From Living Under a Bridge to Being Housed – Deanna!
Deanna Villa is now housed, living in one of Siena Francis House’s 48 permanent supportive housing apartments, here on our campus – and she couldn’t be happier, or more grateful. Deanna is a shining example of someone who faced terrible trauma in her life and ended up homeless, but who is now living a life that she couldn’t have imagined, while living under a freeway bridge just a few years ago. Deanna is Native American – Lakota Sioux – having grown up on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Moving to Omaha six years ago, after her father died of cancer, Deanna struggled to make ends meet. Deanna rented a house, sharing the costs with four others. As her housemates moved on, the increased rent also forced Deanna to move out. An acquaintance then agreed to rent a room in his house to Deanna. Unbeknownst to her, the acquaintance was mentally ill and extremely abusive. On a morning shortly after she’d moved in, Deanna’s acquaintance suffered a schizophrenic episode, attempted to strangle her, as well as prevented her from leaving the house the entire day – holding her against her will. That evening, a concerned neighbor heard Deanna’s cries for help, called the police, and helped her escape. Following this very traumatic experience, Deanna didn’t know where to turn. “I had so little money, so that first night, I ended up staying on the porch of a friend of mine, as I continued to try and make sense of what I’d just experienced,” shared Deanna. For a number of weeks, Deanna bounced around, staying in friends’ spare bedrooms or basements – or even on their porches. Deanna regularly relied on a makeshift bed she prepared for herself underneath a bridge overpass of a downtown freeway. Deanna was homeless for just over a year. “During the whole time being homeless, I felt completely lost in life”, reflected Deanna. “What I truly wanted was just to have a place I could call my own, although I couldn’t even afford the cheapest of apartments.” While she was living under the bridge, a representative from Omaha’s local homeless street outreach team found Deanna and visited her, often bringing her clothes, food and personal care items. He also suggested to Deanna that he might have an affordable housing option for her – in the Siena Francis House’s permanent supportive housing units – our Siena Apartments. “I had no idea that these apartments even existed”, shared
Deanna, “although I was very excited about the possibility. I actually ended up walking to the Siena Francis House, filled out some paperwork and was shown an apartment. By the end of that meeting, I learned I’d qualified for this housing. As I was handed a key to my apartment, I just broke down in tears, I was so thankful”, Deanna recalls. “It’s been 3 ½ years since I’ve moved into my place, although even thinking about that first day still makes me cry…but they’re tears of joy, because I’m so happy!” Deanna shared some final reflections: “As I look back at that traumatic day when I was held against my will, I try not to think of how awful it was. I look at it as an experience that showed me how strong I am, and how resilient I can be. I know that, if I can survive that, I can survive anything! While I’ve been here at Siena Francis House the staff have continued to help me get my life together, to get stronger and to be able to face the world. This apartment I have…I’ve made own. I am so comfortable living here, and I feel so safe and, well, I finally feel like I’m at home.”