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StoryCorps Griot: Turning Point in Homelessness


Time now for StoryCorps Griot. This project's been traveling the country, recording interviews between African-Americans. Today, we've got the story of a changed life. The story began when George Hill left the Marines. He became addicted to drugs and alcohol and found himself 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'd sleep during the day because it's warm enough to sleep, and then at night, you keep moving so you don't freeze.

I used to watch people get on the busses, and I used to say, you know, those are normal people. And you felt anything but normal.

One time, I just happened to be sitting on this bag, because 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 had 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, 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.

(Soundbite of music)

CHIDEYA: George Hill at StoryCorps in Santa Monica, California. He's now been off the streets for 10 years and has a job with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

StoryCorps Griot has finished its national tour, but you can still record your Griot interview at any StoryCorps booth around the country. All the Griot Initiative recordings are archived at the Library of Congress. A copy of each interview will also go to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Hear more at nprnewsandnotes.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.