Before moving to a new area, you may have no idea who your neighbors are going to be. Justin Hernandez certainly found himself in this situation after relocating to Phoenix, Arizona, in summer 2017. A month or so after his arrival in the city, however, he made an unlikely friend: a neighbor who lived in her car outside her house. And little did he know that their unique partnership would lead to worldwide fascination and praise.
Hernandez had just started life at his new home when he first met his namesake, Theresa Hernandez. The pair had been thrown together for no other reason than living in the same area. But Justin quickly realized that Theresa’s lifestyle was very different to his, even if they did share the same surname.
For instance, although she lived in the grounds of her home as expected, Theresa chose to rest her head in her car every night rather than in her bed. In fact, pretty soon Justin realized that she wasn’t entering the house at all; she and her two dogs were living from the vehicle.
It took Justin just a few days to learn about her predicament; by walking his dog past her property, he learned of her daily struggles. During this time, though, he never saw her enter into the house or, indeed, leave it.
And as it turned out, Theresa wasn’t exactly choosing to live outside of her home. In fact, she couldn’t really reside indoors – at least, not in the house she currently had. And the reason why soon became apparent: a rotting mess of dog feces and trash met Justin the first time that he was shown inside.
Indeed, after opening the door into the chaos of the house, Justin witnessed first hand the full extent of Theresa’s problem. And a tour of the building confirmed the scale of the neglect: dirt and grime were smeared on the walls, and bags of trash were mounting up in every room.
But the reason behind the destruction made Justin look at the situation in a whole new light. It turned out that Theresa hadn’t always lived like this. Indeed, until just a few years ago she was happily married. However, when her husband passed away, her life changed forever.
The pain of losing someone affects people in all sorts of ways. In Theresa’s case, for example, caring for herself as well as for her animals had just become too much. As a result, she surrendered to the mess and was left with a house that could not be lived in. And as the garbage grew to fill the rooms, she was forced out onto the streets.
In particular, Theresa escaped to the comfort and peace of her car; from its confines, she could avoid addressing the many issues with the house. Indeed, the car grew to become somewhat of a second home for her, and in the way that many people find comfort in their belongings, she clung to the vehicle, despite it no longer running. A house with no electricity and a car with no power had become her world.
Justin, however, was horrified at the situation and felt the urge deep inside to help his new neighbor. Compelled by the thought that she could be his own mother or grandmother, he resolved to give her fresh hope.
But achieving that would be a tall task: not only did the old property need to be cleaned, but urgent repair work also needed to be carried out to the building. Nevertheless, Justin knew that simply offering Teresa food and water to get by wasn’t an option.
As a result, Justin rushed home to create a Facebook page, dedicated to Theresa and with details of her plight. Within days, moreover, word had spread of the mission to improve her life – and what happened next left the man in awe.
Indeed, Justin was shocked by the response to the call-out. He had asked for volunteers to donate time or money – and, in return, he got a great deal of both. In their droves, people were keen to help out in any way they could.
Furthermore, well-wishers gave up their weekends and afternoons to get stuck into the cleaning process. But the work needed on the home turned out to be quite complex. The house had no power, after all, and without someone with the requisite technical know-how, Theresa would remain vulnerable.
But Justin need not have worried about this, as plumbers, electricians and handymen from far and wide turned up to return the home to its former glory. Meanwhile, the health hazards in the house, which range from dog feces to old mattresses and broken-down white goods, are in the process of being cleared away.
For instance, Justin has been shifting the piles of belongings that are clogging up the home. The many layers of dishes and food piled up on the home’s work surfaces have been removed, too. And Teresa’s neighbor has been logging his and his team’s slow progress on Facebook, where words of encouragement fill the page.
In addition, although the work is far from finished, the funds raised towards the project continue to climb. More than $3,000, in fact, has been raised in just one month from 118 caring donors – at least one of whom has dubbed herself as being part of “Team Teresa.”
And, naturally, Teresa is grateful for both Justin’s assistance and that of the volunteers helping him. She would tell Fox 10 News, “I don’t know what I would do without people like them. What the world would do without people like them. There are very few.”
Furthermore, Theresa has since found out that she’ll be able to move into a new home once work is finished on restoring her house. She hopes to move to a stress-free building that will not need any work. And an offer has already been made on her property – meaning that, as a result of Justin and the volunteers, her future is looking bright once again.
Indeed, in just one month Justin Hernandez has transformed a life and given new meaning to the word “neighborly.” And, happily, his kindness has paid off, as Theresa’s formerly dire situation transforms into something else entirely.