There was a time in Theresa’s life when she was homeless and accepted her lot in life.
She was going back and forth from jail, until she stood before a particular judge who let her know her lifestyle was going to land her in prison.
The judge gave Theresa one last chance, and Theresa heeded the warning.
At first, Theresa didn’t know where to start.
“I had been in the streets for so long to the point that I didn’t know how to live by society’s rules.”
Thankfully, her adult son and his family greeted her with open arms.
For nearly a year, with the support of her family, Theresa complied with the court and started to see a different way of life.
“But then, I got too comfortable with my son financially supporting me and housing me. I still had a long way to go. I still wasn’t free.”
During her transition period, Theresa realized she had to learn how to support herself financially and not become a burden to her family.
“Getting my independence back was a goal that I was determined to accomplish.”
She heard about the Downtown Women’s Center and after applying, she was accepted into the Center’s permanent supportive housing.
“I’ll never forget my first night in my new home, looking out the window and seeing a homeless man sleeping on the ground. I felt grateful and blessed, a reminder to continue forward.”
With the help of her case manager, Theresa took advantage of the services that DWC offered, including a new healthy cooking class offered for residents.
“I found out about a partnership at DWC had with an organization called LA Kitchen. They were offering a 15-week culinary program.”
A Note About The Personal and Financial Opportunity Program: DWC offers education, enrichment, and employment resources aimed at breaking the cycles of unemployment and homelessness for women of Skid Row. The program includes our social enterprise MADE by DWC, which consists of a café, resale store, and product development. One-on-one counseling also provides hands-on vocational and educational opportunities for participants like Theresa.
Never one to give up, Theresa studied hard and met every goal in the program. She graduated at the top of her cohort and was selected as the valedictorian of her graduating class.
She explains why she spent countless hours pouring over text books and studying for every exam:
“To be part of the professional culinary world had always been a dream of mine. But it was either too expensive, or I was making the wrong decision that kept me from pursuing my dream. This program gave me a second change, so I jumped in and gave it 100%.”
Her hard work paid off. Theresa is now a Chef Assistant with LA Kitchen, and training new trainees in the same program she graduated from.
“I’ve come a long way, and I’m not stopping.”
Photography by Jenny Song Galante