She spent 16 years on the streets, but never once begged for money

In life, it’s easy to forget that everyone has their own story, with each one more more unique than the last.

Some people seem to only experience pure bliss and happiness, while others appear to have to deal with the opposite.

For this 80-year-old woman, her tale takes many twists and unexpected turns – and perhaps the world can learn something from it.

For 16 years, Wanda Ritter had been homeless, persistently claiming that “the government owed her $100,000.” Day in and day out, she carried this message with her, along with a suitcase filled with documents and unpaid checks. Sadly, most people dismissed her as just another person suffering from mental illness, labeling her as crazy.

Old woman walking with a cane at night in Times Square in New York City, New York in 1984. (Photo by Thomas McGovern/Getty Images)

Credit / Thomas McGovern / Getty.

The former locksmith and mother of four was often seen wandering the streets of Washington, adamantly declaring that the Social Security System owed her a substantial sum of money.

“I was afraid to get rid of the luggage,” she recalled. “I told myself that if I did something foolish, people would think I was insane.”

However, everything changed when Julie Turner, a 56-year-old social worker, took a keen interest in Wanda’s story and decided to delve into her case. As Turner reviewed the documents, she shook her head in disbelief.

“She didn’t need mental health assistance; she needed financial assistance,” Turner emphasized. It was clear to her that the government did indeed owe Wanda $100,000.

But how did Wanda come to this realization?

1980s REAR VIEW OF ELDERLY WOMAN WALKING DOWN SIDEWALK HOLDING PURSE BEHIND BACK HEAD DOWN (Photo by H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images)

Credit / H. Armstrong Roberts / ClassicStock / Getty.

Wanda had been receiving checks ranging from $300 to $900 every month, but she never cashed them. She believed there was something wrong with the checks, so she dutifully returned them. However, Wanda eventually reached out to Social Security Services to investigate the discrepancy.

“I thought that if I had collected the checks and claimed there had been a mistake, no one would believe me,” Wanda explained to local reporters, highlighting her belief that she could address the issue once she had it under control.

With the invaluable assistance of social worker Julie Turner, Wanda secured a $500 apartment, marking a turning point in her life.

A week after her story began making headlines, Wanda Ritter received her first Social Security check for $1,644, a momentous step forward on her path to reclaiming what was rightfully hers.

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