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After returning from two years of service in the U.S. Marine Corps, Ray Lay began struggling with service-related mental health issues. Eventually these issues would lead to and be compounded by substance abuse, incarceration, and finally homelessness.
Seeking a new start, Ray moved to Indianapolis at the end of 1993; however, six years after coming to Indy, Ray became homeless in 1999 and would struggle with housing stability for the next 10+ years.
In 2003, a Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center (VAMC) Substance Abuse Treatment Section social worker directed Ray to HVAF for assistance.
In the 2003-2004 time frame, Ray sought and received HVAF assistance. Along with housing, HVAF helped Ray with food, clothing, and accountability.
Ray attributes the straight talk and “super swift kick” from people like HVAF Peer Mentor Fred Young as being significant messages he needed to hear in his recovery journey.
“(HVAF) helped me to accept the fact that I needed to make adjustments and changes in my life,” Ray said. “Another thing that really helped me was acceptance of my mental health condition.”
Finally with permanent supportive housing secured, Ray said his homelessness ended in July 2011. Ray now owns his own home, and he married this past March.
“It’s been approximately 15 years since I was last hospitalized for a mental health condition, and I just celebrated 11 years clean and sober,” Ray said.
He attributes his vast amount of volunteerism, as Ray said, “like a medicine to me,” in helping him continue with his sobriety and positive mental health.
Ray volunteers at many philanthropic/service organizations, including: board member to The Coalition for Homelessness Intervention & Prevention (CHIP); board member to Indiana Balance of State Continuum of Care; active member of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) / peer support specialist, Indiana certified recovery specialist, and a VA peer support specialist; trainer for new correctional and police officers around the state; Roudebush VAMC Escort Services transporter.
His latest of many recognitions came from Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) in May, where he received the Supportive Housing Community Champion Award for “demonstrating leadership, action, and a commitment that has affected change in the supportive housing field.”
Ray said he encourages all veterans in need to check out HVAF’s programs and services.
“We are not getting any younger,” Ray said. “And we all have opportunities presented to us every day, and one of the best things we can do is utilize those opportunities.”