Homeless addicts – the myth and the miracles

Until last week, the name Ted Williams was best recognized as a legendary, 21-year career player with the Boston Red Sox, two-time winner of the American Major League MVP and Baseball Hall of Famer.

That was until the Columbus Dispatch told the story of another Ted Williams — the homeless man living on the streets of Columbus, Ohio.  Mr. Williams represents the segment of the homeless population that often is viewed as an annoyance at best, despised at worst.  But maybe the veil was lifted a bit this week, with all the very public ups and downs of this evolving saga.

Mr. Williams may have a distinct golden-throated voice, which shot him to immediate fame; but in reality he is one of many who are fighting back the demons of addiction and substance abuse, and dealing with the “wreckage of his past” when trying to reunite with family and return to the mainstream of society.  He is also an individual for whom there is much hope, given a true desire for recovery.

We see similar stories each day at Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida.  Here, homeless men who have been defined by their addictions can find much-needed help in achieving sobriety and self-sufficiency through our First Steps Substance Abuse Recovery Program.  This case-managed, 12-Step-based program offers them the opportunity to recover from their addictions, one day at a time, and the support and skills needed to change their lives for good.  They emerge with aspirations, goals and dreams as most other men, only stronger as a result of their battle.

These men are out there, closer than you think. They are serving you at restaurants, bagging your groceries, repairing your automobile, and working on major construction projects, such as the Amway Center.  (Filipe’s story is a great example!)

We find particular enjoyment in introducing a formerly homeless man to a successful business owner and watching that businessman’s admiration grow as he listens to the story of a man most of us avoided 12 months earlier.

We know there are those who say, “They made the choice, let them live with it.”   But which of us has not made a bad choice or two in life?  The difference is their bad choice has a more public side to it, such as the one in four homeless men who are veterans of our armed forces.  They served, most with honor, and returned home to self-medicate or drown the memory of their experience.

We do not believe the myth that homeless, addicted men are a lost cause.  They are not — and we have First Steps miracles that prove it.  Should Mr. Williams truly take to heart the awesome treatment opportunity presented by Dr. Phil and truly begin to live his life in recovery, we believe we’ll hear his golden voice again.