The Homeless Series: Former drug addict Doug Epley helps the homeless get clean, at Haven Recovery Center.
BY MATT MENCARINI | STAFF WRITER
An Ormond Beach police officer walked into a home along Fir Street. There had been reports of transients living there.
There was bedding in the home, which had reportedly been vacant for some time, as well as a broken crack pipe and “a wad of aluminum foil and a lighter” in the kitchen.
The home had been inspected by a property management company just five days prior, the officer noted, but the garage door didn’t lock, making for easy access.
The incident highlights a common element of local homelessness, substance abuse and addiction, which Pastor Doug Hautz, of Ormond Beach Alliance Church, says is a symptom for a larger, harder-to-define problem.
“A person that’s drug addicted does not want to stay that way,” Hautz said. “They don’t like it. They really don’t.”
Ormond Beach Alliance Church runs what Hautz calls a homeless ministry, it’s more than just a homeless shelter, he says, and can house approximately 20 individuals.
“Right now we’ve got people in the throes of addictions,” he said. “(Someone) just left and we know he’s out there using (drugs) right now. I pray that he’s not, but he might be.”
Haven Recovery Center Senior Administrator Carl Epley is also a local leader in homelessness aid. He cares, he says, because he knows what the homeless are going through.
Before losing his family, job and home because of his alocoholism, Epley was a student of economics. But when his current wife (who is also his former ex-wife) kicked him out of the house, he started smoking crack.
Epley was homeless for nine years. He got clean in 1998. But finally accepting the help he needed wasn’t easy.
“I remember thinking how evil this crack cocaine thing was and that I had to choose between God and evil,” he said. “And then I realized it — it was an epiphany — I realized the alcohol was doing the same thing.”
He said he had a chance to return to banking after he cleaned up, but he wanted to help others, instead.
“Unfortunately, it’s tough. It’s very, very hard,” Epley said. “The longer you’re in there, the more it becomes, ‘This is my life.’ It becomes very difficult with the chronic homeless.”
That’s where Hautz, Haven Recovery Center, the STAR Family Center, Halifax Urban Ministries and other groups come in. By providing a support system to help with residents’ basic needs, they can try to address the larger problems.
“There’s been some breakdown in their spirit ... in their heart,” Hautz said. “There’s been some abuse, or they have had their kids taken away. Getting to that part is really what we try to do.”
But Hautz takes a hardline approach with the individuals who sit on the couch in his office, making their case to be accepted into his homeless ministry. He demands something from all of them.
“You have to own it, own your stuff, own your mess.” he said. “The church didn’t leave you. You can put a gun to my head and I won’t use crack. ... You can’t blame your circumstances.”
Hautz doesn’t call it tough love. He’s compassionate, he says, even when people spit in his face or yell at him for not doing enough to help another homeless person.
“(I take) deep breaths and start all over again,” he said with a laugh. “It’s not rocket science. Obviously, my faith comes into play, but for the most part, you can’t react to the symptoms. If I reacted to the symptoms all day, I’d have a heart attack.”