Street Without Hope

On Madison Street, crowds of crack-addicted homeless are plaguing police and downtown businesses. But no one seems to be doing much about it.

"I love them. And I'd do anything in the world to help them. That's one of the reasons I wanted so badly to get my life together to make up to my grandkids what I didn't do for my own."

Addiction-recovery experts say that the desire to make up for lost chances, friends and family is among the most common feeling recovering addicts have. It's also one of the primary causes of relapse.

"Right now," says Jarrell, "Candy's wrestling with A.R.C. wanting her to distance herself from her children. They're saying she's got to get herself healthy before she can start worrying about other people. And that's true. But that's hard. She wants to go out and save a lot of people right now. She's got something good and she wants to share it."

Every Sunday, Candy goes back to the Rescue Mission to see the people she knew on the street. The trip takes her down Buckeye Road, past the corner where she used to meet her "dates," and past the littered backs of the warehouses where she used to smoke her crack. She carries no more than $5, to avoid the temptation to buy drugs. But drugs are plentiful and addicts everywhere in the old neighborhood.

"I know people say I shouldn't be coming here. But I can't turn my back on those people I know. Some of them are the ones who gave me hope, and I want to show some of the others that if I can do it, so can they."

Candy's weekly sojourns to the area irk Michael.
"I don't know what the hell she thinks she's doing coming down here. I mean, if I walked into the forest where I got bit by a tiger, would I go back in that forest again? Hell no. She uses this rationale that this is where it all started. That's bullshit. I told her there's nothing but dope relationships down here--people using other people."

Candy says that Michael's got no business talking.
"That week he helped me stay clean, he promised me he was going to get into a program, and this time make it stick. He's still on the street and all he's done is get a haircut."

Michael admits he doesn't really have an answer for his homelessness and addiction. In some ways, he thinks he's too smart to have to sit through another recovery program. He knows the routine. He says he wants to quit drugs and get back to the productive life he had--he worked as a counselor with developmentally disabled people--before he hit the streets. He has an appointment with Another Chance this week.

In less defensive moments, Candy acknowledges the risks of returning to old haunts. She knows what she can find on the streets. She knows how easy it is to slip. But, at the moment, she also knows something else. She has reached that stage in the program where she thinks she sees why she has relapsed in the past.

"I figured out that part of my thing is I need to be needed. That's what I know. I need to give a lot of myself. That's why I want to help my kids and grandkids. In rehab they're always saying, 'You've got to slow down.' That I've never been important to me. What happens is I try to give so much to my family that when I don't get the results I want, I say screw it, see ya, I'm gone. I've got their problems and my problems all piled on me--so many problems jumbled up in my head that I can't do anything about. So I freeze up and turn to drugs."

The odds against someone like Candy--or any of the chronic users out on Buckeye or down on Madison Street--staying clean are high.

But prior to her enrollment in A.R.C., says Jarrell, Candy "was somebody you'd say was a chronic homeless addict who probably won't get off the streets. But there she is. She's trying. That's why you don't ever stop doing what you're doing to help them."

Candy and Jarrell are convinced she's going to make it through the program. What happens beyond that is less certain. There aren't many halfway houses for women. And follow-up care is practically nonexistent.

"Some of where she goes depends on whether she's going to be able to work, and how much will she be able to make," says Jarrell. "What I've told her is that we're not going to leave her out on the street. We will find her a place to stay."

Plans are being developed for a "homeless campus" around CASS in the downtown area. It's still very uncertain what will happen. But the proposed campus, which could be built by a combination of government agencies, could provide housing, food and health care, among other things, in a fenced-off compound.

It hasn't been determined whether the campus would include facilities for the kind of drug treatment that Candy is getting now, or the follow-up assistance she's likely to need. But Mark Holleran, director of CASS, says he hopes the plan would incorporate supportive housing--for low-income people in need of additional residential help and supervision.

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