Down for the Challenge rappeler reflects on living in tent city

Jun 13, 2024

Tyler Nygren has joined this year’s Down for the Challenge rappelling event and fundraiser because he knows what it’s like to experience homelessness and he wants to help others escape it. 

Tyler was homeless for most of 2020. From February to July, he lived in his car, in hotel rooms, and with friends. From August to November, he lived a tent community in South Minneapolis, near Bde Maka Ska Park.

The tent community included 15 people. About half of the inhabitants – including him – worked jobs during the day. 

“There’s a stigma about homeless camps that everyone does drugs,” said Tyler, 36. “Yes, some people who live in them do drugs. But there are lots of other people like me who work and don’t do drugs. I had just fallen on some really hard times.”

Living outside for months on end was the hardest thing Tyler has ever endured. He was perpetually frustrated, lonely, and discouraged. He longed for the safety and security of a home, with a warm bed to sleep in and food to eat. 

He especially missed having electricity. Without electricity, Tyler could not store food in a refrigerator, or turn on a light, or heat his tent during the cold nights of October or November.  

“Without electricity, I had no reliable way to charge my cell phone,” he added. “If my phone died during the night and I had a job interview in the morning, my alarm wouldn’t go off and I might miss the interview. I had a solar phone charger, but if it was a cloudy day, it wouldn’t work. When you are homeless, there are a million little things like that working against you."

Like so many other people experiencing homelessness, Tyler was constantly in survival mode, never knowing what challenges he would face from one day to the next. 

“Every day I’d wake up, try to find food, and check the weather for rain,” Tyler said. “I felt stuck, like there was no hope. It was my lowest point in life.”

Stable ground

Today, Tyler is back on his feet. He has a job and lives in the Twin Cities suburbs with his girlfriend, who recently gave birth to their son. 

“I have overcome things I didn’t know I was capable of,” he said. “It’s been an amazing journey and learning experience. And now I’m a dad, which is the most amazing thing in the world.”

For the second year in a row, Tyler will join the Wheels of Steel rappelling team and participate in The Salvation Army’s Down for the Challenge rappelling event and fundraiser. This year’s event takes place Saturday, July 27 at the Omni Viking Lakes Hotel in Eagan. 

Down for the Challenge raises money to support local Salvation Army shelter and housing programs, which serve an average of 900 men, women and children every night. Currently, about 63,000 Minnesota households are behind on their rent, while more than 10,000 people are experiencing homelessness throughout the state. 

“Now that I’m stable and raising a family, it’s important for me to help get the message out there,” Tyler said. “After all I’ve been through, I want to be that person who can help somebody.”

You can be that person, too, by signing up for Down for the Challenge. Your support will help somebody like Tyler overcome homelessness and build a better life.  


See Tyler rappel and offer an emotional plea in our 2024 Down for the Challenge promo video. He appears at the 2:24 mark. 

Are you Down for the Challenge? You can support The Salvation Army’s efforts to fight homelessness by giving a donation or signing up for our Down for the Challenge urban rappelling event with the Minnesota Vikings. This adrenaline-pumping event takes place Saturday, July 27 at the Omni Viking Lakes Hotel during Vikings training camp.

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