CLEVELAND — Torre Escott is a real estate agent. She purchases homes and renovates them, but before the renovations can begin, she has to find a way inside to survey the home and see what she has to work with.
“You don’t know if you’re going to find squatters. You don’t know if you’re going to find people trying to just survive and live," said Escott.
Once she gets inside, she takes video of the home to send to her investors.
"I would put some corner cabinets over there on the side for sure," she said.
But renovating and selling homes has a deeper meaning for Escott.
“I love giving people what I didn’t have as a child: A beautiful home with hardwood floors, new finishes. Updated. Safe.”
Escott grew up without a home, starting when she was only 8 or 9 years old.
“I was homeless right when city of Cleveland made sleeping at a bus stop illegal," she said.
She spent several years couch surfing and sometimes sleeping outside.
“And I would find empty houses that people forgot about and live inside of them and fix them up," she said.
It's why she's now so passionate about the real estate industry and providing safe and affordable homes for families. Most of the homes Escott rehabs are available to people eligible for Section 8 housing.
“And the fact that there’s such a homeless housing disaster right now is insane to me.”
Escott was 24 the last time she was without a home. She credits a nonprofit organization called Front Steps Housing and Services, formerly known as Transitional Housing Inc., with getting her off the streets.
“I slept across the street from that shelter for about three weeks and the staff there would bring me food.”
She said she wouldn't be where she is today without the help and support of the staff at the shelter.
“Part of why I do this is because they helped to save my life. They paid for my first year of college. They taught me how to cook. My room wasn’t a cot inside of a homeless shelter. My room had a private bath, a shower, a mini fridge and an apartment-size stove and a desk.”
Escott now sits on the board of Front Steps and is happy to help the same organization that helped her.
“This is where I found home. This is the first place I called home. This is the first place I found community and it is still a very, very big part of my life. And I look forward to continuing to motivate and propel the people that are there now into their next steps and then the next people that come.”
Escott hopes her work as a real estate agent will bring equity to overlooked neighborhoods in Cleveland and help people without homes be get a roof over their heads.