Jimbo Terrell

Meet Jimbo.

He got her the little picket fence she always wanted.

Jimmie Terrell ’s friends call him Jimbo. An Arkansan veteran, Jimbo returned home from war to start a family with the best possible intentions. As in all things, though, life happened, and before he knew it, he was divorced with three children and nowhere to go. After travelling around working for several years, he decided to settle in Charleston with his second wife halfway between their grandchildren’s homes in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

After falling on tough times, Jimbo, his wife, and his brother-in-law, Mickey, became homeless. Lacking any other option, they resorted to living in a tent on a river bank in Elkview. After some moving around, they established a camp in one final place: a place where they lived for nearly three years. Jimbo’s wife was in a wheelchair, so transporting her from place to place was difficult, especially during an ice storm that devastated their camp. Sometimes Jimbo and Mickey had to push her wheelchair sideways to move from their post by the interstate back to the river bank. They camped through ice storms and downpours, suffering through extreme cold and heat. They panhandled for money, making enough to survive but never able to quite enough to better their situation.

After several years of living on the river bank, the family received notification from the Covenant House’s Housing First Program that they would be able to move into a house of their own. According to Jimbo, his wife was overjoyed.

“My wife was really tickled – she was so happy. We’re here – we’ve got a home, we’ve got utilities, we’ve got food, and we wouldn’t have any of this if it wasn’t for Covenant House. She had her little home, her little picket fence, and she was tickled to death.”

Jimbo’s wife died in July 2013, and he was hospitalized soon after. Mickey kept him on life support for a month and, despite all odds, he survived. After his brush with death and a year of recovery, Jimbo decided to go back to school: the staff at Covenant House first set him up with a certificate program in Integrative Mental Health at the Garnet Career Center (he graduated with a 98%!), and he has since moved on to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Colorado Technical University.

Says Jimbo, “Now I’m going to school, I’m getting higher education. I just want to prove that I can do it. Without Covenant House, I’d be still out on the roads flying my sign and panhandling.”

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