A homeless woman reminded her of her mom. She sold everything to help.

What would you do if you had five years to live? One year? A month?

That's the question Houston-based Isha Desselle asked herself in 1986 after returning from a trip to India, where she saw too many homeless people to count.

One of them spent her nights rolled up "in a little bag," and Desselle said she looked like her mother. The thought brought her to tears.

GIF via Muse Storytelling.


"My mother was tough, in a very soft way," Desselle recalls. "She built our house in Trinidad, mixing water, sand, and stone. She taught us everything, especially charity. She's the one who instilled that in our life. On the weekends, we would go to the market, and she would feed the beggars."

When she returned home, she decided to take a hard look at herself and ask "What do I want to do with my life? What do I want to do with me?"

It's a question many of us have asked: You may be thinking it right now as you sit and read this. What do you want to do with your life?

Desselle knew she wanted to help others. The choice she made was extraordinary. After grappling with how she could do the most good, she sold her house and all of her belongings, giving her enough money for a fresh start. But it wasn't for her.

"I sold my home and everything I had," Desselle says, "put a down payment on a rundown apartment complex. It was like this is it. It just felt right."

GIF via Muse Storytelling.

Her goal? To turn the complex into a safe place for elderly people without a home. But though her intentions were good, Desselle says she was stymied at every turn. "I went to United Way," she remembers, "and they told me I wouldn't make it because I didn't have the experience; I didn't have the education."

The rejection didn't make Desselle weaker. It fueled her resolve. No one was going to tell her what she could or couldn't do.

So she moved into the apartment complex herself and began to help those who were already living there. When they didn't have food, Desselle walked to butcher shops and asked for bones. She went to produce markets and asked for vegetables. "We had that every day," she says.

And then the people came. Soon the elderly homeless residents of Desselle's neighborhood started coming for assistance. Sometimes she'd have up to 40 people in her tiny kitchen. "And everyone helped out," she says. Desselle began feeding more than 200 homeless people a day.

She sold everything for those with nothing.

Imagine what the world would be like if we all had this woman's compassion. (via Muse Storytelling)

Posted by Upworthy on Thursday, April 5, 2018

America has a homelessness crisis.

According to data collected in 2017, more than 500,000 people are homeless on any given day in the United States. That number includes 58,000 families with kids. As the cost of living gets higher and higher, more and more people can't afford a place to live. Many are spending nights on the street or in transitional housing.

In Houston, specifically, more than 4,000 people are either spending nights on the street or living in temporary shelters while they work to get back on their feet. The good news is that this number is only half of what it was in 2011. And the answer is often more affordable housing.

GIF via Muse Storytelling.

That's why Houston's commitment to help people get off the street is so important — and why people like Desselle are so instrumental in the fight to end homelessness. They persevere even in the face of adversity, inspiring all of us to work harder to make a difference.

Desselle's motto is where there's a will, there's a way.

That's what Desselle's mother used to say. She's taken it to heart. "I picked that up because I watched her in action."

Her goal? To change the lives of the elderly people forced to live on the street. Since Desselle first started the Turning Point Center, she's helped more than 37,000 of Houston's homeless population.

"They come in with a frown, the destitution in their face," Desselle says. "And you take them to the clothing room, let them have a shower, change into something new. Their whole outlook changes."

The biggest thing that the center can offer? Hope and respect for the human spirit. The residents who stay on for lengthy periods of time help out others who live there too.

"We see the person inside," she says. "They're not a number. There's someone in there. There's hopes; there's dreams. You give them a chance. You change the outlook of them, and the inside changes too."

GIF via Muse Storytelling.

Desselle's mission should inspire anyone thinking about what to do next. Because our goal should be to bring out the good in this world.

"I don't think money, power, or position could ever buy what I receive in helping people," Desselle says. "I made a home where elderly homeless people can go, and I have lived my dream. I'll probably die with a smile on my face."

You can help, too.

If there's one thing we can learn from this story, it's that all of us have the power to make a difference. No, we're not all going to sell our belongings and devote our lives to helping others (and that's OK!), but we must all make a commitment to help our fellow humans and make the world a kinder, warmer place.

Want to help? You can start by volunteering at a shelter, where help is always needed. You could create care kits — packages full of essentials like socks and toiletries — to hand out, especially during the cold season. You can write to your legislators and urge them to support measures that protect the homeless and push for affordable housing. Start small, and you too could be making a world of difference.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

via The BC Cancer Foundation

Testicular cancer typically affects men between the ages of 16 and 44 and is the most common solid tumor to occur in men of this age group. These tumors grow rapidly and can double in size in just 10 to 30 days.

The disease is potentially fatal if not discovered early and accounts for about 11%-13% of all cancer deaths of men between the ages of 15-35. An estimated 9,60 people were diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2020, resulting in around 440 deaths.

So it's incredibly important for people with testicles to check themselves regularly.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.