It can happen to anyone who’s dealt with alcoholism and addiction problems. Enough bad decisions and burning bridges and you have nowhere to go. Being homeless and addicted to a substance takes you down and it can be overwhelming to get out of that hole.

23 year old Alec Bates describes living on Portland’s streets for 18 months as something he wouldn’t wish on his worst enemy. He spent time in and out of jail, in and out of treatment, slept in doorways or abandoned buildings, and broke into cars to find enough to score with. He also panhandled for money with a sign that read “Trying to get home,” even after bumping into his family one day while at it.

Both Bates and 45-year-old Richard Jordan describe the lifestyle as a chosen one. Inevitably having traded a home and security for addiction; taking them away from the people in their life who cared the most.

For Richard, who lived in Baltimore, often the airport was the only place to get out of the cold, pretending to be a traveler. Like Bates, he remained homeless, hooked on finding the next fix. For Bates, having his friend OD next to him was the wakeup call he needed. Both were able to find help, and with that help move carefully through the first year of sobriety.

“I want people to know that there is hope. If you’re willing, you can get out of active addiction.”

Today both are working, going to programs and meetings, and beginning to mend the relationships which suffered the most through their addiction. It isn’t an overnight job, but has taken hard work and persistence to want to do better. The path is never easy, but the freedom that comes with sobriety has the kind of value that could never have a price-tag affixed to it.

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