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Tressa W. - A Powerful Story

Updated: Apr 23, 2023

Tressa W. is a 60-year-old woman currently experiencing homelessness. She had a very good life growing up, as she lived with both of her parents & her siblings in a nice home. She went to school regularly for the entirety of her childhood and shared that “there is nothing bad about my childhood that I could say.” After high school, Tressa went to college & then went to a broadcasting school at NBC Studios. Throughout her life, she also worked in construction, was a medical administrative assistant, and worked as a caregiver from 40-56. Tressa is also a mother of 6 and a grandmother of 7! She raised all of her children prior to her experience with homelessness.


Tressa began experiencing homelessness in March of 2017. In 2016, she was renting an apartment and the landlord consistently sexually harassed her. Because she was not "going along with what he was saying," the landlord tried to evict her. Even though Tressa won the eviction case in court, she decided that she still needed to leave because she could not live with the harassment any longer. In 2017, she moved from LA County into Orange County, as one of her friends was already experiencing homelessness & told her to come & be with her. While she was in Orange County, she tried to stay in a Courtyard Marriot, but when that was shut down, she began to live on the street & tried to sleep in different cars. She said that nothing bad ever happened while she was living on the street, but that she got back into drugs. She expressed that she had struggled on and off with drugs for a long time, but that for the majority of it, she was living in a home, and that, this time, she had fallen into it harder than ever before. She was also diagnosed with cancer & paranoid schizophrenia in 2017. In 2018, she underwent surgery & has been cancer free since then! She has also consistently seen therapists & psychiatrists for her schizophrenia. She has been medicated for a while & now says that she does not have to struggle with hearing voices anymore and that she is "becoming a whole person again." Tressa's advice for anyone experiencing homelessness with a medical condition is to "see a doctor and get medication," so that the medication can help, just like it helped her! She shared that experiencing homelessness was one of the most miserable times in her life, but also one of the best times in her life because she gained so much insight & experience through it. She said that "the experience I've gained through being homeless is wonderful. It propelled me to do better, to get off drugs, to become a caring grandparent, and to be there for my children."


On June 21st, 2021, Tressa's son tragically passed away. She shared: "When my son passed, it just hurt so bad. I mean I've lost my mother, that hurt. I lost my father, that hurt. I lost a couple of brothers, that hurt. But nothing hurts as deep as losing a child." Tressa also shared that her son was one of the motivations, along with her belief in God, that helped her get back up off of her feet. Fortunately, she was able to get off of the streets and live with her son for the last 6 months of his life. After her son died, she found out that her therapist put her on the list to stay at Grandma's House of Hope, because she got a call asking her to come into one of the houses.


On October 12th, 2021, Tressa moved into one of GHOH's beautiful properties. She loves it there and shared: "It gave me a foundation. It gave me a starting point to change. I live in a beautiful place. I stay with a swimming pool & a basketball court. It's a nice place to start if you want to change, but you have to want to change and do something different. You can learn communication skills all over again, because, when you are on the streets, nine times out of ten, you're always angry, and you don't trust people. So I'm working on my trust issues now. I'm a lot better, especially since I started taking my meds on a regular basis, I'm really a lot better." Tressa also advises people that are fortunate enough to get into GHOP to "take full advantage of it because they are there to help you. And 18 months is enough time for you to get your bearings if that's what you want to do. Especially after my son, I needed time to myself, by myself, and for myself, and [GHOH] is what allowed me time to take care of myself physically, spiritually, and mentally. With those three right there, you can't go wrong."


Tressa has been at GHOH since October and is expecting to move into her new apartment on August 22nd! She is still smoking cigarettes, however, she is no longer drinking alcohol or smoking weed & meth. She shared: "I'm just loving my family. I'm loving my kids. My kids are loving me. I'm loving spending time with my grandkids. Not that prior to that, I didn't do all of that but ... our relationship today is like a hundred percent better than it was prior to me becoming homeless." Tressa wants you to know that: "[She's] a good person & that [her] life choices don't make [her] a bad person, [she] just made wrong decisions. & [she's] ready to be a part of society now.” Her overall advice to anyone else experiencing homelessness is to "take advantage of these homeless resources and just don't take advantage of them by not doing anything while you're there, because they’re there to help you. The only way they’re going to help you is if you help yourself. Because you sit there and before you know it, 18 months have passed and you haven’t accomplished anything & you’re just right back where you started from. I would say take advantage of whatever shelter you go in. Use the resources because they're there & because the resources are not going to come to you, you have to get out, and you have to do something positive.”


Thank you for sharing your story with the world Tressa! You are so inspiring & will truly make a difference in the lives of so many different individuals!


If you would like to check out Grandma's House of Hope, please click here.


Donate to Project WHY today so that we can continue to interview these amazing people! Project WHY is a 501(c)(3) non-profit public benefit corporation registered with the State of California & the United States government. 100% of your tax-deductible donation goes to supporting individuals experiencing homelessness! :)

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5 Comments


Guest
Jul 30, 2022

In my first job, I was working and became friends with a Vietnam vet who would always treat homeless people with compassion. His words to me were - none of us are really that far away from the same place as them. Thank you for your compassion in highlighting this story and showing my friend’s words in action. None of us are that far away.

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Guest
Jul 30, 2022

Thank you so much for providing homeless people with such an incredible platform to share their stories!!

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azapp25
azapp25
Jul 29, 2022

Wow, a person with a great, stable childhood, good education, job history & a family of her own can STILL find herself experiencing homeless in mid-life. Thankfully, Tressa had the strength to get help for her mental health issues & is on her way to independent living again! She is so right to encourage people to USE the resources made available to them. THANK YOU to Grandma's House for providing that structure & opportunity, and to ProjectWHY for sharing this powerful story.

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Ed Zappia
Ed Zappia
Jul 29, 2022

Waw, this is another amazing story. This can really happen to almost anyone.

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Guest
Jul 29, 2022

Wow, losing a loved one is hard enough, but I can’t imagine how devastating it would be while experiencing homelessness at the same time

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