“Thank you guys, you’re in the lifesaving business,” a client at the Wayne Metro/Wayne Westland Salvation Army Step Down program said as David McCoy and Andy Barylski exited his apartment. 

“You’ve got it, my friend,” McCoy replied, before shutting the door. 

In 2003, McCoy helped found Step Down, which provides temporary housing for people recovering from substance use disorder in Wayne County municipalities outside of Detroit–the program is subcontracted to Salvation Army by Wayne Metro. After starting with a house, the program has expanded to include nine apartment units. 

McCoy and Barylski continued to make rounds visiting program members. At one apartment, Barylski, who serves as an administrator for the Wayne Westland Salvation Army, drops off a vacuum to a grateful client. While the central aspect of the program is to provide housing, showing clients the “Lifestyle of Recovery” is also a main goal. Each of the nine units is clean–almost remarkably so. 

“Everybody keeps everything nice and clean,” McCoy said. “That’s recovery. If you’re clean then your home should be too.”

After completing treatment programs, courts and recovery centers will refer clients to Step Down to give them a stable place to recover. Some clients are ready to transition back to independent living within a few months. For others, it can take a couple years. 

“When they come in, they don’t have anything, they don’t even have an income usually,” Salvation Army Social Worker Gladys Beach said. 

Removing the stress of needing to find and afford housing in a rapidly shrinking market helps clients avoid relapsing. Other services offered by the program push many to excel after their time at Step Down. 

Step Down can help provide necessities for clients like food and hygiene products. Beach said she helps connect clients with social programs like Food Stamps and Medicaid, if needed. The two bedroom, 1.5 bathroom apartments come fully furnished, and with decorations–helping clients feel at home almost immediately. Salvation Army even holds a toy drive during the holiday season, so clients with children are able to give gifts to them. 

Step Down also connects clients with a plethora of programs through Salvation Army, including women’s groups, bible studies, and athletic leagues. To help set the culture of recovery, Barylski explained they try to get people involved in new things.

“[It’s] not just being busy doing something,” he said. “But being busy doing something different and Salvation Army offers a chance to get engaged with different people, different programs that are positive, that are uplifting. That otherwise, prior to recovery, they may not have had exposure to.”

Step Down also aims to rekindle interest in old passions. McCoy recalls a client who had an interest in basketball. After passing a background check, the client became a volunteer coach for a local youth team. 

Members of the Step Down program are also helped to find jobs, as participants can be trained on how to interview for jobs, and given transportation to job sites. The program has also helped clients to earn degrees, and get into trade schools. Others who already have training to work high paying jobs are given a stable place to re-enter their field. McCoy said nurses and electricians have been through the Step Down program. 

“Most of the time, the people that we are serving, they have skills, they’re smart… The problem is the addiction,” he said. “Once we get that intact, the skies are the limit.”

Clients don’t pay for any of the Step Down services, however they are required to save at least 30% of their income, so they are able to eventually transition back to independent living. 

“If they’re in it, and they do the program the way it’s intended, they do magnificent,” Beach said, adding that many depart from Step Down with a recently purchased car, and new housing lined up. 

The road to recovery is a long and difficult one. However, Step Down’s success has proven that resilient people can overcome even the toughest challenges. They may just need a little support and a place to live. 

“This is recovery,” McCoy said. “We’re very proud of this.”