Terrie Meehan: Barriers Only Exist If We Let Them Exist


Photo by Dr Peter Stockdale

Terrie loves chocolate and her service dog, who spends most of his time snuggling up against her shoulder. She takes the bus to get to her doctor’s appointment downtown and is not really fond of snow piles on the streets of Ottawa’s. I think most of us can agree that we relate really well with her?

Terrie became homeless at the age of 16: “the decision was either to leave or to jump off the balcony. So I left.” Her life has always lacked stability: divorced parents, being enrolled in 16 different schools, and living a life between shelters, couch-surfing and non-permanent housing. Despite all the difficulties in her life, Terrie found help and a place to stay. The key in her pocket is her key to a self-determined life. “I can choose to close the door and just be with myself and my animals. I can choose what to eat, when to sleep and when to get up. And if I want to sleep on the couch for the night and not in my bed, I will just do it!”

Terrie has mastered the art of finding happiness in the small delights of life. Furthermore, it makes her happy to advocate for others in need, whether it is professionally, as a member and co-chair of the communication committee for the Alliance to End Homelessness, or as an ordinary Ottawa neighbour who is committed to making the city a more ‘homeful’ place. Everyone can effect change. “It’s not difficult,” she says, “just talk to folks on the street, smile at them, and treat them as human beings. They are grateful for every single word.” Barriers only exist if we let them exist.

“Pay it forward to a person in need and you will be surprised how much fun it is”, she says and laughs.

Terrie believes that each of us can contribute towards making Ottawa a more ‘homeful’ city for everyone – the small and the big actions together will keep the transformation going.

Her advice: “Personally, I love to annoy politicians whenever I can. But I know that it isn’t everyone’s favourite sport. It’s important that you just do what you can.”