With housing brings hope


Photo Courtesy of: Debra Armstrong

Each of Armstrong’s homes feature inviting communal spaces that she has both furnished and decorated.

Outside of the classroom, WHHS math teacher Debra Armstrong doesn’t have to subtract to make a difference. 

Since April 2021, Armstrong has worked to create a transitional home for women in recovery from various addictions. Armstrong owns a single-family home in Spring Grove Village that she transformed into a living space for women in need. 

Armstrong was inspired to start this project by a mentor who had opened multiple transitional homes of his own. After learning more about it, she decided to do the same. 

“There are transitional homes for men and women, but there is a bigger need for women,” Armstrong said. “I’ve never been in that situation, but I have a heart to help people [who are].”

To provide a space for this, Armstrong first had to improve the basics of the home but struggled to find workers who could complete what she needed.  

“Finding people to do work like plumbing and electricity… that was work I couldn’t do, and that was a challenge,” Armstrong said. 

Yet there was still an abundance of work Armstrong had to complete by herself. Over the summer, she spent nearly every day working on various elements of the home in order to open it before the start of the school year. 

“In July, every day I was there painting, dragging dressers and beds, and furnishing,” Armstrong said. “Getting furniture was a lot of work- finding it, picking it up, and bringing it to the house.” 

To find these different elements, Armstrong frequented numerous stores and sites to find what she needed. 

“I would go to Habitat for Humanity, St. Vincent de Paul…and I used OfferUp and Facebook Marketplace,” Armstrong said. “I [used] all of that, but I still used my own furniture too.”

With all of these moving parts, Armstrong was uncertain about the timeline this project would follow; she encountered an unexpected challenge two weeks before the home was set to be completed. The house still needed final touches, and a thorough cleaning after all of the work that had been done. 

“I wasn’t really finished with the transitional home, and I hadn’t planned to open it for another two weeks, but I had women who were ready,” Armstrong said. “They said, ‘We will clean, but we need this right now,’ and so I opened it early because of their need.”

The transitional home currently houses eight women, each of whom pays a weekly rate for the duration of their stay. Armstrong visits the home each week but also has a house manager who helps oversee the daily events of the home. 

Since starting this journey, Armstrong’s primary goal has remained the same.

“[My goal] for the transitional home is hopefully helping these women transition to being self-sufficient and to [not] relapsing, and to also let them know that they deserve good,” Armstrong said. “I’m looking forward to seeing these women grow and succeed.”

Armstrong also reflected upon her own growth throughout this process, and what her experiences have taught her. 

“I’m used to being in control, and I’ve learned that’s not the most important thing. I had to learn to let go of the control,” Armstrong said. 

With her first transitional home complete, Armstrong is now working on opening a short-term rental for traveling nurses, hospital residents, and others in need of a temporary place to stay, but is keeping her options open for the future.

“I want these women to transcend their addictions so [their addictions] are never a problem again… and if [the transitional home] is successful, maybe I’ll feel compelled to do more.”