It Started with a Fire

On March, 18, 2014, Robert’s North Minneapolis, three-bedroom home of eleven years burned to the ground. Too late, he learned his homeowner’s insurance didn’t cover fire. He lost everything.

Robert wasn’t home at the time of the fire. He was at Hennepin County Medical Center, having suffered a stroke. So not only did Robert have to deal with the impact of this serious medical event—for the first time in his life, he also found himself suddenly homeless. Robert spent the first week and a half after he was released from the hospital on the street, despite being both a veteran with thirty-two years of service and paraplegic. To this day, the cause of the fire remains unknown.

Robert describes the experience as something, “between going through a root canal and losing a child. Your heart just drops. You lose it. You don’t know what to do…and you need someone to point the direction. Luckily for me, Our Saviour’s picked me up and said, ‘Okay, we’ll start all over.’ They worked with me hand in hand, almost on a daily basis.”

Our Saviour’s Shelter has continued to work with and support Robert over several years. Unfortunately, ongoing health concerns and frequent hospital stays have made maintaining stable housing difficult and employment impossible. At 61 years old, Robert has had seven strokes and two heart attacks. He continues to deal with congestive heart failure and frequent infections that result in dangerously high fevers. He’s working with a neurologist now to try to get to the root of these problems.

Despite all of these challenges, Robert is clear that nobody’s doing anything for him. He’s his own advocate, explaining, “[Our Saviour’s] helped me do what I could do. They didn’t do it themselves. They helped me do it myself. They gave me the tools to communicate with others. They’ve helped me with transportation, resources, names, addresses…I used it to the best of my ability, and so far I’ve made it all work for me.” Robert’s hopeful now that he’ll be accepted soon at an assisted living facility.

Robert’s advocacy extends far beyond himself. He’s known as a regular at the Capitol. Last March, he gave a voice to homelessness at Homeless Day on the Hill. He explains, “I think it’s an issue that’s not been given the attention or the resources that are necessary to bring it to a halt. I think it’s something that shouldn’t exist at all…People think that homelessness is just for people that are lazy, that don’t want to work, and that’s an ill conception.” In addition to homelessness, Robert advocates for a number of other issues, including for children, single pregnant mothers, and those who struggle with addiction. Ultimately, when asked what gives Robert hope and keeps him going, he says it’s his drive to “make a change,” not for himself but for humankind.