The Road Less Traveled: How One Man Persevered Through 25 Years of Addiction and Homelessness

“Traveling, to me, is like a life experience,” Lawrence Collins reflects on his 30-year career as a commercial trucker before a drug addiction eventually led him to four years on the streets of DC. “The road has a way of speaking to you… when you come outside of those boundaries there are consequences.”

Like many who struggle with substance abuse, Collins never thought it would affect him. He had seen it all—alcohol, marijuana, heroin—but when the 90s rolled around, Collins was introduced to something he’d never encountered before: crack cocaine. Though Collins describes his prior drug use as the intersection of “desire and opportunity,” he still managed to mask his addiction from his family.

After Collins received a DUI, his 25 harrowing years of addiction finally caught up with him. He lost everything – his a 30-year marriage with his wife fell apart, his children distanced themselves, his CDL license was stripped and he was slapped with an FR-44, a state mandate for high-risk drivers that triples the cost of insurance. For the next four years, Collins skipped from shelter to shelter on the streets as he rebuilt his life from the ground up.

It wasn’t until Collins found United Way of the National Capital Area nonprofit partner, Friendship Place’s program Aim High that he started seeing his life differently. At first, Collins felt a sense of shame, but through that difficult period, he determined who he wanted to be in the net chapter of his life. Now, Collins is focused on finding steady freelance work and drawing on his many years as a commercial truck driver.

Through Aim High, Collins connected to part-time work enabling him to save up enough to transition to an apartment in Arlington. After a short stay in transition housing, Collins made the move in March to a cozy one-bedroom apartment located in close proximity to a metro, groceries and employment opportunities. While Collins states he still has a lot of work ahead of him, he shares that he’s happy he finally has a place to call his own.

To learn more about how United Way NCA is fighting and advocating for our neighbors experiencing homelessness in the Nation’s Capital,please visit unitedwaynca.org/phc