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Vanessa T. - A Homeless Entrepreneur

Vanessa T. is a woman in her 40s currently experiencing homelessness. She grew up in Orange County and was adopted at birth. Her mother died during a heart-lung transplant on the day of Vanessa's 7th birthday. So, she grew up with her single father. Fortunately, he was a clothing manufacturer and Vanessa shared that she grew up wealthy.

Vanessa became pregnant with her son at 15 and immediately began working to support him. She worked in corporate for many years and mentioned that she did decently, but always had some sort of financial struggles.

In around 2014, Vanessa began dating one of her close friends and helped him with his businesses - two music festivals. They were great business partners and began running a bar together for 4 years along with the festivals.

Vanessa began experiencing severe pain in her torso, but doctors kept telling her she was fine and that she just had internal hemorrhoids. Unfortunately, in 2019, she landed in the hospital and was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer that had metastasized to her liver. Vanessa was told that she was going to die and was turned away from many doctors because of this.

However, City of Hope saved her life. Vanessa went through 8 months of traditional chemotherapy and then 4 months of at-home chemo bags. She then had surgery where they removed portions of her colon and liver, her gall bladder, and her lymph nodes. Vanessa did 4 more months of at-home chemotherapy until the doctors realized that they missed her cancer, so she had to have another surgery. Keep in mind that all of this was occurring while she was running 2 festivals and a restaurant with her partner.

In January 2020, after months of fighting, Vanessa was diagnosed as never cancer-free, but currently cancer-free (since the cancer spread to her liver, it was impossible to become 100% cancer-free). During this time, her bar was also constantly closing and re-opening due to Covid-19, and was finally shut down. Vanessa then realized that her relationship with her boyfriend was far more a business partnership than a genuine connection, so she ended it. This caused her to lose her home (they were living together), so she slept on her best friend's couch for 8 months until she found a house.

Vanessa shared: "I don't have an identity without crisis."

After she was settled in her house, she finally began realizing how sick she was and her PTSD kicked in. She was so paranoid that she was unable to drink Starbucks because that's what she used to drink at City of Hope. She also struggled to go to doctors' appointments. Her stress caused her to completely isolate herself, avoiding friends, and staying inside more - the complete opposite of her naturally bubbly personality.

After Covid ended, Vanessa's landlord evicted her because he wanted to raise rent. At this time, her car was also revoked and she was diagnosed with heart failure.

Vanessa is currently living in a motel and her only income comes from Social Security and Disability payments.

Support Vanessa today by donating to her GoFundMe page.

View her CaringBridge profile 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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Ed Zappia
Ed Zappia
Oct 19, 2023

Wow, this is another amazing, interesting, shocking, and horrible sad story. Homelessness and tragedy is really just a step away for anyone. Another amazing story Arielle/ProjectWHY.


Oct 18, 2023

This is an absolutely horrific, heartbreaking story. It is atrocious that working people in the richest country in the world can and do become homeless because of health problems entirely out of their control. It is shameful. Congratulations Vanessa on winning your many medical battles (I understand not 100% but still a huge, continuing achievement) and very best of luck (& health!) for your future. Thank you ProjectWHY for raising awareness of the realities of how and why people become homeless. It's not just drug addicts & runaways!

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