Reggie Miller’s two teen boys and his 3-year-old daughter have kept him going over the past few months, which have been among the toughest in his entire life.
Reggie, 47, worked and lived on-site as the maintenance man at an apartment complex near downtown Atlanta. He was proud of his work ethic, and says he often took the initiative to make small repairs or respond to a resident’s request – even in the middle of the night. So when he was called into the office one Friday, he was shocked to learn he was being fired due to the worsening economic climate.
His savings quickly dwindled, and Reggie soon found himself homeless. He was stunned.
“This was my first time on the streets,” he recalls. “I never thought I’d be in that position. It was tough just to find a place to use the restroom or wash my face.”
“You feel like a nobody. When it’s raining, you have to get under a bridge. You get sick. It’s cold out. There’s no medicine. It gets to you.”
For several days, he went hungry.
“I was too proud to go into a soup line,” he says. “You’re so ashamed. You don’t want your friends or anyone to know what’s going on.”
In January 2009, after three months on the street, Reggie was able to register at the Gateway Center.
Reggie was happy to be off the streets, but he was wary about life in the center. On the street, he had to keep his guard up. At the Gateway, he worried about living with total strangers and not getting meals when he wanted them. He wasn’t sure how he’d relate to the staff or how they’d react to him.
After a few weeks, though, Reggie found that he wanted to return the kindness he received from those he encountered at the Gateway.
“If I’m eating a meal, I walk around to make sure everyone else has their tray, too,” Reggie says.
Reggie spends time every day in the Training Program Center on the 3rd floor of the Gateway Center. There he looks for jobs that match his skill set. He immediately flags anything regarding maintenance work, but he’s also scanning for warehouse opportunities. In the long term, he wants to get an HVAC license and get back to using his hands.
“When I was working, I was dependable,” Reggie says.
He also schedules regular visits with his children.
“They’re what keeps me going,” he says. “I want to reunite with my family. I miss waking up in the night and seeing my daughter and sons. I know somewhere, somehow, this is going to happen.”