Terrence’s Story of Recovery and Hope

By: Don Gordon

Windows down on a mild spring night in March of 1991, Terrence Marshall hadTM blog photo placed an order for burgers and fries at the White Castle drive-thru at the intersection of 111th and Halsted Streets. From the corner of his eye, he said he saw two blurred forms running toward the side of his car where his girlfriend sat. In a flash, a non-descript assailant jammed a gun in the left side of his neck while the other snatched his girlfriend out of the car and jumped in.

Inside, a struggle ensued. According to Marshall, it seemed to last only a few fateful seconds.  Marshall, 29, was shot in the arm shattering the radius bone in the middle of his right forearm. Marshall escaped his car and the assailants sped off, never to be apprehended.  Marshall said that the car jackers had previously been involved in a crime in the neighborhood and were looking for a getaway vehicle.

Weeks before the incident, Marshall had earned a promising mechanic’s apprenticeship with Greyhound Bus Line in Chicago.  Now, with a disability that rendered nerve damage and limited mobility to his right hand, his burgeoning mechanic’s career was over. The violent crime which lasted only a few minutes set into motion a downward spiral in Marshall’s life that he believes would lead to a near 25- year battle with drug addiction, depression and homelessness.  This is his story of homelessness to finding a home, of addiction to sobriety and of his path of death to the road to recovery.

Marshall lived at his mother’s Pullman home, near 122nd and Lafayette Streets.  After the shooting, Marshall lost his job, he said, because he could not perform the duties required of a mechanic and had no income for more than a year.

“…I did what I could do, you know, financially without a steady income,” said Marshall.  After Marshall’s disability claim was approved, his mother sold the family home in Pullman and moved to suburbs. In the fall of 1992 Marshall said he found an apartment around 80th and Ashland Ave.  On his own, lonely and without a steady job, Marshall said he would go “off into the streets” where he was introduced to crack cocaine.

“I started off, like, buying the stuff for females or friends or whatever, not necessarily for companionship, but people are coming around, you know,” said Marshall.

Marshall said he lived in his apartment for a year buying drugs in lieu of paying rent at times.  Marshall said, he had a young son and a rocky relationship with his son’s mother. He moved in with her and his son with the idea that if he was around them he would stop using, but it lasted only briefly.

“I would get up in the middle of the night and tell my son’s mother I was going to the store and then came back after all the money was gone two weeks later, a binge.  I had become an addict and near homeless as they say,” said Marshall.

In 1995, depressed and suicidal, Marshall said he checked into an outpatient drug rehab program at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn.  After several cycles of returning to a family member’s home for shelter and odd jobs, Marshall said he met a neighborhood business owner named Mohammed Rihan in 1998 and began working in his corner store.  Rihan or “Mikey” was a Muslim who entrusted Marshall as his security guard, runner and right hand.

Though still using unknown to Mikey, for nearly four years Marshall had a stable home life and income as well as a great friend and mentorship in Mikey and his family.  “Mikey’s wife, who I respected, treated me with respect. She would bring lunch for him but she would like bring it for me also,” Marshall said.

In early November 2001, while working in the store, Marshall recalled that a neighborhood woman distracted Marshall and Mikey while she and her boyfriend “shopped” for groceries. Suddenly, the boyfriend pulled a gun and shot Marshall as he tried to block the gun away. Marshall was shot four times: once in the chest, twice in the stomach and once in the back. He turned to see his buddy and father figure Mikey had been shot and bleeding out from his stomach.  When Terrence woke up in the hospital days later, he was informed that his 61-year-old father figure Mikey had died.

A Chicago Tribune article dated Nov. 10, 2001, reported that a male and a female living on the block had been arrested and charged with first-degree murder and armed robbery.  Recently recalling the episode in an interview, Marshall said, “I took it hard, to me he was a father figure and I had much respect for him because of the way he took care of family.”

It was one more devastating setback, seven more years of drug abuse, depression, near homelessness and rehab stints before Marshall would begin to fight for his life, his sobriety and his independence.  He lived and worked at both Pacific Garden Mission and the Salvation Army in Chicago before being selected as a tenant at the ReVive Center for Housing and Healing in 2009.  ReVive, formerly named Cathedral Shelter, owns and operates the Cressey House, a 28-unit permanent supportive housing complex, located at 1668 W. Ogden Ave. in Chicago.

Florine Edwards, Supportive Services Manager, confirms that Marshall has been a model resident at Cressey House for about five years.

“He’s a great role model to the other tenants here. He is very involved in the social events and life skills here and he continues to support his own recovery by going to narcotics anonymous (NA) and alcoholics anonymous (AA) meetings. He’s what we like to see here at Cressey House,” said Edwards.

Kevin McCullough, chief operating officer at ReVive, says that people like Marshall can be successful at ReVive and Cressey House because of their housing first harm reduction model.

“…It means to get people into housing first and then deal with any of their problems not setting up lots of barriers to get into housing,” McCullough said.

Today, at 52, Marshall says he is five years sober, in good health and in good spirit. He feels at home at the Cressey house, wearing a gray crew neck sweatshirt, faded navy blue work pants and sporting a salt-and-pepper goatee and black framed glasses.

Marshall said he has come to believe that a person will only stop abusing drugs when they decide to fight for life.  “I finally got sick and tired of being sick and tired. I don’t have as many days in front of me as I have behind me, you have to want change then move forward,” Marshall said.