Not everyone feels like moving to Decker Towers was a homecoming, but for Debra, it changed everything.
"If I had stayed where I was, I probably would have had a nervous breakdown." Debra moved from a single room that she had lived in for nineteen years while managing a rooming house. The room lacked even a basic kitchen.
"It was time for me to leave," she says. "I finally have a kitchen, and I've got my birds to keep me company."
Debra works as a peer support specialist for the Howard Center, and her work is informed by her own hardships that she has endured over the course of her life. Her two sons were born with Trisomy syndrome, a chromosomal disorder that resulted in both of them passing away. Debra has experienced incredible grief as a result of these tragedies, but with the Howard Center's support, she is able to cope.
"Working in mental health, I know that it's hard....If someone needs to talk, I can talk to them."
Debra recognizes that Decker Towers carries a stigma around Burlington, but lately she's been pushing back against critics.
"When I tell people where I live, the minute I say Decker Towers they cut it down. "
But now, I say, 'You don't live here. We have a wonderful community of people, and we're all human. Yes there's mistakes, but there's mistakes wherever you go."
Debra has also played an influential role in the creation of the Decker Towers Tenants Association. Even in the short period that she's lived there, she's been able to find a supportive community that shares her interests.