Finding A Fresh Start

Tearra Watson’s path in life hasn’t been easy. At 16 years old, her daughter Haylee was born. But being a teenage mom with no support system in place put Tearra out of a job, out of a home, and out of a lot of options.

“I really had to learn how to pick myself up by my boot straps back then,” Tearra said. “It was very difficult for me early on, having no job, no car, and a baby daughter to take care of. I had to grow up fast.”

Now 25 years old, Tearra has found a job as a nurse at Tanglewood Manor and is going to school to become an RN. This wouldn’t have happened without the YWCA’s Transitional Housing Program.

“I was 22 years old when I entered the program; and in the nine months I was there, I was able to find a job while my daughter attended daycare,” Tearra said. “Nanci Okerlund, Transitional Housing director, taught me about everything. She linked me to the right programs, and even drove me to my job interviews. She treated me like I was her own daughter, and not only changed my life, but saved it.”

Rescuing lives is what Transitional Housing is all about. But to get a clear understanding of just how far Tearra has come, all one needs to do is talk to her 10 year-old daughter, Haylee.

“I’m proud of my mom and my life,” Haylee said. “I was in third grade when we moved to the YWCA. I felt happy and safe there.”

YWCA’s Transitional Housing Program offers women and children a safe, temporary place to stay until they can find more permanent housing. The women range in age from 16 to 60, and daycare can be arranged so that they can finish their schooling or find work. YWCA Executive Director Beth Oakes said the program also offers the women an opportunity to learn from each other.

“Each woman that enters Transitional Housing is there for a different reason, but many times they share similar stories,” Oakes said. “Besides getting their immediate needs met with housing and child care, these women also are in a unique situation to learn from each other. Some are there for a couple weeks, others are there for a couple years – but they all are there to get a fresh start.”

In 2013, 30 women have received a fresh start thanks to the YWCA’s Transitional Housing program. This United Way-funded program offers a variety of services ranging from crisis intervention, to budgeting and educational workshops. But probably the most important thing the program offers is hope, and that’s something for which Tearra Watson is extremely grateful.

“Without the help from Nanci and this program, I wouldn’t be where I am right now in life,” Tearra said. “I wouldn’t have been able to go back to school, find a job, and take care of my daughter. This program has taught me so much about how to become an independent person. It really did save my life.”

The YWCA’s Transitional Housing Program is one of 39 different programs supported by United Way. When you donate to the 2013 Campaign, you’re helping families just like Tearra and Haylee find a fresh start, and a happy ending.