If you spend any time at the Hixon House Adult Shelter this month, you’re likely to run into Ray, an older gentleman who looks like someone’s beloved grandpa, which he is. Chances are Ray will be shoveling, sweeping the front walkway, or cleaning the kitchen. He’ll probably offer a friendly greeting and engage you in a short, animated conversation—about the task at hand, the weather, or his favorite topic, his grandkids.
When you see Ray working, you might guess that he is a Haven staff member. Ray is actually a guest who has been staying in the Hixon House Adult Shelter since the end of the summer. He became homeless following his divorce two and a half years ago and has faced additional challenges. He’s a cancer survivor, having gone through a single mastectomy, and suffered a mental health crisis after he discovered two acquaintances who had died of a drug overdose. The changes Ray has made this fall are significant and he is quick to credit his progress to the staff at the Haven.
“I knew this place was different from the moment I got here. The way everyone cares, how they go above and beyond to help you. So many doors have opened for me since I came here and started working with my service coordinator Caroline Swaney on the things that had been road blocks in my life. I didn’t know how to get past those things. With help, I’ve done it. What has changed? Everything. I had my teeth fixed. I got a new knee. I’m working with a therapist. I am receiving social security benefits for the first time. I have my truck back and I have a plan for the next couple of years.” Ray will be leaving the Hixon shelter at the end of January.
Recently, Ray was in the Hixon café area, removing all the plants from the window ledges, wiping down all the sills, and rearranging the plants. Why does he do things like that without being asked? “For now, this is our home,” Ray says. “So I treat it with respect. I like taking care of things. It makes me feel good. Some people feel like the world owes them something. I don’t. I like to contribute. I am grateful for this second chance and feel lucky to be here.”