Terry’s was a life marked with unthinkable trauma, sadness, and loss. By the time he’d reached his current 84 years, he’d experienced more than most could fathom. From serving his country in the army, to surviving 30 Minnesota winters on the streets, Terry had encountered devastating life experiences, one after another. Each cut like a knife, slicing off a little more of his resilience. All these trials contributed to his experience of homelessness, but one episode stood apart from the rest, in his long journey of rebuilding life.
In 1985, Terry’s beloved dog, Cliff, was put down. This defining moment started his experience of homelessness. “The day I had my dog put down hurt me most. Cliff was the last vestige of my former life,” he said. Any memories of stability Terry had were tied to his pet. When Terry lost Cliff, he also lost the last remaining link to his past. He just gave up—on everything.
Rebuilding Life, One Piece at a Time
Terry lived on the streets for three decades. He says, “I put it off….I really didn’t want to come inside and have to live by someone else’s rules.” With his health and eyesight deteriorating rapidly, he knew it was no longer an option to continue as he had for the past 30 years.
He came to the Food Centre at least four times a week for his “sit-down and enjoyable” meal, saying, “Is it always my favorite dish? Of course not, but there’s always plenty of it.” He paused, and with a dead-pan expression stated, “And the price is always affordable.” This ever-present wit and his compassion for others makes Terry a favorite among House of Charity’s staff and volunteers.
Terry’s favorite audience are the students who volunteer at the Food Centre, of which he said with a grin, “They come in and they smile and like my jokes, but most importantly, they remind me of what I used to be like. At my age, to see them smile when they talk with me….” Shaking his head, he smiled, “Yah, that’s my favorite part.”
A Positive Mindset, Mixed with Humor
The power of purpose, activity, and laughter are the pillars upon which Terry’s life and survival are now built. This positive mindset is also the foundation upon which his legacy will rest. The support of established structures and regular routines are vital to Terry. He keeps himself busy in his free time visiting hospital patients, reading for the blind, and delivering hand-made bouquets.
Recently, Terry found permanent housing through a partnership between HOC and the Minnesota VA. Whenever possible, Terry supplements his diet at House of Charity’s Food Centre. He continues to use his experiences with homelessness to encourage and comfort others. Those going through similar experiences in their quest for rebuilding life find encouragement from his positive outlook.
Terry’s journey through homelessness is a testament to us all. Terry’s perseverance and the power of keeping a positive mindset no matter how dark the situation may be are an encouragement to all.