First day on the street: Scott’s story

He was homeless for 17 years and dealt with substance abuse — now he’s a success in real estate and helps others without homes.

Gentrification is impacting homelessness tremendously

Scott Purcell was homeless for 17 years. Over those years, Purcell struggled with substance abuse. He entered a treatment program in 1997. His sponsor encouraged him to take a crack at the real estate business.

People living around the street, people begging for heroin because they were withdrawing

"I do remember my actual first day of being homeless. The way that I became homeless actually was I was living with a friend of mine whose father introduced me to heroin in 1979, actually. And after living with them for a year, they threw me out. I mean, you know, I would go to jail. I'd come out. I'd have no place to live. So, then I'd start using again because I didn't have anything else to do. And then I'd end up going back to jail. So, this is the 1400 block of W. Street NW. It was probably one of the most notorious drug open air drug markets in the city for many, many years. What I remember about this street was a lot of misery, actually. After I got out of treatment for 28 days, they had a transitional program that they allowed me to go into for six months. So, my first year in real estate, I was the number four rookie for the company, which was good out of, you know, like 6,000 people. And I've just been on an upward trajectory ever since", Scott Purcell tells Brut.

When they decide to change their lives, they can

Purcell has worked in real estate for over 20 years — both residential and commercial. His experiences have helped him understand the causes of chronic homelessness. In 2001, Purcell bought his first home — a condominium in Dupont Circle, which is the same neighborhood where he once slept outside.


01/22/2020 11:19 AMupdated: 01/22/2020 2:00 PM


  • Lisa W.
    02/05/2020 16:18

    Its amazing how much potential people have that they dont know about because they have let drugs drag them down and run there life

  • Dean W.
    02/01/2020 03:42

    I lived right down the street from there.

  • Shirley B.
    02/01/2020 01:36

    I’m happy you straighten yourself up 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽 that’s what’s up

  • Sandra P.
    02/01/2020 00:07

    Congratulations brother God Bless

  • Cheryle C.
    01/31/2020 20:00

    To God be all the glory....luck, is totally out the equation......

  • Cheryl B.
    01/31/2020 03:51

    I love successful endings. Perseverance!

  • Lillie O.
    01/31/2020 00:58

    A great learning lesson, Congratulations brother

  • Ardella C.
    01/30/2020 22:47

    You've truly been Blessed. Continue to pay it forward

  • Wanda C.
    01/30/2020 13:32

    I love recovery stories. I have always believed people can overcome addiction. I'm so proud of everyone who recovers. My own son has recovered from heroin and he started using at 15 and is now 21 and has been clean for two years now. I never gave up on him but I did stop the enabling behavior. Those times were very painful for both of us.

  • Michelle B.
    01/29/2020 22:49

    Congratulations....GOD is good

  • Bobbie B.
    01/29/2020 19:57

    Your a good person trying to help others.

  • Virginia P.
    01/29/2020 15:45

    God is good all the time

  • Terry C.
    01/29/2020 13:12

    Thank You for sharing and keeping it real..Bless you brother, may this encourage many to lend a hand to others...

  • Valerie L.
    01/29/2020 02:15


  • Bonnie J.
    01/29/2020 01:19

    You go back but u try to help the homeless fine a home &better life

  • Thomas S.
    01/28/2020 22:38

    I spent time in the D.C. area in the early 90's. I probably walked past him sleeping on a bench on Dupont Circle.

  • Jeanette H.
    01/28/2020 22:36

    Amen my brother God bless you again Just be thank full . So so happy for you.

  • Ardis H.
    01/28/2020 19:17

    Unfortunately everyone's,, rock bottom,, is different. This is a,, great blessing,,. You, can't keep it,, unless,, you give it,, away. May god continue to bless you. Htwn. Tx

  • Betty A.
    01/27/2020 04:56


  • Sallie J.
    01/26/2020 19:29


Stay informed and entertained, for free with myBrut.

Stay informed and entertained, for free with myBrut.

By continuing, you agree to receive emails from Brut.