SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – From almost dying to moving into a new home, this past month has been a whirlwind for one man in Springfield. OzarksFirst has been learning more about Darrell Thinn’s story.
It all began on West Chestnut Expressway in late September. Darrell was crossing the street to get to the bus stop.
“But I never made it there,” Darrell said.
He was hit by a car.
Nate Schlueter was working right around the corner at the Revive 66 Campground when it happened. That day, Nate dropped everything to stay with Darrell until an ambulance showed up.
“I was holding him,” Nate said. “Whispering to him to keep breathing. Afraid that this person that just got hit by a car was going to die in my arms. Knowing that when he got in the ambulance there was a huge chance that he probably wasn’t going to make it.”
When Darrell got to the hospital, he learned he broke his skull, hips and nose. He also dislocated his jaw. Overall, Darrell had to get about five surgeries.
“It gives you second thoughts of what I went through and the hardships I’ve been going through,” Darrell said.
Along with his health, Darrell had been homeless for three years. More often than not he slept in extended-stay hotels. The night of the crash he was camping out.
After going through so much, Darrell finally got his lucky break. A couple months ago, Darrell applied to live at Eden Village – where Nate works. He had an interview and a background check. His application was approved, but then he learned he was among the 180 people who were on a waiting list for a home.
Eventually, one became available. It’s his.
“It shocks me and it’s unbelievable,” Darrell said. “I’ve applied here maybe once or twice, but I never gave up.”
Nate says giving Darrell a home is the right thing to do.
“It’s a miracle that he’s alive,” Nate said. “The whole thing has just fallen in place for him to have a home. There’s no way that with two brain surgeries, walking in a walker with multiple orthopedic surgeries that he could go back outside as it’s getting colder and survive. When we saw him get hit in front of us and responded to that we kind of approached that on two different ends. We’ve been meeting with Darrell since he got out of the ICU [intensive care unit] to make sure that he wanted to come to Eden Village. We’re helping Darrell not just because something tragic happened right in front of us, but because everyone deserves to sleep inside somewhere.”
Darrell says being welcomed into his new home was worth the wait. He now has a one-bedroom, one-bathroom home.
“Where I’m going, I think it’s better than camping out and not worrying about my cell phone, my wallet, little bit of money,” Darrell said.
It’s his first home in three years.
“It gives you an outlook on life,” Darrell said. “I’m looking forward to tomorrow to see what it brings.”
About three weeks after Darrell was hit, another person in a wheelchair was a victim to a hit-and-run accident. It happened around the same location. Nate says he has reached out to community and state leaders for a solution.
“We realized that West Chestnut Expressway was a dangerous place for people with disabilities,” Nate said. “We’ve reached out to our state senators, representatives, the Missouri Department of Transportation and multiple organizations that are working on a solution for that. That really started with what happened to Darrell that night.”
In the meantime, every night the Revive 66 Campground opens, Nate puts LED lights out on the street and asks people that are crossing to wear bright vests. Someone also walks them across the street to make sure they pass safely. Nate says it has already helped in a big way.
“We’re seeing cars start to slow down,” Nate said. “We’re seeing people aware that others are crossing the road. In that process we’re saving lives. Until we can navigate getting a crosswalk we’ll continue to try to slow traffic down and try to help people cross safely. People with disabilities, whether it’s physical handicap or mental health conditions, people that don’t get sleep at night aren’t always aware of cars and things like that. Whether it’s their fault or the driver’s fault, I don’t really care. We are trying to keep people safe.”