Michael's Story: His Son's Death and Then Homelessness

Michael's Story: His Son's Death and Then Homelessness

By Michael Tuebner

I had just started a new job in Colorado Springs when my ex-wife let me know our 30-year-old son was dying.

It took me a while to get together enough money for a bus ticket. Just after I crossed the state line into California, she called to let me know he was gone.

My ex and I can’t be in the same room for more than two hours without fighting, so I didn’t stay long. I had a 3- or 4-hour layover in Phoenix on my bus ride back. Job prospects seemed better here, and I wasn’t sure the job in Colorado Springs would still be there. The snowy winters were getting old, too.

I figured I’d get a hotel for the night, then check into Central Arizona Shelter Services and start looking for work. I found a few things. My problem was getting my foot in the door. I’d sign the paperwork, and they’d change their mind or the job would evaporate.

I slept in the overflow shelter, basically a mat on the floor of a lobby, for four months. It was intense. I had one guy look at me and say over and over, “I’m going to kill you. I’m just not going to do it now.” I was in fear every time I went to sleep.

Someone at the Arizona Justice Center suggested I apply at A New Leaf, since trying to get back on my feet by myself wasn’t going well. Darla Russell, my case manager at New Leaf, worked with me to find an apartment. They’re helping with the $409 a month rent for the first three months. Furnishing Hope provided a love seat, twin bed, [and] desk, chair.

It was emotional when I walked into this studio apartment for the first time. I was out of the shelter and finally had a place of my own, which I was thrilled to death about. And I could finally let go and grieve over my son, because I hadn’t had a chance to do that. I sat in a corner and cried for the first few hours I was here.

I’ve found a production job at a place on the bus line. It’s what I was looking for, but to be honest I’d have done unskilled labor just to keep this place, especially after all the trouble they went through to help me get it.

Things are progressing. I keep pushing on. A year from now, I hope to still be here, in a job that I’ve been working for the full year.