Editor’s Note: As journalists, we spend a lot of time talking with officials and community members and distilling it into stories that explore important issues of our time. But we realize that sometimes it is just more powerful to hear it straight from the source. This is one of those times.

When I arrived, all I had was a trash bag full of donated clothes. The bag contained mostly basketball shorts and worn American Apparel T-shirts, along with a pair of pink Old Navy flip flops that I took a lot of heat for wearing.

Except for the security cameras above the doors, you would never know that the old Victorian building on the border of East Liberty and Garfield wasn’t just a regular house. To be admitted, I had to pass a drug test while Rick, a retired construction worker who now worked at the facility, searched my luggage for drugs, weapons and other contraband. I stood in the driveway and smoked a cigarette until he was finished, at which point he showed me to my room.

The bedroom was the usual recovery house suite: creaky twin bed on a Harvard frame with those ruthless corners, old mismatched sheets, no ceiling fan to combat the stale summer humidity. Rick introduced me to my roommate, a guy named Joe, who made small talk while I unpacked my bag and tried to settle in.

This is how I arrived at Michael’s Place — the transitional housing program that saved my life.

This article was originally published by PublicSource. To read Michael’s complete perspective, visit their website.