A Shot in the Dark: How Opioids Have Affected the Local Homeless Population

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As the issue of opioid abuse has risen to a national crisis, we continue to look into how it’s impacting Southwest Missouri. In the next part of our series, “A Shot in the Dark — Shedding Light on the Opioid Crisis,” Jessica Schaer finds out how prescription drug abuse has affected the local homeless population.

“What was once an inner city problem, is now a nationwide problem,” says Jim Benton, Carthage Crisis Center Executive Director.

“We worked hard to get high, we worked hard to be homeless,” says Cicero Maple.

“I know several people that’s OD’ed. My son… I lost a son,” says Tammy Dodson.

Tammy Dodson is a resident at the Carthage Crisis Center currently and knows first hand how the opioid crisis can completely take hold of someone’s life.

“He OD’ed on morphine. You would think that I would have quit then, but I didn’t. That’s how hard of a struggle it is to quit,” says Tammy Dodson.

Opioids wasn’t even her original drug of choice. First it was heroin back in her teens, then she was clean off and on, but a freak accident sent her life back into a spiral.

“I got hit by a car, and crushed my leg and my jaws were busted and everything, and of course opioids were the first thing they put me back on,” says Dodson.

“For me, when I didn’t have my drug of choice, I would use pills, because they really are easy to get,” says Cicero Maple.

Cicero Maple is a former resident of the shelter and says, while opioids aren’t the biggest problem in Southwest Missouri, they’re still very prevalent.

“A lot of people go get the script, and then they sell it to the person and trade it for meth,” says Maple.

Selling opioids to get meth… selling meth to get opioids… the cycle landed Tammy behind bars.

“You know I went to jail, that’s what got me clean. And it was rough because it was a physical addiction as well as a mental addiction,” says Tammy Dodson.

“It’s usually jail that’s the wake-up for them, that brings them to the place where they know they need help. And that’s why we’re here, is to help people who want to start over, put the past behind them, that’s why we’re here,” says Jim Benton.

The Carthage Crisis Center isn’t the only shelter seeing the homeless population affected by opioids.

“I believe that they get addicted to it, then once again, you know, they can’t really function well enough to hold that job,” says Dianna Gurley, Souls Harbor Executive Director.

“The reason why people become homeless are many and varied, but the majority of the people have substance abuse here, and most of them struggle with opioids of some kind or another,” says Jim Benton.

And, the reality of how addiction plays a role in homelessness is stifling.

“I would walk down Range Line, I made $80 or better, I went and got my girlfriend food to eat, went and got some cigarettes, walked to Walmart and got a half a gallon. And with the rest I got some ‘stuff,'” says Cicero Maple.

“I lost myself inside myself, you know. I was a wannabe, I don’t know if you understand what that means. I wanted to be something, but I didn’t know what. I wanted to be a man of God but I was choosing the world,” says Maple.

“There’s a lot of health issues that are going on that these things are being addressed with the opioids rather than finding a solution that will help without the drugs,” says Dianna Gurley.

Tammy and Cicero are now both around two years clean. They’re thankful for the programs at Carthage Crisis Center — something seen at many shelters in the area.

“We do a lot of counseling with them, to help them see that there are solutions for the problems besides drugs and alcohol,” says Dianna Gurley.

“Prayer. Prayer works wonders,” says Dodson.

“When you see somebody change that’s when you know that hope is still alive,” says Jim Benton.

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