Anna Richardson needed a wake-up call.
For 10 years, Richardson had been hooked on methamphetamine—only stopping for brief periods when she was pregnant with her two daughters. In all that time, she never held a job, preferring to sell the meth made by her live-in partner.
But when police raided her home in 2010, Richardson's life came crashing down.
What followed was a spiral of court dates, continued drug use and meetings with a social worker that ultimately culminated in the loss of the 26-year-old Apple Valley resident's child-custody rights.
Richardson, unable to make more money selling drugs or collect child-support payments, couldn't afford to pay rent. In September 2010, she became homeless.
“Once they told me I couldn’t get my kids back, I hit rock bottom," Richardson said. "I couldn’t live with myself without doing everything I could do to get my kids back."
A Teenage Meth Addict
At 24 years old, Richardson was living out of the back of her truck, crashing at friends' houses or sleeping in Wal-Mart parking lots.
She couldn't afford to run her Ford Explorer to stay warm, and remembers waking up to find freshly-fallen snow on the hood of her car. She kept only the bare essentials—clothes and toiletries, and took showers at friends' homes whenever possible. So she could eat, Richardson stole food from retailers.
Richardson's road to homelessness began years earlier.
As a child, Richardson's mom tried desperately to protect her and her two brothers from an abusive husband, as her family moved from one trailer park to another in Dakota County.
Eventually, her mother was able to get a divorce. In a fit of violence, however, her father killed her mother's new boyfriend and tried to kill Richardson's mother before taking his own life.
Richardson's mom fled with the children to Farmington, where Richardson said her mother found a new boyfriend—a habitual drug user. Her parents taught her little about responsibility or practical decision-making, Richardson said, and gave her far too much freedom as a teen.
When Richardson was 14, she tried and became addicted to methamphetamine—a habit that she didn't kick until after the police raid, when social workers removed Richardson's children.
"I didn't have a good, structured foundation to building anything off of," Richardson said. "I didn’t have any role models in my life, and I made a lot of the wrong choices."
Faced with the loss of her two young daughters, Kailey and Isabella, Richardson decided to get clean. She spent 43 days in a Mendota Heights treatment program, then served part of a staggered jail sentence she received after pleading guilty to a child endangerment charge related to the possession and sale of drugs.
"Everything Can Be So Fragile"
Reunited with her children at a family-treatment center in Minneapolis, Richardson started rebuilding her life—and her relationships with her children. After a more than a year spent homeless and in treatment centers—including seven months in Eagan's Dakota Woodlands—she now shares a subsidized three-bedroom apartment in Apple Valley with her mother and two kids.
But the difficulties linger.
Richardson, sober for 19 months, is still paying criminal fines and serving community service. In part because of the felonies on her record, she hasn't found a job, though she dreams of going to school and becoming a chemical-dependence counselor. Currently, she volunteers at Dakota Woodlands as a cook and cleaner.
Richardson worries that her kids could go down the same path she took, and that terrifying thought keeps her motivated.
"With everything I’ve been through, I know all the different possibilities that could happen with my kids," Richardson said. "I started down the wrong path when I was 13, and my daughter’s going to be 10 soon."
Richardson acknowledged that drug use played a significant role in her own descent into homelessness, but urged people to look past stereotypes when dealing with homeless individuals.
"You never know why someone’s homeless," Richardson said. "And to be through that, and know how easily that can happen, I just view it differently."
"In the blink of an eye, you can lose it. Everything can be so fragile."
Editor's Note: Homelessness rates in Dakota County and other suburban communities in Minnesota have risen substantially in the last five years. This letter to the editor is part of a Patch series exploring that trend. Click on the links below to read other articles on the topic.
- Aug. 13
- Aug. 14
- Aug. 15
- Aug. 16