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The original item was published from 5/22/2023 9:30:57 AM to 5/23/2023 2:46:46 PM.

News Flash

City of Sheridan News Flash & E-Newsletter

Posted on: May 22, 2023

[ARCHIVED] Living Through Homelessness


"In Their Words" is a series presented by the TriCities Homelessness Initiative that tells the many stories and faces of homelessness as told by the people who have lived it.  

Joe Trujillo, 36

I joined the army at age 20 and served in the infantry. I was left with injuries to my head, shoulders and spine. After I got home, I lost my son to SIDS. It flipped my world upside down.

I worked for a time as a wildland firefighter, and it was the best job I ever had. But my injuries were weighing me down. I traveled to Hawaii for alternative treatments, but when I came back to Colorado, I had a bankruptcy on my record, and I couldn’t get an apartment. I was moving from couch to couch.

As time went by, sometimes I used hotel vouchers but eventually, I wound up living on the streets. I got to know other people sleeping outside. I saw people lose toes to frostbite.

I became a sort of caretaker for people on the streets. I would bring them burritos, and I spent time cleaning up around the duck pond near downtown Englewood.

I got connected with Movement 5280 and started volunteering. I started working on myself. I took the IMPACT program through Love INC, which focuses on life skills. I got a job at a restaurant. I started working on certificates using the wifi by the duck pond.

I was in a place where I could start applying for apartments again, but it was so hard. It cost me hundreds of dollars a month to pay application and background check fees, only to get rejected over and over. Many times I asked myself, do I buy myself something to eat, or do I put in another application?

With the help of programs like SAFER, which provides transitional housing, I finally made it into an apartment. I learned how much trauma I still had – it took me months to get furniture. I couldn’t believe this was real. I couldn’t shake the feeling I was going to have to clear out in the morning.

Living on the streets changed me physically, mentally and emotionally. I’ve had low lows, but I’ve become more motivated. I’m working on a bachelor’s degree. I started a business focusing on fitness and metabolic analysis.

No two stories of people living on the streets are the same. Everyone is unique, including the homeless. Have some perspective and compassion. You may see someone who seems like they’re constantly drunk, but they’re actually suffering from a traumatic brain injury. You don’t know what they’re going through. Those on drugs are often self-medicating, using what they know to manage terrible circumstances.

We’re all part of the organism of the Earth. We’re all an extension of each other. If you see problems like homelessness and decide it’s not your problem, that you’re not connected, well, that’s your values. We can’t save everyone, but we can be intentional and care. Light expels darkness.

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