Last year, my Christmas came a month early when Homes With Hope moved me into a home. I wrote a letter to the editor of the Westport News expressing my gratitude. Now that I've been in my home a year, I have some perspective on the adjustment I had to make.

The move from living in my van to living in my apartment required A change in the mind set I'd adopted for life without hope. I needed an entirely new mind set, one that was better suited for a life where I could make plans. At first I was confused and unsure, at times angry. I'd been homeless for several years.

Before I became homeless, I had been doing well. I had attended UCLA for four years. For 10 years, I'd run my own business. I spent 18 years in radio broadcasting.

After an earthquake, I became nervous and unable to sleep. I began to notice trouble remembering things. But I had a business to run, and I ignored all the signs. Difficulty making decisions, another sign of depression, is what ultimately took me down. After several bad business and life decisions, I decided to take up residence in my van.

If poverty alone had put me on the street, I'd have needed little more than a leg up and a job. But post traumatic stress disorder and major depression exacts a toll. Tragically, mental illness can cost us what we need the most: the support of family and friends. I don't mean financial support alone. I mean friendship and inclusion.

My life was at its ebb when Homes With Hope found me. It offered me much more than a home. It also provided a case worker. She helps me find medical services, fill out forms and assists with other tasks I sometimes find difficult.

Another Homes With Hope program found a mentor for me. I had to agree to meet my mentor every week for a year. My mentor's kindness, patience, reliability and diligence made a noticeable difference in my new mind set.

It makes an organization like Homes With Hope to deal with the homeless problem. Even now, my inability to focus and remember makes the task of writing difficult. But I am encouraged by the progress I've made in the past year. And I'm inspired by the kindness of the people ion the community. Many of you at the library, the Y, the senior center, the Community Theatre and the Playhouse have gotten to know me.

Not only has this community given encouragement to me personally, but nit has also given its support to Homes With Hope. I hope that they will continue to do so, especially at this time of year. You've filled my Christmas holiday with hope.

Peg Fowler