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For 20 years, George put roofs on other people’s homes until one day he lost the roof over his own. When the economy soured, so did the company’s business. Eventually it closed, and George was out of a job. His journey into homelessness began with a “For Rent” sign outside his home. It marked the start of two years without a warm place to sleep.

One day he packed three duffel bags and headed for the woods. He spent the next two years there. “Homelessness is like a deep hole you can’t climb out of.” George did not have a drinking problem before he lost his home; but while living outside, he began drinking heavily. “Drinking makes the day go by,” George explains. “Once you’re caught in that rut, it’s hard to get out.”

Slowly, his life began to turn around. At the shelter where he slept nearly every night for two winters, George signed up to be placed in housing. Four months later, a nonprofit group found an apartment for him to share. The apartment gave him stability and returned his self-esteem, he explained. With a roof over his head, he quit drinking. “I make sure my rent is paid,” George says.

What does housing mean to him? “I got everything back,” he said. “I can go into the kitchen to cook something to eat, take a shower, put in a job application. What can’t you do?”

George volunteers at a food pantry or the hypothermia shelter where he used to go to get out of the cold. “There’s people out there that’s worse off than me.”