Climbing Out from Rock Bottom

Peter sits outside at the shelter
Peter Hits Rock Bottom

The day Peter became homeless was the day he hit rock bottom. He had already reached an emotional low after years of debilitating health issues, compounded by the stress of his collapsing marriage. Becoming homeless, he says, “was just the last nail in the coffin.”

Peter remembers sitting in a little lounge facing the Target Center. It was snowing. He recalls, “I was contemplating doing away with myself and figuring out how to do it. I actually started writing letters to my brother in Canada and my kids. And then I said, ‘No, I’m not going to do this. I have to climb out of here.’” That’s when he started looking for resources to improve his health.

“I was contemplating doing away with myself and figuring out how to do it. I actually started writing letters to my brother in Canada and my kids.”

Peter suffers from Meniere’s disease, a rare disorder of the inner ear that can cause vertigo and hearing loss. The reality of living with Meniere’s is more destructive than it sounds. “I was unable to work. I was basically immobilized. I couldn’t drive. Even walking was difficult. Cops showed up once, saying people reported a drunk, and I was walking my dog.”

Unfortunately, Meniere’s has no cure, but reducing stress can help reduce symptoms. Ironically, during his first two months on the street, Peter experienced not one vertigo attack. The stress of being on the street and in shelters was less than the stress in his home at the end of his twenty-year marriage.

Our Saviour’s Shelter Offers Support

Although Peter believed he had nowhere to go but up, homelessness came with new challenges. He was physically assaulted twice within the same week, once in the middle of the night while sleeping in his bunk at another shelter.

Finding a place to be during the day, especially in the winter or when you’re sick, presents another significant difficulty. “If you have your own place and you’re sick, you can curl up in your own bed and sleep it out. On the street, you don’t really have a place to go. I was coming from urgent care once, sitting [in this passageway], and security came along and said, ‘You can’t stay here like this.’ I was there ten minutes.”

Homelessness also brings the insecurity of not even knowing if you’re going to have supper or not. Peter explains, “When you’re out there, you eat when you can because you never know when you’re going to get a full meal. If you’re struggling to keep your health and eat healthy, it’s difficult. We’re fortunate we have really nice volunteers [at Our Saviour’s] who bring really good food in, and that is comfort. That helps people relax and reduce the stresses of being on the street.”

“We’re fortunate we have really nice volunteers [at Our Saviour’s] who bring really good food in, and that is comfort. That helps people relax and reduce the stresses of being on the street.”

Out of all the things Peter likes about Our Saviour’s, he says the best is simply the way they treat people. “There’s not that cookie cutter, one-solution-fits-all approach here. There’s more listening to people. Here, you’re a person. There’s an effort to make you think you’re a person.”

Peter Moves Forward with Hope

Moving forward, with his health under better control, Peter is focusing on pursuing his education and securing an income. He’s worked with computers his whole life, but it’s hard to get back in the workforce after being out for so long.

Last summer, at 67 years old, he took a graduate level course at the University of Minnesota – Carlson School of Business. (Individuals age 62 and up can take courses for $10 a credit!) He’s applied to officially begin an MBA in business analytics next fall.

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