(Note: This story was produced by AboutFace CLT, an ongoing photographic and storytelling project that gives voice to the voiceless in our community. Learn more, AboutFaceCLT.)
Teresa’s story is very frank, and contains material that is not suitable for children.
My whole life I’ve been looking for love. My whole life.
I’ve been homeless off and on since I was 18. I’m adopted. My real mother committed suicide when I was at the age of 5. My father died when I was 9. I remember her a little. I don’t remember her too well. The things that happened to me as a child… nothing like that should ever happen to anybody at any age.
I’m just gonna keep it real. I was born out of incest. My mother was my father’s daughter. He raped his own daughter and produced me. She was 15 when she got pregnant with me and had me when she was 16. She tried to get away from him, she couldn’t. In the end she thought committing suicide was the best answer. I was at the age of 5. I was fixing to have my sixth birthday when she passed away. My father molested me.
I was adopted by a family when I was 7. Me and my brother were actually adopted by the same family. When I was 18 I got in a bad fight, because I started doing drugs. I got introduced to crack cocaine. Also weed. When I was 18 I ended up pregnant with my oldest son, and moved up here to Charlotte.
I started dating men again. This man, that man. Was in abusive relationships. In total I’ve been in four abusive relationships.
Me and my ex, we were having an argument because I didn’t want to go out there and prostitute, to make money for him to go and smoke crack on. I would make the money and he would go get high. And he want me to service him while he getting high, after I done busted my butt and took a big risk to make this money.
So he got mad at me. He got mad because I wasn’t pleasuring him right while he was taking a freaking hit. He hauled off and smacked me. And then he hauled off and punched me in my eye. I had a black eye. Now I’ve had black eyes before. Very rarely. But I couldn’t go nowhere.
I was scared. I was scared for my life. To be honest with you I was very, very scared. I just didn’t know how to get away from him. My self esteem plummets. I mean I already have low self esteem and that really just made it worse. Like I didn’t think I would amount to anything, that nobody would love me.
My whole life I’ve been looking for love. My whole life. And I thought love was me doing drugs, that if I did drugs with people and my significant others that they’ll love me. My ex, I thought when he put his hands on me that that was his way of showing he loved me. I prostituted. Not just for myself, I prostituted for my last relationship just so that… just because I thought that was what he wanted me to do… that if I didn’t do it it’s because I didn’t love him.
That’s what I was told. If you don’t go do this and this and this you don’t love me. And that’s not how I want to look for love. That’s not how I wanted to be treated.
We were getting high, and we were in the middle of taking a break, and we were at the U-haul on North Tryon and the group came down and they were giving out stuff and they were praying for people and like we really connected with these people.
We actually have one couple that we call Mr. Smellgood, Mr. and Mrs. Smellgood. Because she makes her own perfume. She makes her husband’s own body spray. We were talking to Ryan and Erin one day, that night, and they encouraged us about… they were reminding us that God really loves us. And they prayed for us. And you know they were telling us what good people we really are and how we’re just like everybody else it’s just that we’ve had a hard life.
We’ve had a setback in life. But really and honestly, I don’t think it’s a setback. God allowed me to be homeless, allowed me to be in that predicament for a reason. It was for me to get stronger courage and more self respect for myself that I have lost over time. It’s building me up instead of downwards.
I’m in a better place now because… it’s simple… I have found the one true love of my life. I love him with all my heart and soul and mind. He makes me feel like I am a person again. He makes me feel human again, like I am somebody. Because I really am somebody.
My friend Janetta talked me in to doing a survey and I ended up being qualified so now I’m in a place. I’ve been in my apartment for three months. I don’t do drugs no more. Unless you count cigarettes. I do smoke cigarettes. I might drink a beer once in a blue moon. I don’t really like alcohol. This much of beer makes me sleepy (pinches fingers together indicating an inch or so). So what’s the point in me even drinking it?
I’m very grateful. I’m very happy and I’m very lucky. And I would hope and pray that I can help somebody else be just as grateful and lucky as I am. Or are least as happy as I am. I have changed so much about me. I’ve been home from prison for over a year now. It will be two years in February.
I’ve had some ups and downs but you know when it’s all said and done I have the right people in my corner now. And I’m learning to depend on me again, not just somebody else. I’m looking up to myself and to others. It feels good to have respect about yourself again. It feels good to be able to walk down the street not worrying about having a black eye, or scratches up and down your leg because somebody done beat your butt.
People look at homeless people like we’re some kind of disease. If you see a homeless person they want your love and support and attention. Trust me. They might not act like it and they might shun away from you, but really we do. We’re just scared. We don’t know how you’re going to take us. We don’t know if you’re going to cuss us out, we don’t know if you’re going to be like “oooo, get away”, we don’t know if you’re gonna call the police on us… we just don’t know. We really don’t. We’re human beings. We deserve love and respect just as much as anybody else. I love y’all. I LOVE Y’ALL!!!