Jerrod Says Hold on to Hope

“It’s a lot better. I don’t have to deal with people screaming in the middle of the night when I’m trying to sleep. It’s a very good program. They’re willing to help you out…willing to take the time.”

Jerrod was twenty years old when he first became homeless. Since his mother’s death at age 11, he bounced between relatives’ houses and rehab centers. Although rehab was successful, Jerrod admits his grandmother ultimately asked him to leave due to his own lack of responsibility around the house.

With nowhere to go, in January, Jerrod went to an IHOP hoping to wait out the night. Instead, the hostess gave him a few dollars for bus fare. He arrived in Minneapolis from Brooklyn Center at 1am. The next morning, Jerrod went to Century Plaza, where he was told to go to a downtown shelter. Unfamiliar with the city and its services, this was easier said than done. “[They] explained where it was but not in so good a detail because I spent three days looking for it – three nights walking back and forth in the skyway just to keep out of the cold. Of course, everyone’s like, ‘Nope, can’t sleep here.’ When I finally found it, it was right behind me the entire time.”

Jerrod spent the next two years at the shelter. There were about 24 beds in the room reserved for people who were long-term homeless. He spent his days at the library or watching whatever was on TV. He tried applying for a few jobs, but they always told him he didn’t have the right experience. His first and only job was at McDonald’s, and he didn’t want to do that again.

In 2010, a representative of Our Saviour’s Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) spoke with Jerrod about joining the program. He moved into an apartment shortly after. It was the first time he’d ever had his own place. He says, “It’s a lot better. I don’t have to deal with people screaming in the middle of the night when I’m trying to sleep. It’s a very good program. They’re willing to help you out…willing to take the time.”

Jerrod has remained successfully housed since joining PSH, but the road has not always been easy. In 2015, Jerrod was living in Crossroads at Penn, the third largest apartment community in the Twin Cities metro. There were 700 units across five buildings, housing 2300 residents. Then the building was sold, and the new owners wanted to change the demographic of their tenants. They raised rent, implemented tougher admission standards, and refused to accept any form of government subsidies. Although the residents fought to stay, they were eventually forced to leave – Jerrod included. He says, “They wanted to renovate the place because they wanted actual people, not ‘undesirables.’”

Fortunately, Jerrod found another apartment through Our Saviour’s. However, he still worries about the dismantling of social services and public safety nets. “So much has been going on. The suicide hotline was nearly completely shut down. They’re thinking of cutting back on food stamps even more and with the health care law being so up in the air…Yeah, it worries me. It worries me plenty.”

Today, Jerrod continues to work on building life skills like maintaining personal hygiene, cooking, and cleaning. He states, “I’m getting a lot better at keeping the place clean. Getting more organized. [My case manager and I] built some shelves. I actually made lasagna a couple nights ago.” He’s also started gardening in the OSH gardens and recently attended the OSH picnic at Minnehaha Falls. While these may seem like simple things, they are significant steps for Jerrod. Two years ago, he was a complete shut in, never leaving his apartment. He looks forward to continuing to make progress.

As Jerrod reflects on his journey, he wants others to know, “As difficult as homelessness is, it’s not something you can just give up on. As long as you’re still breathing, there’s hope. Minnesota to me is one of the better states to be homeless in considering how many people are actually willing to help you out.”

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