We all need the stability of a safe place to call home and layers of support to reach our full potential and thrive. When we don’t have the safety of a home or support we need, achieving well-being in our life is extremely difficult – a reality Deborah has lived with most her life.
An Austin native, Deb and her brother were raised by their grandmother, and she describes her childhood as tumultuous.
“I felt like when I did something bad, I got spanked. When I did something right, I got spanked. There was no winning, so I just rebelled against it all,” she said.
Because of this unpredictable living situation, Deb decided to move with her mother to Houston once her mother was released from prison. However, in Houston, her sense of well-being continued to unravel when a high school boyfriend introduced her to drugs.
She began to struggle with addiction as she fought to have a stable place to call home. During that time, she had four children, three girls and one boy. She knew she couldn’t provide her children the life she wanted for them while battling substance abuse. To ensure they could have a stable home and support, she sent her children to live with her mother.
“I love my kids,” Deb said. “But I didn’t want them to see me struggling with drugs. My mom and dad had a nice house and safe place for them to stay – I knew I wanted that for them.”
Deb continued to struggle with addiction, but her life completely fell apart when her mother passed away.
“That’s when I became homeless,” Deborah said with tears in her eyes.
As she grieved her mother, Deborah lived on the streets of Austin with no place to call home. She struggled to find a safe place to sleep at night, food to eat, a dignified place to go to the bathroom, and how to keep clean – all necessities we can take for granted when we have a home.
After six years of experiencing homelessness, Deborah connected with Caritas through a Coordinated Assessment. She was immediately connected to our ImpACT Program.
At Caritas, we know the people we serve are as unique as their thumbprint, with different stories, experiences and hopes for their future. We tailor our programs and services to provide personalized support, and one of the ways we achieve such individualized care is through our ImpACT program.
Our ImpACT program provides Supportive Housing for those in our community who have the highest needs. Due to the lack of access to medical care and current laws regarding homelessness, ImpACT clients are typically the highest utilizers of our city’s emergency resources (such as jail, emergency rooms, and mental health facilities).
After connecting with our ImpACT team, Deb moved into an apartment last year. Her case manager worked tirelessly alongside Deb to ensure she had everything she needed for her new apartment, access to medical care, a job with a livable wage and more.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Caritas,” Deborah said. “Anything I needed, they helped me with. This apartment, furniture, dishes, Caritas helped with it all.”
Now with the strong foundation of a home and layers of support from Caritas and the ImpACT team, Deb is proud to say she quit her addiction and is celebrating a year of sobriety.
“I finally said, ‘Enough is enough.’ I knew I had two choices – I could quit, or I could die with it. It’s not worth is, and I finally decided that it wasn’t worth it compared to what else I had going on for me,” she said.
Now that she has a safe place to call home and is free from addiction, Deborah is dreaming about the future. On top of celebrating her 56th birthday in March, she plans to finish her GED. She currently works at the Coca-Cola Bottling Company, but her long-term goal is to become a drug counselor for youth aged 17-21.
“That’s the age we all think we know it all,” she joked. “That’s the age I could have really used someone, and I want to use my shared experience to help those kids. I want to show them they don’t have to live that life.”
Alex Medrano, an ImpACT Supportive Housing Coordinator, said she is proud of how hard Deb has worked to rebuild well-being in her life and that she’s unsurprised Deb wants to provide peer support to young ladies struggling with substance abuse.
“I remember when I first met Deborah at the encampment she was staying at,” Alex said. “She had a reputation among the young girls because anyone who needed help, Deb would reach out and help however she could so they could be safe.”
As she works toward these goals, Deb is also deepening relationships with her children. Her daughters come over to surprise her in her apartment; she carpools with her middle daughter to work, and her and her son, who lives in Houston, also talk frequently on the phone. She is proud of her kiddos and the parents they are to her 12 grandchildren.
Thanks to your generous support, Deborah now has the stable foundation of a home and layers of support to thrive!