Growing up in the Beaches, life at home was tough. Tyyra’s mother battled alcoholism and as one of only two African Americans in her high school, she felt like she didn’t belong.
Tyyra dropped out of high school in her final year and got a job as a receptionist at a modeling agency. But she soon fell into the wrong crowd and began experimenting with drugs. Tyyra’s sister took her in after their mother passed away but when her addiction worsened, her sister kicked her out of the apartment. For the next 15 years, Tyyra lived on the streets.
Eventually she followed a friend to Scarborough. Embarrassed to ask for help, she cut ties with her family and began working the streets to support her drug habit. She knew she had hit rock bottom. Then Tyyra met a man who took her to where he was staying, Homes First's St. Clair shelter. Finally she had a roof over her head, a bed, and a hot meal. Tyyra finally felt safe and she began to imagine a life beyond the streets.
One day, someone from Openbox, an appliance company, came to the shelter looking for men to work in their warehouse. Tyyra wanted to work and asked to go; at first they were hesitant to let a woman do heavy lifting, but she quickly proved she was a reliable and hard worker.
Tyyra was finally starting to feel like she mattered. She knew if she didn’t stop doing drugs she would die. One morning before work, Tyyra made a life changing decision—she picked up the phone and called her sister. The next day, she moved back in with her. She has been clean ever since.
Although living at the shelter is a difficult part of her past, Tyyra goes back regularly to donate clothing and toiletries—to give back to the people who were a big part of her moving on. “Just because you live in a shelter doesn’t make you less human. We’d share stories—some were very sad."
Years have gone by and Tyyra lives in her own apartment. She works full-time at Openbox, the job that gave her the start she needed. In June 2011, she got married in front of friends and her entire family in an emotional and unforgettable ceremony.
Most days are still a struggle but Tyyra hopes sharing her story will help others. The shelter gave her a sense of security, family, and home. It also saved her life. The reason she returns to the shelter day after day is because she believes what we do.
“People need a home."