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Lori Teresa Yearwood died on Sept. 17 of ovarian cancer. She was 57 years old.

The New York Times published an obituary over the weekend, which documents both Lori's journalism career and the years that it was upended by spells of homelessness. Lori started out as a reporter at The Miami Herald, but left the paper in 2000, after seven years on staff. Over the next 14 years she slowly lost her financial security, her home, and even her speaking voice. From 2014 to 2017, Lori was in and out of shelters, and largely mute; she was briefly hospitalized in a psychiatric ward.

Lori eventually regained her voice and her passion for journalism, and by 2018 she began publishing stories not just about her own experience with homelessness, but about the experiences of others who are so routinely overlooked by our society. Her work appeared in the Washington Post, The New York Times, The New Republic, The Guardian, Hmm Daily, The American Prospect, Slate, Mother Jones, and here at Defector.

I only spoke to Lori a few times. We had our first video call in October 2021, after Indignity editor Tom Scocca connected us. Lori had an idea for a new column, and she was looking for an outlet to give it a home. During that first call, she outlined her idea for what became the How Are You Coping With That? series. I remember being struck by Lori's clarity of vision, and her insistence that she was not interested in publishing what she called "trauma porn." She simply wanted to give readers a nuts-and-bolts accounting of how people navigate hardship in this country, and to provide her subjects with a platform from which to tell their own stories with dignity. She accomplished that goal, and the more we worked together, the more impressed I became by her abilities as a reporter. She was careful and kind with everyone she profiled, and earned the trust of those who had very little reason to give it.

We published six of Lori's columns, and together they account for some of the work that I am most proud to have featured on Defector. The last column she wrote for us was about Nieshea Walker, a single mother with a full-time job who ended up in a homeless shelter with her two children after being evicted from her apartment. Walker set up a fundraiser for herself after the story was published, and was able to raise $22,175. Last week, she sent a message to everyone who had donated:

Thank you all so much. Me and my children finally moved into our home two weeks ago. It breaks my heart that I wasn’t able to share the wonderful news with Lori. She helped me and my family so much, I will forever be grateful for her and everyone who has helped me and my children. We will never forget Lori, she will live in our hearts forever and always.

You can read all of Lori's Defector stories here, and find the rest of her work on her website.

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