Utah man discovers friend living homeless, helps him return home

Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY – In the middle of downtown Salt Lake City, three friends reunited on the sidewalk in front of City Creek Mall. It's actually the spot where they first met under remarkable circumstances three years ago and where Korey Hathaway used to camp out and beg for money.

"In a way, I didn't want to come back here. I hate to see what I was like down here but in a way, it's kind of closure," explained Hathaway.

One of the friends standing with him on the sidewalk admitted she didn't think they would be back together under happy circumstances. "I wasn't sure you were ever going to leave the streets," said Candice Madsen.

In April 2017, Korey Hathaway was living with drug addiction and had been homeless for five years. He landed on the streets after he broke his hand in a construction accident and became addicted to pain medication, and then heroin.

"At first you want it. Then it gets to the point you need it to get by. There at the end, I wasn't myself. I didn't like myself," said Hathaway. "The only thing that pulled me out of it was Michael."

Michael Hansen found Hathaway when he bent down to give a sleeping homeless man a dollar and realized it was his best friend from childhood.

"When I looked up at him my jaw hit the floor pretty much because it was my best friend from elementary school all through high school," Hansen remembered.

Madsen, a KSL-TV producer, happened to be walking by and noticed the friends sharing a pizza in the middle of the sidewalk. "The longer I watched the more intrigued I was and finally I heard one of them say, 'Let's get a picture.'"

Madsen volunteered to take the picture and that's when they told her they hadn't seen each other in 14 years. "Then I said, 'You are not going to believe this. I'm a journalist and this is an amazing story.''

Madsen produced a story about the reunion for KSL-TV and after it aired people all over the world cheered on the friend.

But getting Hathaway off the street was not an easy journey.

Hathaway said his addiction and fear of failing and letting his family down again, kept him on the streets. "I always wanted a way out from being homeless. I just didn't know how," he said.

Hansen's long journey to get Hathaway off the streets finally ended in the spring of 2018, when Hathaway was hospitalized.

Hathaway credits friends and family for helping him get back his life.
Hathaway credits friends and family for helping him get back his life. (Photo: Michael Hansen)

"Michael came and gave me a blessing and it's been going uphill ever since," said Hathaway.

Hansen remembered driving to the hospital and thinking that his friend was going to die. But when he offered the blessing, he knew his friend could live.

"In that moment I knew that if he would do everything that the physicians asked him to do that he would actually live," Hansen said.

It was a miracle that Hathaway did live. He spent nearly three months in and out of hospitals for heart, lung and kidney failure. Doctors didn't think he would be able to get off dialysis without a transplant, but he did.

"I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for what the doctors and nurses did," said Hathaway.

Hathaway credited many people for helping him get his life back — including the dentist that gave him back his smile. "I can actually eat food — real food."

Many friends also encouraged him but at the top of that list — his mother who never gave up hope.

"What else can I say? She's my mom. Moms are always there for you," said Hathaway.

The rest of his family was also able to let go of the past to welcome him with lots of love.

Korey is making amends with his family.
Korey is making amends with his family. (Photo: Korey Hathaway)

"There's always forgiveness. You just got to find a way to receive it," Hathaway said.

Since he's been home, Hathaway has asked for a lot of forgiveness and has begun to heal many of his relationships — including the one with his son. "I've been trying to make it up to him. Spend as much time with him as I can. Before it was Korey. Now I'm Dad."

Hansen said his friend is back to the person he would trust with his life. "I've seen him go from living right here on the sidewalk to living at home, and you can see how amazing and a changed person he is," he said.

Hathaway said there are other reasons besides addiction that lead to homelessness. "Every person has their own story. The thing that made a big difference to me is when people would stop and talk to me and acknowledge that I was human," he said.

Hansen and Hathaway wanted to do something special to give back and say thanks to all the people that helped them along their journey. They teamed up with Madsen to produce an old-time radio show based on their story. You can listen to the show here.

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Candice Madsen


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