Once homeless teen receives laptop for school, needs more help

Lyric Wardlow didn’t have much of a childhood.

The 19-year-old Austin woman spent most of her time caring for her mother, who had mental illness and hoarding problems. Wardlow didn’t have toys or friends to play with. She entertained herself by singing in the park.

Life got much harder when Wardlow was 9 years old after she and her mother were evicted from their Fort Bend, Ind., house. They became homeless and stayed with friends, in hotels and at homeless shelters. Today, Wardlow’s on her own and trying to build a stable life.

“It’s hard to describe what I’ve been through,” she said.

Wardlow is part of the Statesman Season for Caring program, which highlights the needs of 12 local families and helps hundreds of other people served by local nonprofit agencies. Wardlow was nominated by LifeWorks, a nonprofit that helps homeless youths become self-sufficient.

Wardlow is getting some help from LSO, a shipping service. Penny McLeskey, the vice president of corporate services, has been gathering donations, including a laptop for Wardlow to use for school and gift cards. McLeskey also wants to help Wardlow in her career by looking into scholarship opportunities as well as providing professional attire for Wardlow.

“She’s pulled herself up,” McLeskey said of why she and LSO wanted to help Wardlow.

Wardlow and her mother moved to Austin when Wardlow was in high school, but she later abandoned her education to care for her mom. They had no stable source of income. They didn’t have a car. Wardlow remembers sitting in the hot sun at the bus stop, crying and wondering why people wouldn’t help them.

Wardlow’s climb toward success was helped by Goodwill Industries, where she received her high school equivalency diploma. She did so well that she was the speaker at her graduation and was asked to speak to the board of directors, one of whom offered her an internship.

These days, she’s working hard to become self-sufficient. She lives in a North Austin apartment with a friend. She just finished an internship at a government relations firm and is now working at a skating rink.

She receives some public assistance and gets counseling and other services from LifeWorks. She also is part of a coalition working to end youth homelessness.

Wardlow took a few classes at Austin Community College, but she dropped out when a family member died. She wants to go back to college but still owes $350 in scholarship money she has to return because she quit.

Wardlow is barely scraping by financially. Paying the rent is always a worry. She broke her wrist and has yet to pay those medical expenses. She is renting a car through a nonprofit vehicle program but uses public transportation as much as possible to save money on gas.

“I live paycheck to paycheck,” she said.

Ultimately, she says, she’d like a job helping people get their lives on track.

“I want to be successful,” she said. “I want to be a beautiful, confident, black woman in this age. I don’t want to go to the store and wonder if there’s enough money in my bank account.”

To reach her dream, Wardlow needs help with tuition; preventive health care; gas cards and passes for the bus and train; a cellphone; kitchen counter stools and other kitchen items; living room rugs; organizational/storage units; lamps; a vacuum and cleaning supplies; towels and bedding; gift cards to Half-Price Books, Home Goods, Target, H-E-B, IKEA and Chuy’s; camping gear; size 9 hiking boots or roller skates; and a gym membership.

To find out more about Wardlow or to give something on her wish list, contact LifeWorks, 512-735-2400, lifeworksaustin.org.

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