by Jolene Guzman of the Polk County Itemizer-Observer
Danny Hicks was homeless in Dallas and fighting through a drug addiction when he was accepted into Gale’s Lodge last July.
Gale’s Lodge is a temporary shelter and assistance program for homeless veterans in Polk County. Hicks said it helped him turn his life around.
“I was homeless, on probation and I was in the (Polk County Circuit Court) drug court program, which is a really intense program,” Hicks said. “I was just staying on park benches basically, which is real hard to do in Dallas.”
He joined drug court in 2017. It was his way of bringing his dependence on drugs to an end.
“I woke up on a sidewalk in Salem,” Hicks said. “I had enough.”
He had warrants in Polk County and decided to turn himself in. Facing those charges was his first step in recovery.
“When I got tired of it — Oct. 17, 2017, is my clean date — that’s when I went to jail,” Hicks said. “They were going to give me some time, and I said, ‘Hey, wait a minute. I believe it’s Oregon law that you have to offer me some kind of rehab.’ They never had, after all these years, and the all the drug charges I had, they never offered me rehab, so I asked for drug court, and I got it.”
The program was helping him stay away from drugs, but contributed to another struggle. He said the frequent treatment, counseling and probation officer appointments that are mandatory in drug court made it difficult to find a job. He couldn’t afford housing.
“It’s hard to stay clean when you are on the street,” Hicks said.
He said he never thought to mention to drug court officials that he was a veteran — he served in the National Guard from 1984-1988 — until Polk County Commissioner Mike Ainsworth mentioned Gale’s Lodge to him.
In the time he’s been in the program, he’s got his driver’s license and birth certificate back, graduated from drug court in January, and earned state certification to work as a drug recovery mentor.
“It gets you back on your feet. That’s the main thing,” Hicks said. “Most people have no idea how big a thing it is just to have a place to lay your head, take a shower, wash clothes. I mean without all that, you can’t get a job or get a place.”
He said if a program like Gale’s Lodge and drug court were available to all homeless people, he believes many would successfully escape homelessness.
“A lot of times people are there because of circumstances, not because they are criminal,” he said.
Hicks hopes to have a place of his own by April. He has a part-time job working with juveniles in Albany though the Linn County parole and probation office. He’s looking for full-time work closer to Dallas. He’s originally from West Monroe, Louisiana. He moved to Oregon to work as a logger in 2012, and now considers Polk County his home.
Hicks said he will remain close to people in the drug court program, and is a strong supporter of Gale’s Lodge. On Feb. 26, he spoke about how the shelter program helped him at the Polk Community Veteran’s Collaborative, a group working on behalf of veterans.
“I still stay in touch with all the drug court people,” Hicks said. “I had three or four of them call me this morning.”