Voices is a monthly interview  with a person who has been a resident of the York County Shelter Programs. We hope that by sharing stories, others will be helped by knowing that there is always hope. 

June, 2019. We spoke with Sarah Goodwin, a recent graduate of Layman Way Recovery Center.

Sarah Goodwin felt broken. She had been arrested and jailed for aggravated operation of a methamphetamines lab in August of 2018.  She was released in October, and was awaiting trial, when she went into hiding and continued to use drugs. “I was using hard,” she says.

She  reached her breaking point, a feeling of utter hopelessness. She turned herself in a few weeks later.   At age 39, she had been using drugs off and on since the age of 16.

Sarah was given a chance to change her life, however. A judge and the district attorney agreed to let her enter Layman Way Recovery Center in Alfred in December of 2018. This six-month residential alcohol and drug treatment program was created for people like Sarah. People who normally would be sent to jail. Once released, chances are good they would start abusing substances again.

York County Shelter Programs partnered with York County government and the district attorney’s office to create this recovery center. The  center, which houses 24 residents, provides comprehensive support, including  group and individual counseling,  12-step support such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Young People in Recovery, medication assistance treatment, family support groups, mentor programs, and case workers who help residents plan for life following graduation. A local adult education program – Massabesic in Waterboro –  offers classes and help for people interested in obtaining their high school diploma or enrolling in college. Wellness activities, such as exercise classes, are also offered.

 The Center also provides after-care, with counseling and support available for those who have successfully completed the program.

Sarah flourished at the center. She took her recovery seriously. In time, she found a leadership role there – “head of household –  where she helped orient new residents and was a liaison with  residents and staff. 

She says the reason she could get better is because of the care she received at Layman Way.

“This place loved me until I could love myself,” she says. “They care. They genuinely care about you.”

Sarah will receive probation for her drug charges. She has been reunited with her two sons, and the family is living in YCSP family housing.  As for the future – Sarah is looking into the certification process needed in order to be a recovery coach.

May, 2019. We spoke with Travis Greenwood, who graduated from Layman Way Recovery Center in Alfred this month.

Travis Greenwood says he will always remember October 17, 2018. He was driving on I-95. When he saw the police lights in his rearview, he made a decision. It was night, and he could throw the fentanyl out the window.  He decided not to.

“I kept it,” Travis says. “I gave it to the (DEA) agent. At that point, I felt a sense of relief.”

From there,  things got better for Travis. Although he was charged with trafficking fentanyl – a federal offense – the judge he stood before believed him when he said he wanted help overcoming his addiction. Travis, 31, had been using drugs since he was 14. He had reached a point where daily injections no longer gave him a high – they simply helped him function. Every morning he woke up sweating and feeling sick – and every day he injected himself. He was working seven days a week as a subcontractor, needing the money to pay for the drugs. He had known for some time that the amount of drugs he was buying would land him in serious trouble, if he was caught.

In December 2018 Travis was admitted to Layman Way, a six-month residential recovery center in Alfred. Layman Way is one-of-a -kind. It is a three-way partnership between York County government, the York County district attorney’s office and York County Shelter Programs. It was created to help people who normally would be jailed for their crimes – but not treated for the addictions that led to their crimes.  The intent is:  Treat the addiction and break the cycles.

Travis graduated from Layman Way in early May this year.  He is one of 17 people to graduate over the course of the year, the center’s first year in operation. That is 17 out of the 56 people who were admitted. The numbers reflect just how difficult it is to break addictions.

Layman  Way  provides comprehensive and intensive support, including  group and individual counseling,  12-step support such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Young People in Recovery, medication assistance treatment, family support groups, mentor programs, and case workers who help residents plan for life following graduation. A local adult education program – Massabesic in Waterboro –  offers classes and help for people interested in obtaining their high school diploma or enrolling in college. Wellness activities, such as exercise classes, are also offered.

 The Center also provides after-care, with counseling and support available for those who have successfully completed the program.

Travis had been in five drug treatment programs over the years. Layman Way was different, he says, because of the levels of support given to the residents. “Support, love, dedication…that’s what makes this place stand out,” he says. “They cared about me when I couldn’t care about myself.”

Travis has found sub-contracting work with a contractor who is also in recovery.  He has reconnected with his 11-year-old son. He has reconnected with numerous family members who had given up on him.  He is still facing federal charges that may carry a sentence of five to 10 years. “But you know, no matter what, I can do it sober,” Greenwood says. “I am not scared of tomorrow. I embrace it.”

April, 2019. Our first profile is Mike Ouellette.  Mike lived  at the shelter  in 2014. He took one step at a time to make his life better  - and today he works for YCSP as the Food Pantry Coordinator.

 Mike Ouellette says the lowest point of his life was November 14, 2014. He had been struggling for a long time. He had lost both of his parents to cancer, and a sibling had also been diagnosed with cancer.

 Originally from northern Maine, he had moved down to York County and was living with a family member. He was struggling with his emotions. He felt he had no direction. He was unable to sleep.  Mike began to self-medicate with alcohol.  “At first it was relief, then after time it became a need,” he says of his use of alcohol. “My father was an alcoholic, like his father before, and I swore I would not let it happen to me, but eventually I fell into the cycle where I needed to consume alcohol just to function.”

 Mike lost “most everything” – including a place to live. “I had nowhere to go,” he says. He remembered hearing about York County Shelter Programs  at AA meetings he had attended.

 “So, I showed up with just one big bag in my hand that contained all that I had, and that’s really where my story begins,” Mike says. “They welcomed me with open arms and assured me that everything would be OK. Those words meant so much for me to hear, because until then, I was so lost. It was scary at first, but after a few days of settling in, I knew I had come to the right place.”

 YCSP always assigns new residents with a navigator, to help people make a plan. “I went to various groups, was set up with a doctor to address health issues, met with housing to make sure I could acquire a place to live after my stay, but the most important of all, I was able to talk to a counselor and finally let go of all the things that were eating me up inside and learn how to deal with life on life's terms,” Mike says.  After a few weeks he was enrolled into a six-month residential treatment program at Angers Farm in West Newfield. After completing that, he moved back to the shelter while waiting for housing, and started a vocational training program in YCSP’s Food Services department. “I started doing chores like dishes  and cleaning. You know, keeping busy. That was a big part of my sobriety,” he says. “Learning how to do things all over again without having substances involved.” He  eventually became a cook.  After working two years in the kitchen, he was offered the position of Food Pantry Coordinator, in January 2017.  

“I am responsible for feeding those in our communities that are facing issues  like homelessness, mental health issues, addiction, and unemployment,” Mike says. “You never know what life just throws at you. But what truly matters, is now they have someone to turn to.”

“After all I had been through, when I thought my life was ending in hopelessness... I was able to turn it all around by doing one thing. Asking for help. That's what it's all about. Hope. I love my job, the agency I work for, and the people that surround me. I was given a new lease on life, and I am so grateful! Who else can say that every day when they come to work, they get to pay it forward and freely give the tools and hope that were so freely given to them! I am truly blessed and owe so much to YCSP.”

We are blessed to have Mike with us and every day we see all that he gives to others.

If you or someone you know is facing homelessness or is without food, contact us at 207-324-1137 or info@ycspi.org