Jerry, 61, has been selling The Contributor for a while now, and you can find him at his spot – sometimes with his dog – on Dickerson Road. He’s struggled with depression throughout the years, and has dealt with long mourning periods, isolation and even two years of hitchhiking in search of happiness. But despite what he’s been through, he’s looking forward to a time when he can give back.
An Orlando, Fla., native, Jerry and his siblings were raised by a single mother who parented with genuine love and care – it still inspires him daily.
He graduated high school and began a successful welding career. It was one day back then that he came home from work to find his house burnt to the ground. Subsequently, he moved back in with his mother temporarily, but after his mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, he would become her caretaker, helping her live comfortably until her death. “It was so hard watching her become like a child again, where she couldn’t pick up anything and stuff. It was hard because you know, I love her,” he said, becoming emotional as he discussed her passing.
After Jerry’s mother passed away, he fell into a three-year spurt of depression, hitchhiking around the Southeast in an attempt to find some sort of happiness.
“You know, I have just lost a lot within the past 15 years, and it has made me not want to try that hard anymore. I just kind of gave up,” he explained. His years of traveling led him to Nashville where he tried for many welding jobs. Fifty-one at the time, Jerry came to find that the companies hiring assumed the manual labor in welding was too vigorous for his age. He struggled in search of jobs, and the lack of employment resulted in homelessness.
Jerry built a home in the woods strictly out of pieces of trash that he found around town. He calls his home “The Homeless Dynasty.” He lives off one small propane tank and candles/fire for light and warmth. He is currently saving up for a generator so that he can work on his art. “I love to draw,” he said, “I just need a little light so that I can do it at night. It’s the only time that I have time.”
Jerry came to The Contributor in 2015 as a way to support him and his girlfriend Eva. “I don’t think anyone knows just how good she is for me, but me. She’s the love of my life," he says, and he credits her with inspiring him to sell the paper to support them. He met her at a gas station as she was living out of her truck, and after just minutes of conversation, he realized that they had more in common than he could ever dream, including that her husband had just recently passed away due to Alzheimer's. “We hit it off right from the very beginning,” Jerry said. Eva moved into "The Homeless Dynasty" with Jerry and his dog and they have been together ever since.
“All I would like to do is have a place to live and sleep, and a little work on the side to keep me going,” Jerry said, with a smile on his face. He also made it clear that one day he wants to give back to all the people who have given to him, letting his customers know just how much he appreciates them. “I love their smiling faces, and I just truly appreciate everything they’ve done for me.”