In this phenomenological study the authors explored the meaning of homelessness from the perspective of previously homeless substance abusers. The sample involved 8 adult males recruited from a substance abuse treatment program. Through the use of open-ended questioning, two major themes were identified: the road to homelessness and the road out of homelessness. The road to homelessness comprised an explanation for the participants' homelessness: painful background experiences, negative self-concept, ineffective coping skills, and a sense of hopelessness. The road out of homelessness described the recovery process and included turning points, experiences of caring relationships, and a new way of viewing the world. The findings offer a beginning understanding of the experience of homelessness and recovery, and have implications for intervention and future research for subpopulations of persons who are homeless. © 1995 Association of Nurses in AIDS Care.