Tierra is one of three new Care Coordinators who work on-site at The Renaissance, supporting the families and individuals that live here to set and attain their goals. Read the interview below to learn more about her.
Tell me a bit about yourself:
I grew up in the small town of Taylorsville, NC and went on to receive a BA in Psychology from Winston-Salem State University. I considered joining the Peace Corps but instead got a job working for the Department of Juvenile Justice in a secure facility in NC for two years.
My studies in psychology developed my interest in how I could understand people’s mental processes and then alleviate the real-world problems that resulted. I enrolled in a Masters in Social Work program at the University of Maryland – Baltimore, and received a degree in 2009. I’ve been a social worker ever since. It was during my time in Baltimore that I was exposed to homelessness, hunger (people scouring garbage cans in search of food), and other instances of extreme poverty for the first time. That started my passion to live my life helping others in any way that I could.
What is Empowerment and Development Exchange?
EDE is a program that helps youth and young adults achieve self-sufficiency and meet their goals. They also have programs for fathers, and leadership development and mentoring programs for girls. Our work with RWCI is only part of what we do in the Charlotte community to help families in need.
What do you think is special about RWCI?
RWCI is truly a one-of-a-kind initiative. It believes so strongly in its residents. I’ve seen clients and cases hit so many road blocks and barriers when it comes to finding housing – they often end up homeless and in extreme instances lose their children to the state. Once you come on this property, all you feel is hope. If you can give somebody hope, they will be able to live a better life. RWCI lets the families here know that they are worth it. Even if they don’t have money or material things, they have the hope and support that they need to achieve their goals and start a better life.
You just began your work at RWCI, but can you share an example from your earlier work where the services offered at RWCI would have helped a family in need?
I worked with a single mother – she had five children and was pregnant with a sixth. She fell on hard times, and during the coldest North Carolina winter I can remember, she was living in one room with her five children. Their only heat was a space heater that EDE provided for them. She was at risk for losing her children. She didn’t have any transportation or anything, just that one heater…If she had been able to live at The Renaissance, her life would have been so different, so hopeful, so transformed.
I knew another single mother who had been abused out-of-state and came to North Carolina to hide out. She was moving from hotel to hotel, with her 4-5 kids, constantly being displaced. Having no safe place to go, and without a support network of any kind, she became involved in illegal activity and was sentenced to prison, rendering her young children parentless. The intervention mechanisms that are available at RWCI could have prevented this situation and put the family on a dramatically different path toward prosperity.
Other than housing, how can RWCI help in situations like these?
By entering this program, people can start on their goals earlier. They can become motivated and empowered and given hope, which is all they need to build a better life. There is a whole support team here to keep you on track, and that has a snowball effect. It really is amazing.