“Addiction doesn’t care about your background,” Terrance Puller said. “The disease of addiction wants to take your life.”
Terrance Puller, public safety supervisor at SOME (So Others Might Eat), experienced this addiction himself and gave testimony about the impact of both serving and being served at SOME to CatholicU students Nov. 17, kicking off a week of events marking Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week sponsored by Campus Ministry. SOME is a nonprofit in Wasington, D.C., that aims to interrupt the cycle of poverty through serving guests experiencing hunger and homelessness in meals, community events, and career counseling.
Puller’s testimony began by recalling a time before he discovered SOME, when he was an only child living with a single mother who struggled with substance abuse. Eventually his experiences led him to the streets where he discovered how drugs would “numb his emotional pain,” landing him in juvenile detention a few times.
During a 7 year sentence in prison, Puller’s mother passed away from cancer. Puller was heartbroken, but he received an unexpected amount of support and sympathy from other inmates and relatives sending cards. It was then that he decided to take steps to escape his cycle of poverty and addiction. Through a 12-step program and learning to say “no,” Puller worked hard to make sure he wouldn’t end up experiencing prison, addiction, and homelessness again.
In addition to his work at SOME, Puller owns his own clothing line, “The Good Life,” and landscaping business. For the first time in his life he says he feels “free” and is able to do what he loves and spends time with his two grandchildren.
“It always helps to give back and that’s what keeps me clean,” he said.
SOME sees more than 700 guests a day, with a lot of repeating people experiencing hardship looking for a roof over their head and a hot meal. Sophomore environmental studies major Brianna Hartmann leads a weekly service visit on Wednesday mornings through Campus Ministry. Through this work, she was able to develop a relationship with Puller and asked him personally to come speak about his experiences.
“As people who are so privileged to be able to attend school it is almost our obligation to give back,” Hartmann said. “Service isn’t just about serving others but it allows you to learn from the people you serve and grow yourself.”
Hartmann ended the session asking Puller what advice he has for college-aged students.
“Stay in school and shoot for the stars,” Puller said. “You, too, qualify for the disease of homelessness. My job is to make someone find hope. Your job is to study, and if you’re in school with clean clothes and a backpack you’re living the good life — don’t forget that.”
Other events planned for the week include a lecture, “Mythbusting: Causes and Solutions for DC Homelessness,” “Civility dialogues: Mental Health and Homelessness,” a housing simulation with Habitat for Humanity, and an Oxfam dinner. For more information and a complete schedule of events, visit service.catholic.edu/social-justice/hunger-and-homelessness/index.html.