Editor’s note: As the city of Conway has grown, so has its homeless population. The Log Cabin Democrat has spent weeks conducting interviews and gathering data to present a candid and complete view of homelessness in Conway. This is the first article in a series that will continue each Sunday for the next few weeks.
Josh Ford is currently a resident of the City of Hope Outreach (CoHO) Hope Home, one of the resources Conway has for the homeless or nearly homeless.
He shared his story with the Log Cabin Democrat with the hope that it would highlight that resources such as CoHO, Bethlehem House and others are needed.
When he was a boy, Ford’s grandfather took custody of him to get him out of a house with drugs.
He couldn’t have known that, in time, his own situation would be the catalyst for Ford’s downward spiral.
“My grandfather got cancer when I was 13,” Ford, now 32, told the Log Cabin Democrat. “He was real sick and, for some reason, I decided to take some of his pain medication. I don’t know if it was to try to cope with him dying in the home but that’s when it started.”
When his grandfather died, Ford, distraught and addicted to opioids, was placed back in the home his grandfather had wanted to save him from.
Before long, Ford progressed to methamphetamines, which were more easily obtained.
“Meth became readily available to me,” he said.
He said he used methamphetamines for 18 years with a few attempts at sobriety along the way.
He first attempted to get clean when his three children and their mother moved out of his life.
“Everybody’s got their own bottom. I had a family. I watched the mother of my children, we weren’t married but we had been together about 10 years, and my three oldest kids drive away in a U-Haul and move to Oklahoma,” Ford said. “I started realizing then, I was saying I lost it, but it was my choice. I was giving up these things.”
Eventually, Ford moved on. He met Jennifer, whom he has now been married to for four years. In July 2016, the couple welcomed a baby daughter, Katie.
Inevitably, Ford fell into old habits and almost lost his new family.
“I started using again. All I could think about was getting high. I was a bad person. It dawned on me that I did it again. I was losing my second chance at life,” he said.
He couldn’t stand the thought of losing Jennifer, who he called “my biggest cheerleader.”
“She is the main person in my life. I don’t want to mess this up,” he said. “I decided to go to rehab and I did everything I could to get there. I would’ve crawled in there if that was the only way I could’ve gotten there.”
At several points in his life, Ford was homeless — often “crashing on the couch” of fellow drug users. He said without the stability of living in the Hope Home, he wouldn’t have been able to focus on his recovery.
“I understand the necessity of a place like this,” he said. “This place is helping me to get better. They’re giving me the security of having a roof over my head and having a place to lay down at night. If I was on the streets trying to do this, it wouldn’t work.”
In Conway, there are a few shelters available to the homeless but they are limited in space. Some of the shelters require specific criteria for someone to stay there. For example, the Women’s Shelter of Central Arkansas is for women and children who are victims of domestic violence.
Haven House, through Counseling Associates of Conway, is a shelter for kids ages 6-18.
Bethlehem House is described as a Christian transitional shelter for homeless men, women and children, but the length of stay is limited.