Meet TomiRene: She ROCs!

We like to bring ROC member stories to light as a way to introduce people to the amazing folks who are a part of this network. This month we are bringing you some of TomiRene’s story! Meet TomiRene Hettman, one of ROC’s founding Members. Here’s her story:

My name is TomiRene Hettman, and I was born homeless. When I was born I needed a complete blood transfusion within 24 hours in order to live. Having been adopted at 4 days old, and even though I had a wonderful middle class upbringing, I have been homeless repeatedly in my adulthood. Each time I was homeless I was facing life-threatening health issues and just kept falling through the cracks in multiple systems!

Unfortunately, there are 100’s of 1000’s of other people who have experienced worse than I have. That is why I am a member of ROC. We are the true “experts on homelessness!” Us! Not politicians. Not social workers who leave the office, returning to safe, stable housing that they can afford in the areas they wish to live. And, most definitely, not the people who have never been homeless, but, instead are simply sick of seeing people who are!

To paraphrase the late Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman”,: We are/were homeless, hear us roar in numbers too big to ignore!” ROC, as a united front of those with lived experience in homelessness . . .  is already helping to foster change! And just turned 1 year old!

In August I was chosen to be a Fellow with the Movement Building brought together by Community Change. At first I thought I would simply be an attendee. Someone sitting at home on Zoom, learning as much as I could from the people doing the presentations. Next thing I knew, I was being brought in to help give the training on Storytelling As A Leadership Tool!

The final day of the actual convening took place on August 14th, with an amazing Town Hall meeting with Julian Castro, Secretary of the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, under Former President Obama! The one thing that challenged me was believing in myself and my ability to not let down the people who were helping to elevate me. It was my 1st time advocating at that level. I had only done so within the city of Portland and its neighboring communities.

What I want to say to those who are considering joining ROC is  . . .

“You are not alone! You are valuable just as you are, and your story can help end homelessness for generations to come! We are your family members whom you haven’t met until now. We have been waiting for your arrival, and are filled with joy in welcoming you into the fold! Your story is a treasure chest of gems just waiting to be polished for adornment!