Debra Batista

Began a new life at The Schermerhorn

  • Debra in her colorful home at The Schermerhorn in downtown Brooklyn.

Homelessness is often triggered by a destabilizing life event such as illness, job loss, drug addiction, or the death of or estrangement from loved ones. Years after her mother had left her, Debra Batista argued with her father and his girlfriend, and found herself without a home.

Debra quickly learned the challenges of living on the streets. Personal hygiene was one of them. “It’s embarrassing,” she says. “You get depressed, especially when you know you have no one to turn to.”  She stayed briefly with a friend and then a neighbor, taking advantage of those times to shower regularly. But then she was back out on the streets, sleeping in building lobbies that she had to vacate by 6 a.m., or at McDonald’s, where “people wouldn’t kick you out if you had nowhere else to go.”

Eventually, a social worker offered to get her into a shelter. She had heard horror stories about living in shelters, so she declined, preferring to stay on the streets. Eventually, she tried out a YMCA in Brooklyn. It was clean and she was thrilled to have a place to sleep soundly. But she didn’t stay long because her social worker told her about Breaking Ground and the opportunity to live in permanent supportive housing. Debra moved into our Schermerhorn Street residence in downtown Brooklyn three years ago this May.

Debra loves living at the Schermerhorn. She’s thankful that she was able to meet her very best friend there. They both take full advantage of the enriching activities offered at the building, including movie outings, trips to museums, and other cultural experiences. She hopes to begin eating better and exercising in order to improve her health in 2015.

Debra says she is “glad to have a place to call her own and lay her head down” and likes the feeling of independence that comes from having her own apartment. To those struggling to find stable housing, she advises, “you should take advantage of the resources available and people who are willing to help. I know I’m glad I did.”