It’s hard to imagine that there was ever a time in Teressa’s life when she wasn’t her happy, warm, and giving self. A resident of the Center since 2011, Teressa is known for her smiles, her community spirit, and her willingness to lend a hand whenever it is needed.
She’s a regular at the Day Center providing support to staff and other women as a Peer Leader, and she’s known for her commitment to the DWC Resident’s Club helping to organize events, parties, and other fun festivities for the residents living at the DWC San Pedro Street residence.
Teressa remembers a time in her life when her spirits flagged and she succumbed to an addiction that left much pain and sorrow in its wake.
As a young woman, she traveled the world to places like France and Ireland as a model for Ebony. It was during this time that she was first introduced to drugs. During her modeling career, Teressa was what she refers to as a “functioning addict”; her drug usage didn’t interfere with her work or personal life.
After she finished her modeling career and got married, the “functional” part of her addiction was over. “The drug took over me,” she recounts. After being married for 15 years, she could no longer bear the pain her addiction was causing her husband, and they separated.
That was the first time Teressa came to Skid Row.
She first heard of the Downtown Women’s Center when she was living in transitional housing. Eager to get her foot in the door, Teressa lined up to get a housing application from DWC the night before, and slept on the doorstep of the Center to be first in line the next morning. Within one day, she was back with a completed application form.
Teressa got an apartment at DWC, and her life changed.
Being involved within the DWC community brought back her spirit and put her on the path to recovery. Her compassion to other comes naturally, because she found compassion for herself.
“I was so angry, but not angry with other people. No, not that. I was angry at myself.”
Teressa has not forgotten the other women who still are homeless. That’s why you can often find her in the Day Center providing help in the kitchen and with her friends. “Homelessness is cold. People are lost, they are so tired… Homelessness is about being unloved, facing abandonment, suffering from mental anguish, pain, and disillusionment with yourself… It is an empty feeling to have.”
Day by day, conversation by conversation, Teressa is making sure no woman at DWC feels alone again.
Photos by: Erica Kawamoto Hsu