Ray is a former resident of The Journey Home with a remarkable, unique story.

Ray’s path to homelessness started with the diagnosis of a serious heart condition resulting in a long stay in the hospital. Every aspect of his life has changed since that diagnosis; he is now currently waiting for a heart transplant. In the early days after the diagnosis, not being able to work or to be active was a huge change of pace. Ray recalls the anxiety and depression stemming from these limitations.

“I was angry at everything, everyone and with God. All I wanted was to be by myself and to be left alone.”

He was prescribed pain medication to help with his condition. This prescription led to an addiction, which then led Ray to an even darker mental place. This is when Ray experienced homelessness for the first time, and resulted in many failed jobs and a battle with addiction that left him feeling helpless and an even greater sense of darkness and hopelessness than before.

Between first becoming homeless and arriving at The Journey Home, Ray’s story includes multiple transitional programs, heart surgery, and extensive medical needs. Because of his medical condition, Ray has struggled to find a suitable program that could accommodate his basic necessities. “No one wanted to deal with me or my medical issues.”

Ray carries a device on the outside of his body that keeps his heart beating. His heart is wired to monitors that he carries on the outside of his body that keeps him alive. “They say they want to help, but when they see the wires and tubes coming out of my body and hear about my medical issues they change their minds.”

From Michigan, Ray came to Indiana because he was accepted into a VA residential addiction recovery program, but when he arrived to the Indiana facility they changed their minds and would not accept him. Once again, Ray was without a place to go, and did not have a home to go back to. Ray commented, “The rejection felt horrible. I came from Michigan to get help in my recovery and they turned me away once I walked into the door. It felt like if they would not or could not accept me, or did not know how to help me, then who would?”

The Case Managers in the VA Walk-in Center told Ray about The Journey Home. Ray was skeptical, stating, “First of all, I doubted they would accept me once they learned of my medical needs and condition. Second, I feared the cleanliness and safety of The Journey Home, having worked in the mental health field with full awareness of the conditions of many shelters.”

Ray had no place to go. He had come from Michigan with nothing, “I had no other choice, so I came to The Journey Home thinking I would be here until I could find something different.” Ray stayed at The Journey Home for five months, and is now a staff member and works as a Veteran Support with the other residents in the home. Comparing The Journey Home to transitional programs and shelters he had previously worked with, Ray had “never seen anything like this place.” Ray’s feelings about The Journey Home ending his homelessness is very real and very emotional.

“I was feeling very low and rejected due to my medical needs. That all changed once I walked into the doors of The Journey Home. The staff are amazing. They not only helped me transition back into independence and into a permanent home, they never made me feel like I stood out. I do stand out, I have wires and tubes coming out of my body, but I feel normal when I’m with them.”

From Ray’s perspective, the best aspects of The Journey Home are the flexibility and how the programs are structured to help Veterans develop independence. Ray noted he is incredibly grateful for The Journey Home assistance coordinating his visits to the VA for his continued medical care. He appreciates the trust The Journey Home puts in the Veterans, for example he says, “While other places keep the kitchen locked except during meal times, the kitchen here is open 24 hours a day.” This helped Ray feel at home. Ray was initially surprised he could make use of The Journey Home’s kitchen anytime he wanted, but describes this as a simple example of how the Veterans are entrusted and treated with respect.

Having made significant progress with his mental and physical health, Ray is proud to work with The Journey Home as a member of our staff. “I feel like I’m contributing again,” he reflects. Ray has found his “home” in the community of Winchester, Indiana. The community and The Journey home could not be more fortunate.  

We were grateful that Ray sat down with us to tell his story, and we’re grateful for his willingness to share it.

We’re proud of you, Ray. Welcome home!