This following is a true story from a woman who started her life over with the help of Deborah's Place, one of Chicago's top organizations offering homeless women supportive housing and services to help them achieve a better life.
Desiree came to Deborah's Place after a personal crisis and a period of depression left her without a job or a permanent home. Despite more than 20 years of experience in nursing, she struggled to find employment without stable housing. Then she found the support she needed from Deborah's Place interim housing program. Named in memory of Teresa Neuman, a former participant and member of the Deborah's Place Board of Directors, Teresa's Interim Housing is a ten-bed, 120-day program providing a safe, structured community and employment assistance.
“I got a real good support system helping me find a job,” says Desiree of her participation at Teresa's. Resources like its Learning Center helped Desiree prepare for a new job. She used the computers in the Learning Center to complete Continuing Education Units so she could renew her Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and CPR certifications. Once the renewals were complete, she began working with Teresa's program manager Tiffany Isom to ensure she could meet the challenge of the job hunt.
Tiffany worked closely with Desiree on her interview skills, practicing mock interviews and even ironing Desiree’s suit to help her look her best for her interviews. Tiffany’s support helped Desiree feel more comfortable and focused: “I think about what Tiffany said and I calm down,” she recalls. From her practice interviews with Tiffany, she has learned to “focus on your strongest strengths” during a job interview. By linking those strengths to the goals of the business where she’s interviewing, Desiree was called back for multiple interviews. But the skills to succeed at work aren’t the only skills Desiree has developed.
“The thing that I’m most proud of is working on myself, because I had some things I had to deal with. I’m not perfect, but I’ve done good work,” Desiree says. “I like the fact that I’m still working on my nursing. I like the self-care group—sometimes we meditate. It relaxes me and centers me. When you’re looking for a job and looking for housing, you might get stressed and tense. Meditation releases some of the stress and helps you focus on your calm.”
Desiree says that Teresa’s Interim Housing Program is “a lot different than other shelters.” At Teresa’s, she says, “they focus more on getting you out there, getting you ready. If you haven’t had a place in a while, it takes time to get ready. It’s encouraging. They focus on all the skills you need.”
Her hard work and practice have paid off: Desiree now has two jobs in the nursing field. Through intensive support from professionals like Tiffany and resources like its Learning Centers, Deborah’s Place supports hundreds of women in achieving their goals for employment, independence, and peace of mind.
For more information on volunteering or donating visit the Deborah's Place website.