SALT LAKE CITY -- Jared Legge, of South Ogden, never thought he would be homeless, let alone speaking to a group about how he got there and where he is now.
Legge, 32, grew up in the Ogden area. He lost his job, his car and his home after heading down a path of "self-medication with meth," he said.
His drug abuse began after several back surgeries.
"Everything spiraled out of control by me being just dumb," said Legge, dressed in a suit and tie.
He was among the speakers at Utah's Seventh Annual Homeless Summit, held Wednesday in Salt Lake City.
Utah's 2010 Comprehensive Report on Homelessness, released at Wednesday's conference, says a quarter of homeless adults in Utah are abusing illegal substances. One-fifth have a mental illness.
Legge was one of almost 17,000 considered homeless this year in Utah. He ended up at St. Anne's Center in Ogden in May and has since been placed in permanent housing. In exchange for rent, he works for the shelter and a care program with Ogden Housing Authority.
"If you told me five years ago I would be homeless, I would've thought you were crazy," Legge said.
Roxanne Hopland, 41, of Ogden, and her two small children were on the streets because of her meth addiction.
Now she volunteers seven days a week at St. Anne's Center and has an apartment. She is being treated for depression and other mental illnesses.
She, too, never thought she would end up on the streets.
Hopland said she moved to Ogden from California in 2000 after her mother died. After giving birth to a girl and a boy, Hopland said, she wanted to give her children a better life.
"No one wants to be in a shelter," Hopland said. "No one wants to be homeless."
Matt Minkevitch, executive director of The Road Home in Midvale, said more families are among the homeless because of the economy.
Of those who are homeless statewide, 43 percent are people in families, the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population.
Almost 12,000 school-age children statewide are considered homeless, according to the State Office of Education.
"This is the highest concentration of homeless schoolchildren observed in the past five years," the report states.
Minkevitch said he sees more families seeking shelter. Nightly, he watches parents patiently help their children with homework assignments while sitting on cots.
The families come in all sizes, with children ranging in age from "newborns to gangling teenagers," Minkevitch said.
Most parents never thought they would find themselves in a shelter, let alone bring their children to one.
"They're great parents," Minkevitch said. "I learn so much more from them about patience, perseverance, hopefulness."
Jason Wilde, executive director of the Family Connection Center in Layton, said he also is seeing more families seeking housing assistance. Unfortunately, Davis County does not have a shelter, "so we are turning away families."
His organization is not the only one turning away families in Davis County and sending them to either Weber or Salt Lake county.
Wilde and Minkevitch said the reason so many more families are finding themselves on the streets is the economy.
Hopland said she knows it is difficult to find a place to live when one is living on the streets, but "I want others to know there is hope. There is help."