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At one point, Adam Becker was leaving his belongings under a large rock in the woods in Estes Park, walking to work, washing up in the bathroom, walking into the kitchen to wash dishes and never telling anyone he was homeless.
“I was walking miles and miles every day and sleeping under a rock 50 hours a week,” Becker, 33, said. “It was a real crazy time to be pretending like I wasn’t homeless.”
At 19, Becker left his hometown in rural Minnesota to drive to Arizona, find a job and start a new life. He dreamed of being a writer and wanted to get “out there” to get experiences to draw from.
When he got to Boulder, the money started running out. As a kid out of high school, he hadn’t saved much and ended up unable to pay for gas. He met people staying at the public library and gravitated toward the “street crowd,” he said, where he learned how to panhandle and play guitar on the street to get by.
“Eventually, I got kinda swept away in it,” Becker said.
He spent a few years hitchhiking on the west coast and lived homeless almost constantly for a decade. Becker slept in parks and along highways and met many eclectic people. Veterans and people with mental illnesses were among them.
From 2012-16, he stayed in Estes Park under the rock and in a storage unit, the back of a truck, a few seasonal cabin rentals and other unsteady places. In 2016, an apartment complex opened up, and his employers helped place him at the top of the list for units. He initially worked at the Stanley Hotel washing dishes and struggled with an alcohol addiction.
“When you’re bouncing around and unstable, it was something that was solid and there,” Becker said of the alcohol. “It was comforting.”
In search of change, he visited a church, where pastors pointed him toward a Denver rehabilitation center called 180 Ministries. He completed a live-in, 12-month program in 2017. One day, soon after graduating from the program, he walked by an assisted-living home, Porter Place Retirement Community in Denver at South Downing Street and EastYale Avenue.
“I felt something — it was calling me,” Becker said. He told staff there he had restaurant experience and he landed a job. He also found a duplex unit on the Denver-Englewood border to rent.
“To me, it’s been a miracle,” Becker said. “I still get hit with this feeling of not being worth it. Why should I do this? What’s the point? Still, sometimes, I see myself as this hungover bum crawling out from underneath a bridge in dirty clothes. It’s something that is a struggle to find ourselves worthwhile.”
He volunteers at 180 Ministries and is a member of Change the Trend Network, a coalition of nonprofits, churches and others seeking to address homelessness in Englewood.
“We have a choice to dwell in the pain of our situation or use it as a platform to reach other people,” Becker said. “It’s incredible to use the experience I’ve had for good now.”
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