Living on the streets for 20 years has taken its toll on Ted.
Originally from Kansas, he was married, had five children and worked as a professional chef in a Vietnamese restaurant. In the summer, he enjoyed working as an amateur blacksmith during historical reenactments at the Old Cowtown Museum in Wichita. But when Ted had his first of six heart attacks in 2001, it started a domino effect that led him into homeless.
“After my first heart attack, I pretty quickly became homeless,” he said. “I couldn’t work, so I lost my job and it just went from there.”
Ted had always enjoyed the outdoors; so after he became homeless, he preferred to camp out in nature than sleep in crowded shelters. He tried to make the best of his difficult circumstance.
“Most of the time I was on the street,” he said. “I had my tent and my campsite, so I did that for a long time. I preferred to stay outside but being out in the cold and the weather wasn’t good for my heart.”
Every now and then, Ted’s friends would give him a place to stay. The last time he couch-surfed was in 2019, with a family who soon decided to move to Colorado.
“I came up here to help them move because they said they’d pay my way back, but then they didn’t,” he said. “So, I got stranded here. But there are worse places to be stranded. I like the mountains.”
Ted arrived at Springs Rescue Mission last June with low expectations. He’d had bad experiences with shelters and other homeless service providers in Kansas and was reasonably skeptical. But that gradually began to change.
“I was leery at first, but my experience here has been good, and I’ve met a lot of nice people,” he said. “I can tell that people are really trying to help here, and that means a lot.”
Shortly after coming to the Mission, Ted joined the Work Engagement crew cleaning the shelter. But when the new Samaritan’s Kitchen and Dining Hall opened last September, he was happy to become a dishwasher — once again working in the food service environment he grew to love in his youth.
“I was really excited to be back in the kitchen,” he said. “I really enjoy Work Engagement. It really gives me something to look forward to everyday. I enjoy everybody back there in the kitchen. They’re all good people.”
Ted, who recently turned 55, is working hard with his case manager to obtain a state-issued ID after nearly six years without one (a reality that makes overcoming homelessness and poverty nearly impossible). Through the Resource Center, he also accesses medical services to address his health and sees a cardiologist for his heart.
“I think my health is getting better,” he said. “I feel better, and I haven’t had another heart attack since before I came out here. Things seem to be moving in the right direction!”
As he looks toward the future, Ted hopes to rebuild relationships with his children and grandchildren, who live in Kansas and Alaska. He even recently had his first great-grandchild.
“We’ll see each other again someday — it’ll happen,” he said. “I love my kids. I have a great family.”
Through case management, Ted is also working hard to start the process of securing social security benefits and find permanent housing.
“I can’t wait to get back on my feet and be able to pay my own bills again,” he said. “It’s been a long time. And that is something that I want again. I feel good about it.”
Despite his life being filled with challenge and hardship, he remains kind and positive. He says that the game-changer for him, regardless of his circumstance, is his faith in God.
“When most people think I’m asleep, I’ll roll over in my bed and open my Bible,” he said. “I always try to put God first in everything I do, because if it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t be here! Some days it’s harder to look at it like that, but I think that’s the way you’ve got to look at life.”