“If you’re thinking about it from a compassion, empathy perspective, one of the most basic human rights is the right to safe housing. Everyone should have a safe place to live, they shouldn’t have to be on the street, they shouldn’t have to live in a shelter. They shouldn’t have to live on someone’s couch.” – Cassandra Agredo

Rosella was 55 years old when she lost her job as a receptionist for an insurance adjuster in 2009. She was laid off following the Great Recession in which hundreds of thousands of Americans became unemployed. After about two years of part-time jobs and failed attempts to secure a new full-time position, she had to leave her home in February 2012 because she could no longer pay rent.

For Rosella, who had been born and raised in that neighborhood, it marked a blow that affected her mental health forever.

Rosella, who preferred not to share her last name with NCR for privacy reasons, spent nine months in a women’s shelter in Brooklyn, where she developed depression and began to experience strong suicidal feelings.

“It was horrible. I was bullied all the time. I was physically, emotionally and mentally abused. Almost every day, people were trying to beat me up for no reason. I couldn’t handle it,” she said in an interview with NCR, crying quietly.

She recalled having one thought running through her head, escalating as she received constant job rejections during the day and was harassed in the shelter at night: “I should just kill myself.”

That same summer, however, Rosella learned that a Catholic-inspired, independent, nonprofit organization called Xavier Mission had organized a program for homeless people called “LSEP” — which stands for Life Skills Empowerment Programs — that offered financial, logistical and educational support for New Yorkers who had lost their homes.

Not only did Rosella successfully graduate from the program after 14 weeks in December 2012, but she also decided to start participating in the program as a volunteer by going around to shelters recruiting.

Her application to get a “supportive housing” apartment in the Bronx, where she still lives today, was accepted in October 2012, and with welfare support she began to be able to pay her rent again. Rosella could not have imagined, however, that a few years later she would find herself at risk of eviction again, and again in need of support from Xavier Mission.

Read the entire article here.