Ashley Quadros: Homeless man counts his blessings this Thanksgiving
Michael Hay doesn’t blame anyone but himself for falling on hard times. He won’t be enjoying turkey and all the fixings with his family this Thanksgiving. Instead, he’ll be in the community’s local emergency shelter, Utah’s Place, with up to 69 other homeless and hungry souls.
Hay was once your typical family man living in Grass Valley with his wife and two kids, enjoying regular family activities, like play dates at the park and helping his kids with their homework. He was also proud to be clean and sober for 13 years going strong, having overcome a methamphetamine addiction, but one day he relapsed, and the next thing he knew, his life took a turn for the worse.
Once his wife discovered his addiction, she kicked him out to protect their children. With nowhere to go, he subsequently drifted around Grass Valley, feeling at a loss, and allowed his addiction to overtake him. He admittedly made choices he wasn’t always proud of, some of which contributed to arrests and minor infractions.
Following his last release from jail over the summer, Hay, who is also diabetic, had a related medical emergency and was hospitalized. It was through this hospitalization that his life began to change for the better.
Because of a partnership with Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and County of Nevada, Hay was released to the care of Hospitality House and was given a chance to rest and recover from his medical illness 24 hours a day, seven days a week in the shelter’s Recuperative Care Dormitory.
At Utah’s Place, Hay was met with care and compassion from staff and volunteers. When he was strong enough, Hay graduated from the Recuperative Care Dorm into Onward Dorm, a sober-living dorm designed to help individuals with their next steps to return to housing, which includes personalized case management, goal setting, job training and mental health counseling.
“I wouldn’t be where I am at right now without the support from this house … from all of the people in here,” said Hay.
Through personalized case management, Hay set goals for himself, thrived in counseling, and realized his true self-worth. He has also maintained his sobriety for seven months now and is motivated more than ever before to continue moving forward.
“I try to give back as much as I possibly can,” said Hay, who is one of shelter’s most reliable volunteer caretakers. As a caretaker, Hay helps with mopping, sweeping, laundry, occasional dinner prep and supports staff as needed, which was exemplified during the recent power outages.
“Michael has proven his dependability and dedication to our shelter time and time again,” said Janella Kirkman, shelter manager. “In the middle of the night, he was right there alongside staff helping with the generators. Anything we need — he is always there to help us.”
Hay was also a big help at the October camp cleanup in the Brunswick Basin, and because the cleanup was conducted in partnership with the County and City officials as well as local law enforcement, he happened to bump into his previous arresting officer, who recognized him immediately.
“The last time I saw him before that event, he actually got out the car and shook my hand, and said he was proud of me because of the 180 I’ve done with my life,” said Hay. “I’m moving forward in life instead of burying myself in the hole that I was in.”
Today, Hay is working to return to independent living and has developed a plan to return to housing with his case manager. He’s also actively looking for full-time employment while taking on temporary jobs to save money. His savings are for both a future home and to continue providing financial support to his wife and children.
Hay hopes to one day work in drug rehabilitation counseling, relapse prevention and peer support to help others like him stay on track and to never lose hope.
“I’m proof that there is life after meth — living proof,” concluded Hay. “And no matter how hard things get, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel — even if you can’t see it.”
Ashley Quadros is development director at Hospitality House in Grass Valley.
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