“I WANT YOUTH STRUGGLING WITH HOMELESSNESS TO KNOW THEY CAN STILL DO GREAT THINGS WITH THEIR LIVES. THERE ARE PEOPLE FIGHTING FOR THEM.”
Most teenagers would agree high school can be a tumultuous time. Peers, school, and self-doubts can contribute to the rollercoaster of adolescence.
But 17-year-old Theresa had to contend with even more during those formative years when she and her mother left an abusive family situation and found themselves homeless.
“[Leaving] was the best decision my mom could have made for us. But it left us without a home,” she says, remembering the anxiety and depression that eventually put her in the hospital.
Theresa recalls the stigma of homelessness was difficult to ignore and confesses most of her friends were unaware of her situation.
“I was embarrassed to be homeless and hid it from people,” she admits. “But that made me feel disconnected and isolated.”
She and her mom stayed with family and friends and spent time in a motel before Family Promise of Anoka County, MN, brought a sense of structure and stability to their world and empowered them to rebuild their lives.
“No one deserves to feel alone during a time of need,” she says. “Family Promise was there for us.”
Theresa’s mom soon found steady employment, the family moved into a new home, and Theresa was encouraged to apply to college, something she had previously feared might not be possible.
Last spring, Theresa graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a degree in Human Resource Development. She says Family Promise inspired her field of study and instilled in her a desire to help others. She now works in human resources and is contemplating pursuing a graduate degree, and she dreams of one day forming a nonprofit to help troubled youth and teens.
Theresa also serves on the Family Promise Guest Advisory Council, a body of graduates who use their experiences with poverty and homelessness to help shape organizational policies and initiatives.
“We’re dispelling misconceptions of homelessness and giving a voice to those often ignored by society,” Theresa explains. “We let people know it’s ok to step out of the shadows and ask for help.”
Theresa is living proof that homelessness is a situation, not a label, and hopes to serve as an example for children battling this crisis.
“I want youth struggling with homelessness to know they can still do great things with their lives,” she says. “There are people fighting for them.”
Theresa is one of them.