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How One Man Went From Being Homeless To Owning A Small Business

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Marc Roth, a 16-year tech industry veteran, had hit rock bottom.

After sinking his savings into a failed small business and moving from Las Vegas to San Francisco for a $125,000 job that fell through, he was out of options. "It was a string of events that changed my life forever," he told The Huffington Post.

With no money and nowhere to go, Roth went to a local shelter and started his six-month stint of homelessness.

But now, two years later, Roth lives in an apartment with his family, owns his own successful business and helps his city's mayor tackle San Francisco's monstrous homelessness epidemic. And with a new project, he wants to help other homeless individuals do the same.

Roth is the founder of The Learning Shelter, a three-month program that will provide housing, food and job training to homeless people.

"Being homeless is about not knowing where to go," he told The Huffington Post. "You just have to find a goal to work towards."

And though the project is still nearly $44,000 short of its goal on its final day of funding, Roth is confident that if the program can get off the ground, it will be a success.

Roth would know: it happened to him. And it all started when he found a flier.

After a week in the homeless shelter, Roth found a flier for TechShop -- a community workshop that allowed members to use computers, tools, equipment and studio space.

"The flier was offering a $49 Christmas special, and my San Francisco financial assistance was $59 a month," Roth told HuffPost. He spent all but $10 of his monthly budget on a month-long membership and got to work.

"At first I was just sending out resumes, but then I started tinkering with the 3D printing machine," he remembered. "Pretty soon, people I met in TechShop starting hiring me for side jobs."

After one month, he had earned enough to pay for another month of membership. The side jobs rolled in, and eventually TechShop hired him as an instructor. After six months, he was able to move into an apartment.

After 16 months, Roth had launched his company SF Laser and moved his family from Las Vegas to be with him in San Francisco.

"[San Francisco Mayor] Ed Lee even mentioned me in his state of the city speech," said Roth. "He said 'Here's someone who was homeless two years ago and now is running a small business.' I took my son with me to the address."

Lee later invited Roth to join him at a conference in Washington DC to speak to a group of city mayors on homelessness issues.

Now, with The Learning Shelter, Roth is ready to put a good idea into action.

The program will offer three months of intensive, hands-on training in printing, hardware, laser-cutting, silk-screening and other trade work with a focus on job placement at the end.

Roth is currently raising money for the pilot program. Roth and his team will select four individuals for the program who will be selected through an interview process.

"This isn't about finding the most down-and-out homeless people to try to turn into miracle stories," Roth told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I'm talking about finding people like me and giving them a runway to success and some education and mentorship. There were some characters you wouldn't want anything to do with in the shelter, but I was surprised to find a lot of pretty level-headed people."

But anyone who shows up for an interview will be interviewed, said Roth. He hopes that after the pilot program, The Learning Shelter will be able to accept 30 people every three months.

There is the problem of funding, says Roth.

"If we don't reach it, we'll consider options like delaying the program, going for a government grant or not offering shelter to participants," he explained, though the last option is one he hopes to avoid at all costs. "To expect someone to come into work and perform well when they don't know where they're going to sleep that night? It's too stressful," he said.

Hours before the deadline, he isn't giving up.

"Homeless people aren't always the people you think of sleeping on the street; oftentimes they're people you would never know were homeless," he said. "They are completely capable of going back to work. They just need direction and something to build off of."

If you would like to help Roth make The Learning Shelter a reality, visit his Indiegogo campaign.

CORRECTION:Due to a miscommunication with a source, a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that The Learning Shelter had a partnership with SFMade.

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Filed by Robin Wilkey