The red brick house on Lincoln Draw off 27th Street doesn’t look any more remarkable than the homes in its neighborhood, but the potential for transformation inside is remarkable.
The house at 2401 Lincoln Drive is Hays’ first Oxford House — and the first in northwest Kansas — part of an international network of more than 2,400 houses and 20,000 men and women helping each other from addiction to sobriety.
Working with Kansas Workforce One, a program that helps those released from correctional facilities to find employment, Smoky Hill Foundation and other organizations, the house has been in the works for several months.
Other than a $4,000 startup loan from the Oxford House Association, the house will be self-sufficient, with residents paying a weekly share of expenses into a house fund.
Oxford House Kratos — named for the Greek god of strength — opened in mid-September with the help of Brad Colglazier, Rozel, and Kris McCory, Hutchinson. Each of the men sought help at Oxford Houses in Great Bend and Hutchinson, respectively, and jumped at the chance to spread the concept to Hays.
The Hays Oxford House is chartered for 10 people, and Colglazier expects to reach capacity within a matter of weeks. The residents will be from Hays.
“We’re not bringing people in from outside Hays,” Colglazier said. “We’re here to help Hays residents and make Hays a cleaner place.
“Once this house fills up, and we have a waiting list for a couple of months, then hopefully we can open another one. We’d like to open a women’s house,” he said.
Colglzier joined the Great Bend Credence Oxford House — one of three in the community — about eight months ago after years of alcoholism and drug addiction.
“It started 22 years ago for me,” when he attended Colby Community College and Fort Hays State University, he said.
He farms with his father near Rozel, and spending his days alone at work made it easy to drink.
“I drank beer ever day,” he said. “I was a very functioning alcoholic. I went to work every day at 6 o’clock and didn’t get home ’til 10 at night.”
He had a short bout with drugs — methamphetamines, cocaine, opioids — after getting a prescription for painkillers.
The addictions led to health problems including pancreatitis.
“I went through a spell with my heart that scared the crap out of me,” Colglazier said.
“I finally just got sick and tired of hurting my family, hurting my friends, not being accountable,” he said.
“When I first came into Oxford, my idea was I’m going to stay here for three months to make people happy, stay clean for three months to make my family happy. Been here for eight months and I’m starting another house in Hays.
“It's fulfilling to help people while you’re helping yourself,” he said.
“I’ve been sober three different times in my life. Oxford House is helping me maintain that sobriety. It gives me that accountability that I need,” he said.
“I’m enjoying being clean. When you go to one of your kids’ ballgames it’s nice to be there clean and enjoy talking to people and not feel like you have to hide because you’re messed up,” he said.
McCory, a Hutchinson native, started out using marijuana.
“I graduated to methamphetamines. That was my drug of choice,” he said.
He’s been in jail about 15 times in about a dozen years, he said, mostly for theft to support his habit. His addictions have kept him apart from his family. He has two children, ages 11 and 2.
“I wasn’t in their lives for quite awhile because of drugs. They basically lived without their dad,” he said.
“My daughter, she might not completely understand, but my son does,” he said.
He moved into Oxford House Niam in Hutchinson on Christmas night last year, three days after his last stint in jail. After a few months, he moved to another of Hutchinson’s nine Oxford Houses that was in need of residents.
“I wouldn’t choose anything else right now. If you gave me a million dollars, I wouldn’t choose anything else,” McCory said about starting the Hays Oxford House.
“I like to see the smile on people’s faces when we accept them, and then when they know they’re going to have a safe place to lay their head,” he said.
Both men said the key to success is the accountability Oxford House provides.
“There’s a zero-tolerance policy for any drugs or alcohol. None,” Colglazier said. “To get in the house, you have to have a desire to stay clean.”
The houses are democratically run by the residents. They elect officials, vote on how to spend the house’s money, and interview and vote on accepting applicants into the house.
Residents are also required to contribute to the household chores and attend three meetings a week, aside from the weekly house meeting.
“It can be church, it can be with your sponsor, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Bible study, outpatient treatment,” Colglazier said.
“If we have an issue with a member, it’s addressed in a house meeting and the house votes to evict that member if it’s a problem,” Colglazier said.
There’s a two-week preliminary phase with restrictions, but after that, residents have a lot of freedom. They can leave for work — Colglazier drives back and forth to his farm every day — and stay with family up to three nights a week. Spouses, girlfriends and children can spend the night.
“It’s a safe environment for the kids. It’s a healthy environment,” Colglazier said.
But the strongest aspect of Oxford House is the support the residents can give each other, Colglazier and McCory said.
“I can come home at night and talk to Kris and he’s going to understand my problems,” Colglazier said. “It’s like having a group of counselors that you get to come home to every night, because those people understand what you’re going through or those troubles you might have had that day.”
“We talk every day,” McCrory said. “It’s the accountability that keeps us strong.”
“You don’t even have to try to hold people accountable. When you’re all out for one goal, you care about what the other guy is doing,” Colglazier said.
“It’s a family. It’s a family. Everybody in here is my brother,” he said.
Oxford House also desires a sense of community, Colglazier said, with community service projects such as clean-up days and fundraisers. Oxford Houses are sending money to North Carolina for hurricane relief, and in Hutchinson, when an Oxford House alumnus’ business lost its roof in a storm, the houses there raised money to help with his expenses.
“We like to get out in the community and put our face out there. I think there’s maybe a tendency for people to be … I don’t want to say scared, but I think addicts and alcoholics are misunderstood,” Colglazier said. “We would like to help them understand that we’re just people that want to get better.”