Once-Homeless Tulsa Woman Uses Struggles To Help Others

Once homeless and addicted to drugs, Bethany Willyard now helps others find sobriety and a place to stay.

Friday, April 4th 2014, 11:34 am

It's a comeback story about a Tulsa woman who is now helping the Green Country homeless population after years of drug addiction and being homeless herself.

For Bethany Willyard, working at the Denver House is so much more than a job. She's an integral part of a place that helps homeless people get off the streets and into permanent housing.

"She works for us and brings her game to work every day," said Mike Brose, executive director of the Mental Health Association of Oklahoma.

"And she does it in service helping others, behind them saying, 'Come on. I've done it. You can do it too.'"

Willyard is very open about where she's been. After being abused for the first decade of her life, she ran away from home at 14 and started using meth. For the next 20 years, she was in and out of prison, mental institutions and meth houses. During most of the time, she was homeless.

"You know, eating out of trash cans, you know, sleeping under a bridge with whatever clothes you got on, not being able to take a shower," Willyard said. "I know my mom told me real recently that, when she had visited me in Stillwater - which I don't remember - she thought she was going to find me dead."

But her low point came on January 24, 2012. Police kicked down the door of her trailer, where she had been living with no utilities, and arrested her for drug activity.

"I hated the world. It was everybody's fault but my own. But that's what was the start of saving my life," Willyard said.

For reasons she still doesn't know, the judge in her case only made her serve a year in prison - instead of 10 or 20 - and ordered her to a drug program. She says she had a lot of time to think.

That was the first time I was ever sober, and so I had time to think about things I wanted to in life, and what I really wanted was my kids," she said.

And now two years later, Bethany has served her time, is sober, just got custody of her son, and is working at the Denver House helping homeless people find homes and even leading drug rehab meetings

"So today, now that I have my own place and I can give back to the homeless community," Willyard said. "And one person at a time, we can help them get off the streets and not go through those things I had to go through."

She says if her story saves one life, her struggles are worth it.

Mental Health Association Oklahoma says Bethany is just one example of employees who have turned their life around. About half of their employees are in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, and 60 percent are recovering from mental illness.

Learn more about the Mental Health Association and their services for the homeless.


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