Formerly homeless men start handyman business in Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. (KGW) — Eric Shumway hammered slates of linoleum wood in the bedroom of a first floor apartment. The work is kind of like a puzzle, he said — just like the puzzle pieces of his life.

“You know if there’s something you can’t do, you can always fix it,” he said, describing his decision to leave a life of homelessness and addiction.

“Everything I was doing it felt frustrating,” he said. “At some point, nothing made any sense; there was no purpose to anything. I had to change.”

Shumway said he had been living in the woods in Salem for seven years.

“Being homeless provides you with some sort of a childlike (ability to) do whatever you want any time, that was an amazing feeling for me,” he said.

Bob Wendover was also struggling with homelessness, having lost everything to heroin.

“I was addicted on the streets, I lived out in the St Johns area, homeless, drug addicted,” he said.

Wendover found Shumway through recovery at the Union Gospel Mission. Together, they worked with a mentor who owned apartment buildings in need of renovations like flooring, painting and other repairs. The two of them started a handyman business called ActsSpeak.

“It’s kind of a play on words. Let your actions speak,” explained Wendover.

It’s a lesson they learned the hard way.

“It just feels really good, totally different than I did. I felt lost now I feel like I have purpose, there’s a direction,” Wendover said.

“That’s a powerful thing. That has really showed up in my life,” added Shumway.

The business helped them find the missing piece of their puzzle, but leaving the other pieces behind can be harder than it seems.

“I do miss it. I think maybe because I was out there for so long and life was a lot simpler,” said Shumway.

“I just want, if anybody’s listening that feels that way, to know that there is hope, you can change your life, you can make a difference,” added Wendover.

The duo said they hope to grow their business to a point where they can hire people transitioning out of homelessness and even work on affordable housing.

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