“I’ve been through a lot in my life,” Debra, a 58-year-old Navy veteran reflects, “but my faith in God has sustained me.” Things were going well for Debra, but then her hours were cut back at work, followed by the deaths of both her mother and daughter. “My already unsteady existence threatened to topple over and I was lost.” Here’s how Debra found her way again.
Debra, and her companion dog Holly, are new residents at the YMCA Supportive Housing Campus. As a veteran, Debra is using the Grant Per Diem program, which helps those who have served our country to avoid homelessness. Debra is a vibrant addition to our community, always helpful and upbeat. You can often find her and Holly enjoying the company of other Y-SHC residents in the cafeteria, and she has many experiences to share. “I have been a student, wife and mother, food service clerk, commercial truck driver, security officer and unemployed,” Debra says. “I have lived with family, friends, my dog and alone.”
In the fall of 2012, Debra returned to her hometown in Pennsylvania “in an effort to re-start my life. Things were going well. I had a job, an apartment, and friends and family nearby,” Debra shares. “After a few years, things started falling apart. My hours were cut back at work and finances became a huge issue. I was at risk of losing my apartment. Then my mother died, and while her death was expected, it was a difficult time for me. A few months later, my daughter who was living in Des Moines, was shot and killed. My already unsteady existence threatened to topple over and I was lost.”
"My already unsteady existence threatened to topple over and I was lost.”
“When I lost my mom and daughter within a few months of each other, it became increasingly difficult to deal with day-to-day life. I moved to Des Moines to settle my daughter’s affairs and was blessed with some wonderful new friends. I came here to start over, and the Y has provided the much-needed support for my new life.”
With her housing and case management in motion, Debra was able to concentrate on finding a job. “The resources available to me through the Grant Per Diem program at the YMCA Supportive Housing Campus are helping me to re-steady my life. I have a warm, secure, private place to live and I have the support and motivation I need. I recently started a new full-time job and will be moving into an apartment in Des Moines in a few months.”
“I couldn’t have done it without the help of Kathy and Richardine at the Community Resource and Referral Center, Morgan my case worker at the Y, and the caring and supportive staff. Jennifer, Sarah, Brandon, Hanna and the others have treated me with respect and kindness.”
"I have a warm, secure, private place to live and I have the support and motivation I need."
Debra, who describes herself as “outgoing, determined, and positive,” feels happiest when she doesn’t “have to worry about basic needs like a decent place to live and enough to eat.” She has 10 grandkids and a great-grandson and advises that none of us should “get stuck in the moment. This, too, shall pass.”
Despite all she has been through, Debra still has boundless energy to help those around her. An eager, enthusiastic volunteer, Debra is committed to raising awareness of the Y. She helps with donor appreciation projects, attends meetings that influence our community culture, advocates for other residents, and knits dish cloths that are distributed through our food/hygiene/clothing pantry for the benefit of residents. She wishes that everyone would know that “there are a lot of things to do here. I especially like bingo!”
“When I move on and ‘graduate’ from the Grant Per Diem program, I will carry the lessons and memories with me,” Debra asserts. “I think if there were more resources such as the YMCA Supportive Housing Campus, our community would continue to grow and prosper, giving individuals the opportunity and support to be productive and positive members of society.”
“I think if there were more resources such as the YMCA Supportive Housing Campus, our community would continue to grow and prosper."