It’s no longer surprising to see drug addicts on city streets, in alleys, or around public buildings. Beechmont is just one Louisville neighborhood that has been particularly hard-hit by this trend. In 2017 alone, 292 doses of Narcan were administered in the area.
Studies have shown that early trauma combined with the individual’s own poor choices can lead to substance addiction. The result of this toxic combination can be seen around the borders of the Hope Place facility, as homeless men and women sleep under stairwells, shoot up, and make deals.
When Hope Place opened, this activity was already well-established on the grounds. We’ve found no easy solution to a problem that has taken root throughout the city. Like all of life’s hard things, it seems that God is leading the Hope Place staff through this struggle, rather than around it.
When I met Freddie Woods*, he was thin and sickly, sitting on a stair in a recessed area of the building, talking to a female friend, Kathy, who presumably shared the same addiction. I cautiously approached and they each relayed to me the tragic life situations and decisions they had made that eventually led to Hope Place’s side porch, where they currently shared an aging apple they’d rescued from a dumpster.
Hope Place Director Kristy Robison asked her husband Matt to come over and talk to Freddie later that evening. Lit by a streetlight, Matt leaned against the brick wall and offered Freddie, who remained shadowed on the porch, a bit of hope: if he was interested, Matt would try to find Freddie a place in rehab. “I’ll check around and see what I can do. If you want to go and you’re still here in the morning, I’ll drive you there,” Matt offered.
“I’ll be here,” Freddie responded. “I’m not going to leave this spot because I know if I go back out there, I won’t come back.”
None of us was sure whether Freddie would still be on the porch the next morning. In fact, he waited over 48 hours while Matt found him a spot in a rehab program, which is where he is now, voluntarily trying to get clean.
After making it through his initial week of detoxing, Freddie has been transferred to a 60 day rehab facility. Matt continues to follow up with him and reports that he is doing well and is appreciative of the support. Matt even became his emergency contact, when Freddie revealed he has no one left in his life willing to fill that role.
The streets abound with others who are struggling with addiction like Freddie, but who are not yet ready to enter rehab. Many have lost all hope that their lives could be any better than they presently are. Beneath the needle marks, the pale complexions, the hopelessness, lies not only someone’s son or daughter, born bearing the image of God, but a potential brother or sister, a future pastor, women’s ministry leader, or prayer warrior.
Seeing the dignity in others can be difficult when it has been covered over by a haze of struggle and failure. It is our job to help others dig down below the surface to find treasure.