CINCINNATI - It wasn't popular when it opened 20 years ago, but a stable haven for homeless addicts had residents and supporters celebrating Friday.
The Recovery Hotel has been a lifeline for addicts like Robert Malone. Crack cost him everything he held dear.
"I lost contact with family members, with my kids, with my wife ... I was a lost soul," he said.
But 3 ½ years ago, he found the modest Recovery Hotel on Vine Street in Over-the-Rhine, and an amazing transformation took place.
Like others, Malone learned to be responsible for himself.
"This place is amazing," he said.
The hotel takes in homeless, recovering addicts and supplies structure to their fragile lives.
Malone has a clean apartment with a kitchen.
"I can cook and eat and wash my body like I want to," he said.
The Recovery Hotel was started by homeless advocate Buddy Gray, who fought the politicians and developers who wanted to kick all of the homeless and poor out of Over-the-Rhine.
Some of the original residents say it completely changed their lives.
"I was able to stabilize," said Gregory Payton. "I was able to dream about some goals and make the goals happen ... I was able to get an associate's degree, a bachelor's degree and a master's degree.
"It taught me how to live free of drugs and alcohol," said Donald Whitehead, who now works in Orlando, Florida.
"It's important because people who are trying to change their lives need an oasis in the sea of degradation and destruction that's caused by active addiction."
The hotel has made such a difference to Malone that he hopes to reconnect with his lost family.
"I want to be in their life and let them know that their dad has changed and has been a different person today than he used to be," he said.