Teresa has been through a lot. In 2019, she lost her husband. While still grieving, the COVID pandemic began, upsetting everything in the world. Depression set in and she became homeless not long after. Everyone around her now will tell you that, somehow, Teresa is still one of the most positive people they’ve met. Read on to see how she maintains her positivity and wants to give back once she’s stable in her own home.
Teresa grew up in North Carolina but came to the D.C. area ten years ago, looking for a change in her life. She quickly found a job, and would get married two years later. From 2015 to 2018, she was a recovery coach in D.C., mentoring clients diagnosed with substance abuse and addiction problems.
Teresa loved helping people, but due to a change in her personal life, she left that work for a time. When she was ready to come back, it was difficult to get rehired. She had the experience, but didn’t have the certifications that were now required. She worked elsewhere and started making plans for a recovery center program of her own design.
And then her world – and the whole world – changed. The death of her husband, followed soon after by the life-altering effects of the COVID pandemic caused Teresa to fall into depression and then homelessness on the streets.
Teresa survived for some time on the street. She made friends who all looked after each other, but she knew she couldn’t stay there for long. She came to Kennedy Shelter in 2022.
Teresa came to work. Her case manager, Kelsey Astrow, will tell you that Teresa is one of the hardest workers she’s seen. Teresa joined the Operation Stream Shield (OSS) team, a partnership with Fairfax County in which shelter clients are hired daily for community clean-ups. She worked for them two days a week and picked up a 3rd day by being selected to work at an additional site that often leads to permanent employment.
When things were not going well at the shelter or her housing search, she poured herself into her job. “When everything is falling down around you, that was the one thing I was good at, that nobody could take away from me. They couldn’t say that I wasn’t dependable, on-time, on-point with a job.”
Her dedication to her job almost caused her to miss an opportunity. She found a job fair at Dulles, but was worried about missing her day at OSS. She talked to Kelsey who encouraged her to go, saying that you’re deciding between $48 now or a permanent job. Teresa’s attendance at the Deloitte Women’s Career day in June also convinced her to make the decision to go all in for the job fair – and she got a job! On July 14, Teresa started working for United Airlines overnight as a cabin cleaner.
Teresa has already planned out her commute. It’s two hours long and involves a bus and two trains, but that gives her time to think and work on her five-year-plan. She wants to get her certification to be a recovery coach again. And she wants to buy a small hotel to turn into a homeless drop-in center and recovery program.
Teresa is continuing to work the OSS job while she starts at United. One day, she’ll have a place of her own to live closer to work, but for now she’s using her time to make plans for her future. We’re rooting for her!