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Kenton Women’s Village: A bridge from homelessness to hope

Posted by | Lauren Odderstol

Debbie Haskett went from living in a tent to residing in her own apartment

Debbie Haskett rocks back and forth in a microsuede armchair, glancing out the balcony window at passing traffic from her new one-bedroom apartment in St. Johns. After four years of living on the streets, she finally has a place to call home.

Haskett was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, the youngest of four children. After losing her mother to cancer in her early 20s, she met her husband, Leslie Haskett, and moved to a small town in Indiana where they raised their two boys.

She worked for 10 years in a hotel but had to leave the position to care for her husband when he, too, was diagnosed with cancer. He died in 2009.

“It was a good marriage,” said Haskett. “The kids had a great relationship with their dad.”

After her husband died, Haskett spent two months on the streets before her sister found her and brought her to live with her in Washington. Haskett later moved to Portland to stay with her son and daughter-in-law’s family. After some discord between her son and his in-laws, Haskett was put out on the streets.

“It was really stressful,” Haskett said. “I couldn’t sleep. … I had to drag stuff from places and all around — wood, water, whatever.” She said it was especially difficult when she didn’t have a tent.

Haskett found comfort in community during her time on the streets. “We all took turns getting wood and getting water. We tried to make it good, tried to laugh and not think about what we were going through,” she recalled.

She found hope one day during a doctor’s visit, when she was referred to Catholic Charities of Oregon’ new Kenton Women’s Village, a group of transitional housing pods for homeless women.

After moving into the village in June 2017, she built community and had access to case managers who helped her with paperwork and finding a new low-income apartment. She also had access to medical assistance for her hip, wounded a year prior.

“I had my own place to be locked up and be safe — to be out of the cold,” said Haskett. “It was great.”

Haskett lived in Kenton until December 2017, when she moved into her new residence in the St. Johns neighborhood.

She continues working with Catholic Charities of Oregon case managers Bernadette Stetz and Savanah Walseth to receive Social Security disability aid and stay up to date with medical care.

“Catholic Charities of Oregon is fantastic; they’ve been with us from day one,” said Haskett. “We couldn’t ask for nobody better to be mixed up with.

“I try not to think about where I was before,” added Haskett. “I’m just thinking about the future and what the future holds right now and having this apartment and having friends. … We’re all happy and heading forward. That’s what I’m working on.”

– Written by Lauren Odderstol, Catholic Charities of Oregon Digital Marketing Specialist

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