Take a moment to #turnthepage and read the tear-jerking stories of our clients, donors and volunteers about the reasons they became apart of the T.O.R.I. program and the life-changing impact the Texas Offenders Reentry Initiative has had on their lives.
“Until the age of 17, I slept in a car. I didn’t have a home. I’d never even slept in a bed that I could call my own.”
Bradshaw was born in a car. He never knew his father. His mother remained his sole provider throughout his childhood.
Due to domestic violence, his family lived with the fear that his dad would find them. Therefore, Bradshaw’s mother faced limited choices.
“We kept moving, but it felt like we weren’t going anywhere,” Bradshaw explained.
His mother worked various jobs. At night as they sat in the car, trying to sleep upright, Bradshaw’s mother talked about going to school someday, getting a career, and buying a home. At 11 years old, Bradshaw didn’t even know what having a home meant.
As he grew older, he was often left alone in the car when his mother worked late. He would look out through the windshield, staring at the sky, and dream of having a stable place to call home.
Bradshaw’s spotty education record led to his mother’s decision to settle in his final years of school. In a small home outside of Dallas, Bradshaw’s mother rented a small room in a home where they slept on the floor. Sitting in one place, her anxiety growing, Bradshaw’s mother turned to substance abuse. She struggled to make rent, due to her drug use. Therefore, Bradshaw began working at a jewelry store as a teenager.
“That tiny room, just barely better than the car, I felt a need to hold on to it.” Bradshaw expressed.
As his mother spiraled, Bradshaw resorted to stealing small pieces from the jewelry store where he worked and reselling them. The police caught him in less than a month.
“I cried the day that my boss confronted me. I didn’t mean to hurt anyone. I felt like I let everyone down. I wanted to pay the rent each month and help get my mom some help, but my bad choices led to more harm than good.”
This decision led Bradshaw to a stint in jail. Upon his release, with a criminal background, he struggled to find employment and housing. His mother kicked her drug habit while he was in prison. However, they lost the room where they were living.
One day, as he watched television in the waiting room of a job he had applied for, he heard the familiar voice of Bishop T.D. Jakes and he was talking about the T.O.R.I. program.
“That same day I went to T.O.R.I. and signed up. I remember staring at the stars through the car window that night, just like I’d done through my whole childhood, hoping for a change.” Bradshaw reflected.
Bradshaw worked hard toward his transition plan goals alongside his T.O.R.I. Case Manager. His mother was his biggest cheerleader. When his case manager asked him, “What does housing mean to you?” He thought briefly, then responded: “It means a roof and a bed I can call my own. It’s a place to stretch out and feel safe. Most important to me – it’s a place that I can provide for my mom.”
That became Bradshaw’s roadmap and his motivation. In a few short months, he had saved his deposit, and his first month’s rent, and completed paperwork with T.O.R.I.’s Housing Liaison.
“The day that they handed me the keys to the apartment I just kept gripping them. They felt so different than a car key, and I was sure that they would just disappear.”
Today, Bradshaw still resides in the apartment with his mother, and they’ve been diligently planning on their next steps when they are issued his D.H.A. voucher.
“Sometimes I laugh when I think about getting a house with a garage. That old car housed us for so long. Soon, I can house the car.” Bradshaw said with a big belly laugh.
That bright optimism is the quality that Bradshaw’s peers at T.O.R.I. and his case manager see as his biggest protective factor. It’s also one of the things that makes him a favorite student among his facilitators.
“T.O.R.I. has given me so much, and I am grateful to the Dallas Housing Authority for working with such a wonderful program like T.O.R.I. I’m miles away from my dream of home ownership but without T.O.R.I. I would probably be sleeping in that car today.”
“T.O.R.I. taught me that my past doesn’t mean I am worth any less, and they helped me realize that I can do so much more.”