First-of-its-kind, long-term recovery housing coming to Midland

A first-of-its-kind recovery facility is planning to build its second location in mid-Michigan.
Updated: Feb. 28, 2023 at 5:00 PM EST
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MIDLAND, Mich. (WNEM) - A first-of-its-kind recovery facility is planning to build its second location in mid-Michigan.

In 2021, when deadly opioid overdoses climbed to 80,411 from 21,089 across the country in 2010, Andy’s Place opened its first location in Jackson County’s Blackman Charter Township.

Almost two years later, residents there say it’s saving lives.

“Hi, Mr. Want to go potty?” Denise Cross asked her puppy.

For some, they might call this a chore. For Cross, it’s anything but.

“I was looking at 10 years in prison was my minimum,” Cross said.

Just last year, she was given the chance to walk a new road.

From a young age, being surrounded by trauma and drug use was part of her normalcy before she stumbled upon what felt like an escape.

“My childhood was so hectic that, when I started at 19, I did Oxys for a few months and turned to heroin,” Cross said. “It was the first time my life felt stable.”

For 13 years, she wasn’t sure how she’d climb her way out.

“I thought my only out was death,” Cross said. “I didn’t think there was any hope for me.”

But a door opened that gave her the chance to not just avoid prison, but also turn around her life.

“Given the chance to just be Denise and that’s what I am here, instead of a drug addict or drug dealer or, you know, so and so’s sister. it’s nice,” Cross said. “It’s the first time in my life.”

“I think Andy’s Place is the best case scenario for people with substance use disorder,” Home of New Vision’s Adam Grant told the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. “This is really like one-stop shopping.”

Opened in 2021, Andy’s Place in Jackson County offers first-of-its-kind, long-term recovery housing for both individuals and families with an abundance of recovery, life skills and employment resources right under one roof.

The concept was spearheaded by Mike Hirst who knows its importance all too well.

“You know, we’re a pilot project really for the whole country,” Hirst said.

Walking these halls only reminds him his mission is just as big as his inspiration. In 2010, his son Andy died from an overdose after years of failed treatment options.

Hirst wasn’t about to let Andy’s death be in vain.

“About three days before Andy died, he said, ‘Dad, I don’t have a purpose in life. There’s just… I have no purpose in life. I’m a burden on everybody, family, society, everything.’ And I said, ‘Everybody’s got a purpose in life, Andy.’ And he goes, ‘Well, what’s mine, dad?’ And I couldn’t answer that question. So today, I can answer that question. You know, it’s standing all around us. This place wouldn’t even be here without Andy. So he had a pretty big purpose, that’s for sure,” Hirst said.

Almost two years in, Hirst said what happens inside these walls is changing lives.

“I mean, these are 50 people that they’ve been to jail. They’ve been in the system and look at them today,” Hirst said. “You know, they’re getting into cars, they’re going to work, they’re outside walking their dogs, and they smile while walking down the halls.”

And it’s those tenants who Mike says are responsible for making Andy’s Place one of the safest places in all of Jackson County.

“It’s not me making this work. It’s not some politician making this work. It’s not some financial genius making this work,” Hirst said. “It’s the people here making this work. They got the opportunity. They were given the opportunity to succeed and they’ve taken a hold of it.”

Now, Hirst hopes to replicate that success in Midland with its second location. Come the spring of 2024, a vacant lot on Bayliss Street will start to be transformed into 50 income-based apartments for both individuals and families who’ve been referred through the Midland County Adult Drug Court. There will be a live-in manager, security, and other measures like sobriety as a condition of tenancy. But, perhaps the biggest feature of all, is showing each tenant that someone is in their corner.

“We’ve all had struggles in life,” Hirst said. “There was always somebody that helped me out and showed me the right direction to go in and, if I can do that to somebody else, I think that’s why God put me here.”

It’s a gift Denise Cross doesn’t take for granted.

“To get this blessing, you know, I take it very seriously,” Cross said. “I’m in a good place mentally, spiritually.”

A place, thanks to Andy’s Place, that she never thought she’d be in just one year ago.

“Change is possible,” Cross said. “There’s hope. There’s a reason to be alive.”

Just last week, the Michigan Health Improvement Alliance signed on to be a co-owner of Andy’s Place in Midland.

The developers, Milner and Caringella out of Illinois, say several other states and cities in Michigan have expressed interest in building a similar facility.

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