The fire was the last of the disasters in Marshall’s life. The house he was staying in caught fire, and Marshall was seriously burned and lost his hearing. He spent several months in the hospital and was then referred to McEwan Housing and Support Services.
When he first arrived at McEwan House, Marshall had had full-blown AIDS for two years. He was also an alcoholic and a prescription drug abuser. The deafness caused by the fire further compounded Marshall’s problems. He desperately needed a place of refuge where he could learn how to reconnect with people and begin to grapple with his addictions while dealing with the day-to-day challenges of full-blown AIDS.
The adjustment was not an easy one for him. By his own admission, he is a stubborn man and just wanted to curl up in his shell. But after his admission to McEwan House, Marshall made great strides in turning his life around.
He learned, along with the staff and other residents, how to cope with his deafness. He learned to understand himself and his addiction problems. He learned how to handle day-to-day problems without recourse to alcohol and prescription drugs. He marvels that whenever he fell off the wagon, the staff did not shout at him, but worked with him to understand why it had happened, and how to avoid it happening again.
As he got stronger, he learned to believe in himself. Some of these areas have become a part of him, others he still had to work on. Marshall also had to learn basic life skills like cooking and cleaning and taking care of himself all over again. The house became a home for him – the best home he had ever had.
When asked what McEwan House had been like for him, he said: “It gave me a purpose. It made me feel like I was back as a part of society…as a working member of society, having a home, having responsibilities. It’s given me a whole new identity. It’s given me everything back that I lost. They gave me a chance to have a life again. I didn’t have one after my accident and they gave me a chance to start from scratch and work from there.”
Marshall later “graduated” to an apartment of his own and regularly keeps in touch with the staff at his former home.