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MEET: Joe

Joe Hardin grew up poor in Kentucky and started doing farm work at eight to put food on the table and buy clothes for school. By the time he was 12, he was running a gas station and by 14, was working at U.S. Steel.

At 20, Mr. Hardin was in a car accident that broke nearly every bone in his body and limited his career options, but he found that being a security guard suited him well. “I worked 30 years in 25 states wearing a badge, every kind of place you can imagine. I loved my job. Never missed a day.” He survived being shot and stabbed twice, but finally had to retire after he fell and broke his hip.

Mr. Hardin took his worker’s comp settlement and bought three houses in Omaha, where he was living at the time. He assumed that being a landlord would generate a comfortable retirement income. But the real estate market crashed, and he lost every penny.

He headed to DC, where he once worked, looking for opportunity. Instead he found two years of homelessness, sleeping on benches in Franklin Square. Despite being in a wheelchair, getting robbed six times and having a heart attack, he refused to stay in a shelter. “They don’t allow dogs. Baby has been with me for 17 years. I used to take her to work with me.”

Homelessness ended for Mr. Hardin in 2016, when he was offered a permanent home at La Casa, Friendship Place’s state-of-the-art apartment building in Columbia Heights for formerly homeless men. The program is a partnership with the DC Government.

At 58, Mr. Hardin has finally found safety and peace of mind. “I love it here. And Baby is happy. She didn’t like being homeless.”

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