But Kariuki's story did not end in a homeless shelter or still on the streets of Denver. Instead, she has inspired thousands of people to join a journey of hope to Africa.
The journey started in Denver in 2000.
She had just moved to the Mile-High City with her two children from Pennsylvania while in the middle of a divorce.
"I had a cousin in Denver," she said. "But three weeks to the day after I got here, she was killed in a car accident, and I didn't know what to do."
In a new city, she had no home.
So she asked the Denver Rescue Mission for help. Workers there helped with rent and a job and they referred her to Issachar Ministries.
For two years she lived at the North Denver ministry, wondering what to do next. And one night on her balcony, she figured it out.
"I'd sit out there and dream about going back to Kenya," she said.
Kariuki's heart was breaking for her homeland of Africa.
She had a sister who worked for the U.N. would send her images of dying children with AIDS and malnutrition problems. So she resolved to start a nonprofit ministry in Africa, after pleading with God.
"I'd say, 'You're looking for servants. Well, I'm willing to go. Can you use me?" she said. "What I wanted to offer the children was hope. So I came up with the name, 'Tumaini,' and 'Tumaini' means hope."
Now, with more than 1,000 partners in her nonprofit ministry, she is back in Denver for just three more weeks looking for more partners before she returns home to Africa.
The orphanage she runs currently has 56 kids.
"Each of them call me mom," she said.
"She responded to this spiritual stirring in her soul," Tumaini Ministries Development Director Gayle Pottle said. "I think it's empowering and it's a story of hope."
She's moved past homelessness here in Denver to give kids a home and hope for their futures across the world.
"We are grateful," Kariuki said. "We are grateful."
Tumiani Ministries just raised more than $50,000 in a benefit concert in Denver.
If you'd like to partner with the nonprofit ministry, you can learn more at tumainiministries.org