their own.
“Other people are trying to get in, so they have to tell you to go because you can't stay longer than you're supposed to,” said Davis. But she refused to give up.
After another week in the car, she found a job at a child development center, and an apartment in Wheat Ridge.
The family Christmas tree doesn't have presents underneath it, but it does have something much more important.
“My gift to my kids is making sure they have a roof over their heads. They have stability. They have warmth. They have food," said Davis.
And now, surrounded by four loving children, Davis has a message for fellow victims of domestic violence.
“Just keep going. Don't give up. Don't quit."
If you, or anyone you know, is suffering from domestic violence, please call the domestic violence hotline. That number is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).