Copyright ©2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

Steve Inskeep, host:

It's Friday morning which means it's time for StoryCorps. Everyday Americans across the country are recording stories about their lives and this morning we'll hear about a changed life. It begins in the 1980s when George Hill left the United States Marines. He became addicted to drugs and alcohol and he ended up on the streets of Los Angeles.

Mr. GEORGE HILL (Former Marine): I was homeless 12 years. And I can't even begin to tell you the misery of rain. I don't even care how slight the rainfall is, it was misery beyond belief. And then sometimes you would sleep during the day because it's warm enough to sleep and then at night, you keep moving so you don't freeze. And I used to watch people get on the buses and I used to say, you know, those are - those are normal people. And - and you felt anything but normal.

One time I happened to be sitting on this bag, 'cause if you didn't carry your blankets or your jackets around in a bag, they were gone. And here comes a homeless man, so dirty, it was just awful. I mean his hands were like black with the exception of his knuckles and joints where the bone that kind of rubbed through the dirt. He had rags tied on his feet and his hair was matted in two big nasty dreads and out of all the people on skid row, he looked down at me and reached in his pocket and pulled out a dollar in change, that's all he had and he gave it to me and said, here man, I feel sorry for you. And he shuffled away.

Something about that moment changed everything. I just said, oh, no, no, no. I'm going to get some help. With that dollar in change I caught the bus and I went to the psych unit in the hospital. You know, I still think about it sometimes, and I don't have regrets for anything that happened. Because going through the homelessness just made me so grateful, determined, thankful. And now every time it rains and I have keys in my pocket, I have a joy of life that you cannot believe.

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INSKEEP: That's George Hill telling his story at StoryCorps in Santa Monica. He's been off the streets for 10 years and has a job with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. All StoryCorps interviews are archived in the Library of Congress. You can subscribe to this project's Podcast by going to npr.org.

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