In 2015, Ken Hutchinson and his brother Zach were a heartwarming holiday story — two men experiencing homelessness who found a guardian angel entirely by chance. A stranger named Christy Hill invited them into her home, where they could shower, do laundry and pick up food for long, cold nights ahead.
At the end of their sit-down interview with WCPO, they said they planned to meet with Cincinnati Works in hopes of finding stable jobs that would allow them to leave panhandling behind.
And then they disappeared for four years.
“People think it gets better,” Ken Hutchinson said this month, sitting in the living room of a transitional living house in Clifton. “It only gets better if you help it get better.”
Which meant Christy Hill couldn’t save him on her own. He’s been clean for 15 months now, employed for a little less and will soon move into his own apartment, but none of it came easy. He had to make the choice to fight for it, he said.
“I’ve been addicted to misery and pain for the last 16 years,” he said. “It took me 16 years to get to 15 months, and it’s a day-by-day battle, man.”
From 2016 to 2018, Hutchinson continued to collect a string of nonviolent drug and traffic charges in Hamilton County Court. He had been sleeping on the tennis courts by Inwood Park when he overdosed. That led him to jail, which led to a rock-bottom phone call with his brother when he got out Aug. 29, 2018.
“I called my brother and gave my brother the option to either come get me and help me, or…I don’t know,” he said. “I couldn’t tell you. I wanted to die.”
His brother stepped up. And Hutchinson landed in recovery at New Foundations Community Housing. He had to sell his guitar to afford it — the first thing he ever sold intending to buy something other than drugs, he said.
He doesn’t want to die anymore, he added. Instead, he wants to use his experience with addiction and recovery to help others.
Hutchinson recently accepted a job managing recovery houses for New Foundations. In a Facebook post announcing he and another worker had been promoted, the organization wrote: "These two men have worked hard, helping out when no one was looking, let others take credit for their hard work, taken care of other’s problems without even holding their official titles and most of all, have kept true to our mission and vision.
"They are a true representation of who we are, our program participants, and proof that anyone, any addict, can become something amazing as long as we continue fighting through and stick to the moral standards we’ve set for ourselves and the people we serve."
He’ll spend his Thanksgiving hosting an open dinner for anyone who needs it.
“There’s definitely something greater than myself keeping me here,” he said.