Bouncing back at Dorothy Day Center

“I’m alone in the world. With my children gone, there’s no one else to turn to,” she said. “I’m not sure I would have survived without help.”

Theresa, 63

Sometimes, hard work and education just aren’t enough protection from homelessness.

Not when illness and tragedies can take everything you’ve worked for in one heartbreaking move after another.

Not when a breast cancer diagnosis makes your world rock on its axis. Not when both your son and daughter die in the same year. Not when you’re trying to keep it together while battling anxiety and depression.

Theresa, 63, never called Catholic Charities’ Dorothy Day Center home, but it was her refuge from the world last fall.

“It was very, very hard being here,” she said. “I always felt grateful I had a roof over my head, but it wasn’t a good living situation.”

Theresa has a bachelor’s degree in health care services and a master’s degree in pastoral ministry. She raised her children as a single mother, always working hard.

“I’ve lived life. I’ve single-parented children. There was never a time when homelessness was something I even thought about. I never dreamed this is where I would be.”

When she came to Dorothy Day Center she had run out of options and out of resources.

“I’m alone in the world. With my children gone, there’s no one else to turn to,” she said. “I’m not sure I would have survived without help.”

No one, that is, until she connected with Marilyn Cooper from Catholic Charities’ Older Adult Services program. Marilyn helped Theresa find her wings. Theresa started attending Marilyn’s Life Skills Group for adults 62-years-old and older. They meet weekly, tackle crises and talk about everything from tenant’s rights to relationships and health to clipping coupons.

In October, Theresa moved into Central Towers, a senior housing complex right in downtown Saint Paul.

“It’s neat and clean. It’s a very nice place and I feel safe there,” Theresa said.

Bridging gave her the simple things for life in her new home, like a bed. Marilyn helped her secure a free laptop from another nonprofit so she could get connected with grandchildren and look for work from the comfort of home. Theresa secured a job working at the Minnesota State Fair displaying carpet.

“This is a test to see what I can do,” she said. “I haven’t been able to work for nine years. It feels good to feel like you’re a productive member of society. Theresa is thankful to say she is coming through the darkness of despair and homelessness, but she couldn’t have done it without your help. “This happened to me after a long successful career. As you age, you get very vulnerable,” she said. “If you’re quiet, you might get passed up, that’s what happens with the seniors.”