Photographer:  Jack Strutz

Photographer: Jack Strutz

Interview By: Casha Doemland

Meet Tera, a mother of 5 who lives her life as a student of life. 

Read on to discover how!

What is your story, and how did you arrive at Alexandria House?
I was living in an apartment, and I hate using the word slumlord, but that's what we call it back East and what he was. He didn't want to fix anything, and we were living with mold and roaches. I'm not talking a bug or two, I'm telling you it was over the top. 

We ended up getting in to, and he tried to kick me out because my apartment was the only one in the building that wasn't a Section-8 voucher at the time. I was paying cash for it, and he wanted all of the apartments to finally be Section-8. 

At the time, I couldn't qualify, and instead of just accepting my rent or doing the required maintenance, he began doing really shady things.

For example, when I moved in, my lights were on and two years after that, he called the electric company and had the lights cut off. So, all of this time, I thought I was paying the lights through my rent until I eventually called the electric company and they explained it to me – the electricity was in the previous tenant's name and that threw me for a loop. 

Long story short, we went to court and he couldn't put it in as a conviction, because when the building inspector conducted his inspection, he discovered all of the mold and roaches. His consensus was that my landlord could put me out all day, but he wouldn't be able to label it as a conviction. 

Photographer:  Marissa Boswell

Photographer: Marissa Boswell

So, we ended up moving from there to San Bernardino because a friend of mine offered to help out with the kids as she didn't want them in the streets until we figured out what to do. Unfortunately, no jobs came through fast enough, and her son ended up moving back in with her.

We went to a motel, but you know, those can be expensive after a while and eventually I couldn't afford it.

From there, I called my oldest son and we ended up staying with him and his girlfriend for about two weeks. In the meantime,  the lady I go to church with had been calling Alexandria House and seeing if they had space.

Finally, when we got back to Los Angeles, about two weeks after staying with my son, they had an opening. 

I came down, interviewed and I'm here. 

There is a blessing behind this too. A couple years before any of this happened, we had been displaced before but Alexandria House didn't have any openings.  So, when I lived in the apartment, I had my three sons, two daughters, my mom and a couple friends. 

I'm adding this on, so you can see. I think everything is an assignment, a journey. I think the journey to San Bernardino was to drop some people off because they couldn't go where I was going. 

My youngest ended up living with my mother to go to school. My oldest moved in with his girlfriend. My middle son ended up finding a place too, which gave me the opportunity to focus on my daughters. 

So you know, it was a process that I needed to go on before I ended up here. 

How long have you been here?
It will be two years in December. 

Do you like it here?
I do. 

Photographer:  Marissa Boswell

Photographer: Marissa Boswell

Are you currently employed?
Not at the moment. I am going to school, but had to take a break because I am in the process of looking for permanent housing. 

What are you going to school for?

What type of nurse do you want to be?
I am not entirely sure. I have a pharmacy certification at the moment, so I'd like to see what happens first. My mother was a nurse, and I think anything in that field would help out the pharmacy field, which is why I'm kind of bouncing right now because I like the pharmacy side of it.

Where would you like to be in a year?
In a year, honestly speaking, that's a little up in the air too. I definitely want to complete school, but I don't think it will be done in a year because like I said, I had to take a break.

I'm also in the process of writing the book.

That’s awesome, about what?
All of my journeys and life experiences. 

I don't know where this will lead me, because I would probably take some of the proceeds from it and open up a hair salon – I have a hair license as well. 

So, that's why I am saying I could be anywhere in a year. 

As you’re looking for permanent housing, are you looking to stay in the Los Angeles area? 

Wonderful! In your preliminary biography, you wrote that you were a student of life. What does that mean to you? 
I feel that if you have an open mind, you're always learning something.

Nobody can ever say that you're not learning something.  When I worked for this woman at a hair salon, she would always say, "You have to have a teachable spirit." 

It's true. We don't know everything. Life doesn't come with rules or handbooks that tell you exactly what to do. 

Right now, we are living in this tight-knit community, and one of the women asked me, "What did you learn the most about being here?"

I replied with, tolerance. When living with women, everyone is different. Everyone is raised differently and you have to accept people for who they are and it's not that I didn't, but I'll give you a perfect example.

One lady is comfortable with putting her baby on the counter. Where I grew up, we don't sit on counters or stand on couches. It's a little thing, where they don't see anything wrong with it, but you do because of the way you were raised that way. 

It's all a learning experience, so as far as life is concerned, every day I am learning something new. 

What are you grateful for? 
Life's experiences. I think if they don't break you, they make you stronger. 

Photographer:  Marissa Boswell

Photographer: Marissa Boswell

Photographer:  Marissa Boswell

Photographer: Marissa Boswell

Oohoo do they test me?  Do I sometimes want to give up? Yes.
Probably more often than not, but I am grateful for them because if you can learn the lesson through them, you do grow stronger.

What empowers you?
The motivation to inspire my kids, because I want them to know things like it's never too late to go to school. My oldest didn't finish 10th grade.  I'm on him to get his GED because it's never too late. 

If I can be an inspiration to my kids, that's what I am going to do, whatever it takes.