Former homeless woman helps women in need succeed

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An Albuquerque woman who was once a homeless refugee turned her life around and created a successful business. Now, she’s helping other women in need as well.

Velma Ruane was hit hard by depression, leaving her unable to work and live a normal life.

“I would just sleep for days, and I just had no…no ambition to do anything.”

That’s when Debbie Johnson came into the picture.

“I wanted to help these people. I didn’t have money to give them, but I just wanted to help them beyond daily basic needs,” said Johnson, founder of Tender Love Community.

Johnson is a refugee and came to the United States five years ago from Nigeria. She came to the states looking for a better life, but quickly found herself homeless. Through her experiences with being homeless, she felt like she needed to do something to help people who struggled like her.

“Why can’t I show them how to do something to make money other than carrying a sign saying give me a dollar, give me something.”

That’s where sewing comes in. Debbie created the Tender Love Community program to help women suffering with disabilities, homelessness, and other issues that prevent them from being able to function in the working world.

“Instead of giving them food and clothing for free, I just want to empower them, bring out their leadership traits.”

For Ruane, those leadership traits she learned from Johnson now have her in charge of teaching other women in need.

“I just feel more useful coming here,” she said.

On top of teaching women how to sew, Johnson is now offering cooking classes as well. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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