“I was always afraid of going to sleep,” said 58-year-old Willie Fuller.

Willie had been homeless since June of 2011. He was released from incarceration, bussed into New Haven, and dropped off on the green.

For over four years, he spent his evenings finding refuge at several spots around the city. He slept behind a jersey barrier, as well as on a small hillside next to I-95 on Water Street.

He even took cover on a woman’s porch; she offered it as shelter during rainy nights. In return, he would keep it clean by sweeping it off.

“The worst thing for a homeless person is the rain. If you can stay dry, you’re good. Once you get wet, you’re ruined.”

Since being housed two years ago, Willie doesn’t have to worry about the elements, or where he’ll hide his clothes so they don’t get stolen.

One thing Willie never lost is his optimism, positive attitude, and infectious smile.

“I think, ‘Wow, this is my apartment!’ It hits me all over again. I never forget where I came from.”

United Way works together with partners to house those who are without a home. We find solutions to problems by investing in long-term change.

Our goal is to make homelessness rare and brief—when it does happen. Not only does it save taxpayers money, it saves lives too.

“It changes your life. It’s phenomenal, you can’t even put it into words.”

Now that Willie has been housed, and has a job, he started giving back by cooking and donating meals to shelters.

What’s next on his list? Adopting a dog!

“It changes your life. It’s phenomenal, you can’t even put it into words.”