Tessa arrived at Jubilee in April 2017, worn down by years of depression that cost her job, several months in an emergency shelter, and a new diagnosis of bipolar disorder. She had begun the challenging work of putting her life back together as a transgender woman, but was still grappling with mental health issues that made it easier to stay isolated in her room than engage with others.
Sharing a home with 26 “sisters” was daunting under those circumstances, but soon became a catalyst for change. Community dinners, sewing classes and knitting groups, job preparation courses, and even shared TV time in the living room slowly drew Tessa out of isolation and into meaningful connections.
Last fall Tessa joined the Women’s Justice Circle hosted at Jubilee and knew she had found her niche. “As a homeless woman with a serious mental illness, politicians naturally aren’t going to really listen to me when they make policy,” she explains. “Even when the policy they make is all about people like me, they work on it without us, because they assume that we aren’t capable of contributing to the process. Joining a Women’s Justice Circle allowed me to have a voice and speak to those people who actually control policy.”
Tessa recently researched, wrote, and presented a 50-page proposal to state and local politicians detailing how to make more housing available for homeless people with disabilities. She writes a blog about her life. And she is looking for a job in computer programming. But now that she’s found her voice in the policy arena, Tessa is also exploring her dream job—working somewhere that makes a difference for others like her.