-Interview conducted by Eric Hendershot, Veteran Services Case Manager at Michigan Ability Partners
-Photograph taken by Heather Nash, Communications and Administrative Assistant at Washtenaw Housing Alliance
Ted Murray spent three years living outdoors in a tent just north of Ann Arbor, battling dual illnesses of depression and a substance use disorder. During his first two years of homelessness, he struggled with addiction, which in turn affected his ability to maintain steady employment. During his final year of living unsheltered, he found steady work at the People’s Food Co-op in Ann Arbor while continuing to live out in the woods.
Case workers re-engaged with Ted after his campsite was discovered during the January 2015 Washtenaw County Point-in-Time count, an annual one day survey of the county’s homeless population. Prior to that, he had been receiving services at the Delonis Center. After the Point-in-Time count, Ted was placed on a priority list for housing, as part of the community’s Zero:2016 initiative to end veteran and chronic homelessness. Ted was connected with local human services agency, Michigan Ability Partners to begin a housing search. With the help of MAP, Ted was housed in an apartment under the Rapid-Re-Housing program, which provides short-term financial assistance and case management services to help people quickly exit homelessness and return them to permanent housing.
Ted said that the hardest part about finding housing was his lack of rental history and the concern that once he found a place it might trigger a substance use relapse. He also noted that “there can be many reasons for why people are homeless,” reasons like mental health issues, lack of income, having a disability or a lack of family support. He says, “Being homeless was a necessary experience for me. It helped me be stronger, it taught me about my strengths and weaknesses and how not to take things for granted.”
Now that Ted has his own apartment, he is able to rest better for work and create a healthier, structured life for himself. He also has space to work on his artwork. Using a wood burning tool, he creates hand drawn scenes on pieces of wood. He’s hoping to sell some of his art locally.
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