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Tian Berry: Spectrum Gave Me a Chance

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“The elevator-speech version of my life is that it didn’t go as planned. I didn’t plan to drop out of college after 2 months and return to Burlington, I didn’t plan to sell my childhood home of 15 years without knowing where I would live next…”

Tian Berry is doing Spectrum’s Sleep Out next Thursday night to raise money for youth who are at risk of being homeless. As a teenager, Tian was also homeless and has spent time at Spectrum over the last few years. Below is a beautiful statement about her experience. We are so happy to have Tian as part of Spectrum’s Sleep Out are very grateful that she shared her story with us.


“…and I most definitely did not plan how much I would fall in love with representing Spectrum or how much gratitude and joy would fill my heart as they support me in my adventures of young adulthood.

3 years ago, after leaving school and struggling to maintain a job, I labelled myself as “uneducated, unemployed, and unwanted” because that’s the way I saw myself. I saw the world as harsh, and judgemental, and just waiting for a chance to point out when I screwed up. When I first came to Spectrum Youth and Family Services, I didn’t know much about them, but it seemed like an okay place. They gave me a bed in the Landing (the emergency shelter), the staff seemed fine, and there was a couch where I could read my book at the Drop In Center. I didn’t need or want a whole lot more because the way I saw it was me against the world.

After a few weeks at The Landing I moved to the transitional housing unit on Maple Street where I progressed through the stages of the housing program and moved into my own apartment at the beginning of January.

I loved being in school before my time with Spectrum began and again over the fall semester and not being able to finish because of mental illness is something I am still struggling to accept but I wasn’t then, and I am still not, willing to stop trying. So I signed up for classes at CCV…because I love learning and not just in the classroom but about life and what it means to be a human with real feelings.

I am learning to accept that every day may not be good but every day isn’t bad, either, and I am able to do that because Spectrum has created a welcoming, low-barrier environment where all you have to do is show up as you are.

3 years ago I showed up and all I could do was sit on the couch and read my book. Today, although I still struggle to accept my story and the circumstances surrounding my return to Burlington, I am not ashamed of any of it because it is only a part of who I am; much like being “uneducated, unemployed, and unwanted” were not my entire being, but a part of my being. Today I am proud to be here and I am proud to represent Spectrum and the individuals they serve.

Today I have encountered so many “plot twists” I no longer know what the plot is, I only know that because of your support, Spectrum didn’t just give me a bed, and some cool people to meet, and a place to read a book. They’ve provided me with opportunities I didn’t know I was missing, a more comprehensive understanding of what it means and looks like to be successful in life, and a chance to fall in love with life and participate in the beautiful, messy world in which we live.

…a chance to fall in love with life and participate in the beautiful, messy world in which we live.

What I am SO proud of, is that all of your support for spectrum has allowed me to receive the resources and support that I need to stand here tonight and tell you it’s no longer me against the world. It’s me and you and Mark, and everyone else who has helped guide me in this journey— it’s all of us—against the world.”

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