Lisa does not give up easily and despite living in a tent, she was doing everything she could to turn things around. But when you are homeless, it’s nearly impossible to rebuild your life without help. “It seemed like the longer it went on, the harder it was to dig myself out of a hole,” she says.
Lisa had a life and her own business building websites. Her partner owned a successful cell phone tower business. But the life they had built spiraled out of control when he relapsed into serious drug use. He lost his business, and then destroyed hers. He became violent and is now serving time in prison for his assault on Lisa.
The trauma of the assault triggered a mental breakdown for Lisa, PTSD, and the loss of two of her front teeth. Lisa lost her home and with nowhere to go for help, lived in a tent for two and half years.
She had hit rock bottom but her drive kept her striving to not just survive, but to find her way back to a life she once knew. She found odd jobs and kept trying to turn things around but said “it’s hard when you’re at the bottom.”
For Lisa, the hardest part about experiencing homelessness was not being able to stay clean or have clean clothes. “I didn’t like not being able to take a shower every day.” The lack of daily hygiene also played a role in her inability to get a job and she said that not being able to stay clean in the summer made it impossible to keep a job.
Ending her homelessness
Eventually she learned about Caritas of Austin and entered our program. Finding a place to live, however, proved to be challenging. Lisa didn’t have a steady income, had not had a lease in her name for many years, and she has two emotional support pets – all of which were barriers to leasing an apartment.
Determined to take control of her life, Lisa started taking classes at Austin Community College shortly before joining Caritas. Her goal was to get an associate degree in fiber security – something she became interested in after her website was hacked.
Attending classes while living in a tent, trying to find a steady job, and working with Caritas to find a home, became too stressful. She put school on hold to focus on her more immediate needs for now but is keeping the option of taking courses online open. “I always want to learn something new.”
While working with her case manager at Caritas, Lisa found temporary work. The proof of employment led to successfully finding a home – just as COVID-19 began to take hold in Austin and the city shut down. The timing was perfect for Lisa. She has several health issues, including emphysema, and needed to be in a safe place.
When asked what it means to her to have a home once again, Lisa replied “Oh my gosh, it means everything! It was hard being homeless and kind of surreal in a way,” she said.
Pausing to get her emotions under control, she added “it’s finally over. I don’t ever have to be homeless again.”
Working with Caritas
Lisa says that Caritas of Austin is the best program she’s ever been a part of. During a time when finding work is much more difficult because of the pandemic, Caritas has been able to keep paying her rent and utility bills to ensure that she isn’t forced to return to homelessness.
“Everything has just worked out so well and they have been there for me. They want to help the people that really want to be helped,” Lisa said.
The weekly meetings with her case manager, first in person and then by phone during the pandemic, keeps her working toward her goals.
“I would like to have a business again. Be self-employed and support myself. I want to feel secure. That’s all I want in life. I’d like to be able to help other homeless people try to move forward.”