ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- It's been an unusually warm December so far, but imagine sleeping outside on nights like tonight. A new local study shows more people are becoming homeless.
"This is my first time being homeless," said Roger Christian.
Christian said a series of bad decisions landed him on the street. He's now turning to the Rockford Rescue Mission to survive his first years of homelessness.
"If you think it's a horrible place, it's going to be a horrible time for you," said Christian about the Rockford Rescue Mission. "But if you humble yourself, and you think of it as a blessing, you'll be blessed. Because where would you be if it wasn't for the mission? People would be under bridges. And even though there are still people out there that do that, if this place wasn't here, where would everyone that's here be?"
An annual snapshot survey conducted by the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions shows 37 percent of the Rockford Rescue Mission's guests are homeless for the first time. The rate is slightly higher than the national average of 34 percent.
The study also found that for 35 percent of those at the Rockford Rescue Mission, homelessness is a long-term problem, especially for those who are single.
"I do got family around here, but from my past, they haven't trusted me from my past, and they wouldn't allow me at their house. And I became homeless from my own stupidity," said Christian.
Christian says he's trying to learn from this experience and is beginning to reconnect with family.
"I'm not ashamed of what I've gone through because it's made me the person I am today," he said. "It's made me stronger. So, I'm actually working towards getting my own place, and staying sober, and making new friends. The people around here that I do know are great people."
Great people who Christian hopes find their way off the streets.