This week, Rose Haven guest Debra Sue got the keys to her very own apartment in a brand new building, due to relentless advocacy and collaboration between Transitions Projects, Catholic Charities and Rose Haven. This triumph came after 3 years of homelessness.
Debra Sue is full of compassion and a natural born helper. Prior to becoming homeless, Debra Sue was working as a live-in caregiver. In 2014 she was hired by a friend she’d known for several years to care for his ailing stepdaughter. She gave up her 2-bedroom apartment to move into his home and provide live-in support.
It was this same employer who beat Debra Sue so badly one day that she lay unconscious in his laundry room for 8 hours. As a result, she now has limited vision, is unable to drive and suffers from memory loss. After this incident, she grabbed minimal belongings and fled…leaving behind the earned income he would never give her.
“He took all my things. I don’t have much family left and those I have aren’t too pleasant to be around”, said Debra Sue.
She ended up wandering the streets of Portland; her belongings in a backpack and a Home Depot bucket – sleeping wherever she could. One day she was sitting near Pioneer Square when a security guard suggested she go to Rose Haven, and she did. Since 2014 we have had the pleasure of working beside Debra Sue to get her life back. It started with basic needs like food and clothing. Then our advocates helped her obtain a mailbox, comprehensive dental care and began outreach for housing.
For 3 years she bounced around between local overnight shelters where she had many different roommates – always paired with those suffering from the most severe problems. She found herself the caregiver to all…putting her own needs aside.
In Debra Sue’s words “They are people who are broken, are lost souls just like some of my family members were. You have to forgive them, love them. We just have to keep the love for them.”
During these hard times, Debra Sue considered herself so much better off than others without a home, and she just wanted to give back. She is a worker bee…you will find her cleaning the art room at Rose Haven or the bathroom at Salvation Army Female Emergency Shelter (SAFES); always working, always smiling, always laughing and always loving those who need it most.
Rose Haven advocates have helped Debra Sue stay focused on planning her own future. We have helped her find a temporary job, she is currently taking classes, and getting her food and beverage license. Most importantly, Debra Sue finally has a place to call her own again.