WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – On the outside looking in, Katie seems to have a perfect life — a husband, children, home and a job in healthcare.
She almost lost it all, though, just two years ago.
“I was clean for a month shy of 10 years and I relapsed,” she said.
Katie’s drug problem started when she became addicted to amphetamines following the birth of her son. When she couldn’t find pills, she went to cocaine.
Everything crumbled in less than a year.
“I lost my license to practice. I lost my family. I lost everything,” she said.
Her husband kicked her out of their home to protect their son. Soon, she was living under the Summit Street bridge in Warren
Other addicted women showed her the ropes, which included learning how to prostitute in return for drugs.
That life, she said, was anything but glamorous.
“It’s not like you’re going to turn tricks and you’re living this fast life, and I was going to buy clothes and dress glamorously. It wasn’t,” she said. “I was trying to eat, and trying to live, and trying to stay somewhere.”
Katie’s breaking point came about a year later when was high and got into a fight with two other women.
“I woke up with all these broken bones in my face, with a man that I had never seen in my life,” she said.
Katie went into treatment, and she stayed clean until this last slip-up.
Now, she has been clean for 18 months and she said she’s finally getting her life back.
That includes her job, her family, and in a few months, a graduate degree.
Katie said she hopes her story proves that people can change. She wants people to understand addiction as a disease and that it doesn’t define its victims.
Austintown Police Lt. Jeff Solic said Katie’s story isn’t unique. He said the women involved in prostitution are often addicted to drugs.
“I can’t think of one prostitute that we’ve encountered during our investigation that has not been a heroin user,” he said.
Solic believes that the solution to the problem of prostitution lies within the community. When the demand stops, then so does the supply.
“We can’t patronize these folks,” he said. “We need to get them either help or not. Get them into the system where they’re not going to harm themselves or someone else.”
Warren mission reaching out to those on the streets
One woman in Warren is doing all she can to get people off of the streets. It’s a mission that for her is deeply personal.
Pastor Julie Wike said she was once like the homeless, sick and addicted that she cares for in Warren.
“That one pill took me to a destructive path of drugs and alcohol, where I did whatever I needed to do to get a drug. I stayed constantly high. I didn’t have a sober breath,” she said.
Now, she is 31 years clean and knows the weight of the stigma of the streets.
That’s why she created the Basement Ministries, to be a safe space for people to find resources to get out.
“So when they come in here, I’m not looking to see if they’re a drug addict. I’m not looking to see if they’re on the streets. I’m looking to love on them,” she said.
Several people at the Basement have felt that love firsthand.
It saved Christina Butch’s life four years ago.
She was living on the streets and saw no way out.
“I was going to go home and try to commit suicide, and I think if I wouldn’t have come to The Basement, I probably would have done something,” she said.
Butch has been coming to The Basement every Tuesday since and said the people there are like family.
Pastor Julia says The Basement is making a positive impact on people’s lives in Warren, but changing the entire city will take a community.
“From the finances to the resources to the people, all of it. We can rescue this community out of this,” she said. “It doesn’t have to stay this way.”
Wike is planning to build a transitional home for women on the streets. She’s calling it God’s Refuge House.
If you would like to donate to The Basement or God’s Refuge, contact Wike at email@example.com or 330-881-7124.