It took work, wasn’t easy and required a little help from her friends, but for Lisa LaFosse and her daughter things are finally getting better.
Since Nov. 7 she’s been employed as the driver and admitting clerk of one of Texas Health Resource’s three mobile health units.
“It’s a new adventure,” LaFosse gleefully exclaimed. “I love it!”
LaFosse’s life nine months ago was far less rosy.
“Lisa’s an amazing lady who never gave up and an inspirational success story for all of us,” HOPE Medical & Dental Clinic Executive Director Diane Westcott said.
Although she doesn’t care to publicize the details, LaFosse said that she several months ago found herself in a “bad situation” requiring her to leave all she knew, including her job and home behind to save her daughter. Harassment and abuse figured in, LaFosse said, but she otherwise felt uncomfortable delving into specifics.
Suddenly homeless, LaFosse and her daughter landed and remained at the Johnson County Christian Lodge for six months. Although thankful for a place to stay, LaFosse and her daughter were equally determined to get back on their feet.
“They both did very well here,” JCCL Executive Director Bill Wissore said. “Worked very hard to pull up and out of their problems. They’re doing much better now and we couldn’t be happier for them. We consider them one of our really good success stories.”
Wissore and the staff at the JCCL quickly became one of several LaFosse refers to as her angels while relaying her story. But it was tough, very tough, and scary, LaFosse admits.
Well spoken, intelligent, career driven and bubbly of personality, LaFosse doesn’t match the picture most probably conjure when they think of homelessness.
“I had always, before that, lived in homes with a concrete slab,” LaFosse said. “I was of the mind set of, to be homeless, I don’t want to be one of those people. I cried and cried that first night just thinking, how could I let my daughter down like this?
“But it shows that this isn’t something that only happens to certain people. It can happen to anyone from any walk of life. And it changed my perception. Not that I wasn’t sympathetic to the homeless before, I was. But having been through and experienced the difficulty of getting out I’m much more so now.”
In an odd way the experience proved a blessing in disguise of sorts, LaFosse said.
“I want to talk to everyone about it,” LaFosse said. “It’s not a death sentence [being homeless]. It’s hard, but it’s not a death sentence. I’m hoping others see, you know, that if that person did it I can too.”
LaFosse said she and her daughter remained determined to get out.
Life at the JCCL required following rules, searching for jobs daily and performing chores. LaFosse and her daughter filled their time performing several temporary, part time and semi full-time jobs.
“I’m proud to say my daughter knows how to lay tile now and sheetrock,” LaFosse said. “We did that, installing tabletops in a restaurant, pine and oak, heavy tables. We did jobs doing plumbing, painting, grouting, odd jobs, long time jobs, met a lot of cool and colorful characters.”
No insurance and the need for a mammogram screen brought LaFosse to HOPE Clinic. The Cleburne nonprofit clinic provides low-cost medical care to uninsured and low-income county residents. Texas Health’s mobile health unit, which offers preventative health screenings for cancer, cardiovascular disease and other maladies, sets up shop at HOPE Clinic twice monthly, Texas Health Nurse Practitioner Mary Phifer said. The mobile units run far and wide covering nine area counties.
“We go to the communities where they live,” Phifer said. “Sixty percent to 70 percent are in areas under served and are patients who are uninsured and low income.”
Lisa Thurman was driving the mobile unit on the day of LaFosse’s mammogram screening appointment last June.
“We just got to talking and I could see she was having a hard time,” Thurman said. “Really all I did was I knew we had an opening for a driver and told her about that. And she applied and really followed all the way through with it.”
Thurman, LaFosse contends, did much more than that.
“[Lisa’s] my angel,” LaFosse said. “I had no home at the time. Meeting her that day changed my life. She helped me.”
LaFosse says the same of Phifer.
“I didn’t do anything,” Phifer protested.
“You did,” LaFosse said. “You’ve been very encouraging.”
The process of applying for the job and procuring a commercial license took time, but LaFosse seemed well suited for the job having previously worked as a firefighter/EMT both in California and Texas and in the emergency room of a California hospital.
One thing in particular set Texas Health apart, LaFosse said, and convinced her that the company was where she wanted to be.
“During orientation they brought in a pastor who asked if anyone wanted their hands blessed,” LaFosse said. “I’d never seen that done. This is a great company. This is the best place ever.”
LaFosse and her daughter, through contributing their pay from their respective jobs, have since managed to get an apartment.
“We worked hard and worked together,” LaFosse said. “She supported me and I supported her. That kid, makes me cry thinking about it, gave all her money so we could get our place.”
LaFosse said her daughter, who excelled in high school, is now attending college as well.
“She’s great now,” LaFosse said. “She’s so happy and that’s what matters to me. She’s a millenial baby and you know what people think of them. But the hard work over the last year taught her a lot. We both had a part-time job in a warehouse a while back and she turned to me and said, ‘Mama, I’m ready to go back to college.’ And she deserves it. I’m happy for her.”
As to Thurman, Phifer, Wissore, Westcott and others, LaFosse said she thanks God.
“I think God places us in situations and places people in our lives,” LaFosse said. “And thank you Jesus. I’m so thankful for the people God surrounded me with. It’s not always easy but you have to have eyes to see and your heart has to be open.”
Westcott credits LaFosse’s success to hard work and her refusal to give up. Still, she’s glad that, call it fate or divine intervention, brought LaFosse to HOPE Clinic last summer.
“At HOPE we’re not only about treating the physical but also the mental, the well being and the just general take-care-of-people aspects,” Westcott said. “We never know when our patients walk in the door what they need or how we can touch their hearts.”
HOPE Clinic certainly touched her heart, LaFosse said, as did JCCL and Texas Health Resources.
“I don’t know if it’s politically correct to say, but I don’t want to be politically correct,” LaFosse said. “I believe when you hit rock bottom God is the rock at the bottom and he was with my daughter and me every step of the way and I saw miracles everyday during that time. So I’m very thankful to all of them and to my daughter and my mom and mostly to God.”