For most of her adult life, Rita Richardson travelled a rough road. She says that’s a good thing now as it prepared her with the tough grit it takes to help those on Skid Row. Her crisis point came when she was 27, when her Grandmother who had raised her passed away, leaving Rita emotionally devastated.
She sought solace in casual drug use which escalated. Marijuana led to crack cocaine, which then graduated to methamphetamine. She started selling. Like dominoes falling, all the wrong doors opened for Rita, resulting in five state prison terms and one Federal, totaling a decade of time served.
After her release in 2012, Rita’s moment of clarity arrived. ”I finally got it. The lightbulb came on and it was like I woke up from a bad dream. What have I been doing? I lost all these years.”
While renting a room and caring for her 90 year old landlord, Rita noticed a school nearby called Intercoast College which offered a certificate in drug and alcohol counseling. With her unemployment funds assisting her, Rita achieved her counseling certificate and went on to intern at The Weingart Center. “It was a three month internship, but I stayed an extra four months. I wanted to build the confidence I would need to work this hardcore population on Skid Row.”
With that hard earned confidence, Rita enrolled at Spring College and went to work on her Bachelor’s degree. During that time she overcame a very serious hurdle. How to get a job with her drug and prison history? It was The Midnight Mission that made her dream job come true. “They hired me with barriers. I have a severe record and because of that not many people are going to hire me. They did not care about that and saw my true potential. I have a lot of love for The Midnight Mission. I wouldn’t be employed and have what I have if they didn’t hire me.”
Rita’s life outside of her job is now fulfilling as well. “I love playing my music loud when I’m driving. It helps me purge all the negative things that I hear. I’m very connected with my family and I really enjoy life, going out to dinner with friends, yet I’m also quiet and secluded. I love watching movies, playing computer games, I’m kind of boring really,” she quips, then becomes serious: “That’s a good thing now, because I had so much drama and chaos before and now I want nothing but the opposite.”
Since Rita started as an advocate at The Midnight Mission in December of 2013, not only has she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science, she’s been promoted twice and is now the Program Manager where she manages the men’s and women’s crisis bridge. She says, “This is the only job I’ve ever worked in my whole life that I actually don’t feel like it’s work.” What’s the best part of her job? “When the people come back to me and say, Rita, thank you so much for helping me out, for helping me with housing, or just giving me some hope and encouragement. That right there shows me I’m doing what I need to do through my higher power. This is my purpose. I’m supposed to be here.”