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February 23, 2010

American bobsledder Bill Schuffenhauer's childhood was far from happy - his parents were drug addicts, sometimes he had to steal for food and he experienced bouts of homelessness as a youngster.

The cycle of poverty and street crime ended only when his maternal grandmother took him in when he was entering junior high school. Today, the three-time Olympic medal winner credits her influence with helping to straighten his life, according to CNN.

"I knew that there was something better," the 36-year-old told the news provider in Vancouver, where he is preparing for his next Olympic run.

"Although there were a lot of horrible things that happened, it's made me a stronger person," he added.

His story of triumph against the odds inspired an employee at Olympic sponsor Proctor & Gamble to arrange to have Schuffenhauer's family flown to Vancouver to see him compete in the four-man bobsled on Friday, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that between 5 and 8 million Americans (2 to 3 percent of the U.S. population) have experienced some form of homelessness. Frequently, mental health issues and substance abuse are contributing factors, so those affected as well as their families and friends may consider crisis counseling and other treatment options, as appropriate.

There are many nonprofit organizations that accept donations to help the homeless, and they include the Homeless Emergency Project. Survivors can also access valuable resources through the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
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