SAN MATEO, Calif. (KTVU) - A Bay Area man who was homeless for 20 years now has a place to call home and a new outlook on life.
Christopher Miller, originally of Union City tells KTVU how he changed his life, with the help of others. He describes a difficult journey made easier by the day as he looks forward to a new life for the new year.
When he first saw the apartment he wanted to rent in San Mateo, he said, "I was just really excited hoping I was going to get it."
As it turned out, a studio apartment in the building became Miller's first home in two decades.
"It's pretty much overwhelming. I can't believe it's happening actually," says Miller.
Miller showed KTVU his new home which includes a kitchen with a refrigerator and a stove. He says he enjoys cooking.
Now 49-years-old, he says he became homeless in his twenties.
Miller graduated from James Logan High School in Union City in 1986.
He trained and worked as an apprentice electrician, but an addiction to alcohol and drugs caused a downward spiral into homelessness.
"At first, I started sleeping under freeway overpasses. For money, I would pick up cans and plastic bottles," says Miller.
He says he became a fixture along the median at Industrial and Whipple in Union City. He panhandled and held a cardboard sign asking for donations to survive.
But a year and a month ago, he says he reached a turning point.
"I didn't want to die out there. I saw two of my friends die in front of me,” says Miller.
He asked a friend for help and that led to drug rehabilitation.
Eventually, he stayed at a homeless shelter, and then he got a job.
Samaritan House of San Mateo County, a nonprofit which offers services to the homeless, helped Miller with temporary and then permanent housing; finding him his new permanent home.
Julia Parmer, Miller's case manager at Samaritan House, posted a photo of Miller signing the lease just days before Christmas on social media.
"It was just this really human moment. It was this extraordinary thing to witness and I was very moved by it," says Parmer.
She describes Miller's change as remarkable that it's particularly difficult to find permanent housing for the chronically homeless.
"You have to want to change," says Miller, "It takes hard work and it does take patience."
Miller hopes his story will encourage other landlords to take a chance on renting to the formerly homeless.
He tells KTVU his long-term plan is to use his experience to help others with drug and alcohol addictions by becoming a counselor.
Miller currently works full time as a dishwasher.