Started From The Bottom: Oriel’s Story

“What do you wish people knew about you?” I asked Oriel McCarthy upon meeting him.
“My talent. My ingenuity. My perseverance… That’s more than one.” He said without missing a beat.

I realize now, after getting to know Oriel McCarthy during our interview, that his talent, his ingenuity, and his perseverance (perhaps most of all) are the qualities that define him. Because of Mr. McCarthy’s talent, ingenuity, and perseverance, he was able to overcome every obstacle in his path. “I started from the bottom and now I’m half-way there,” he told me. “I couldn’t have done it without Gateway.”

Oriel McCarthy was born in Jamaica in 1963, but moved to the United States via New York City with his family when he was 12 years old. He attended school in Brooklyn, where he spent his most formative years, but left New York in 2006 for Atlanta. “Things were good for me when I first started,” he explained, “but I caught a charge in Atlanta in 2009 and was then incarcerated. When I got out 5 years later in March of 2014, I wound up being homeless.”

Oriel, like so many young men and women, found himself lost, alone and without resources after being released from prison. He began living on the streets for several months, sleeping frequently in an abandoned house in East Point. Oriel also has a mental health diagnosis, which increased the strain put upon him during this time. Luckily, Mr. McCarthy had a counselor who, after learning his story, referred him to the Gateway Center.

GWC, unfortunately, has only a finite number of program beds available each weekday morning and space is highly coveted. Each day a line begins outside our doors around 4am and continues until 7am when program intake officially begins. Oriel, being the tenacious soul he is, waited in line for 4 days in a row at 5am each day before finally making it into a program spot on the 5th day. “Thank God Amanda and Kayla [Assessment Case Managers] made the decision to give me a chance,” he said.

Since coming to Gateway, Oriel McCarthy’s life has turned a corner. He describes his experience at the Gateway Center as a positive learning experience. In his words:

“People cared about me here. Amanda [Case Manager] has been real good with me. She’s worked with me. At first all I had was my green card and birth certificate. Since I arrived here I’ve got my state ID and I got a job. Everyone’s been so positive with me. I have a lot of appreciation for Gateway because if it wasn’t for this place, I wouldn’t be on my feet–or even half-way there.”

Mr. McCarthy was hired by a Jamaican restaurant on MLK and has already gotten a raise. He’s a hard working man–always going above and beyond what is asked of him, even during his time at the Gateway Center.

“I was doing a lot of chores and caring hours because I wanted to give back. I used to put in–what was required? 4 hours?–I was giving 12 hours a week. I appreciated that there was food on my table, a roof over my head, and clothes on my back. In society you have to work for these things, so I felt the least I could do was show my appreciation and give back. I did what I had to do and the light opened up at the end of the tunnel.”

Today, with the help of his Case Manager, Amanda Van Dalen, Oriel McCarthy is in affordable housing at the Welcome House, but he has his sights set even higher . . .

“I have a bank account now and my goal is to save enough to get my own apartment. I would like someday to be able to volunteer my time and come back to help the rest of the people here. I want to get a car and travel to see my family in NYC because I miss them a lot. Someday I might start my own business. I feel good about my positive direction and intentions. I started from the bottom and now I’m half-way there.”

We couldn’t be more proud of you, Mr.McCarthy! Your Gateway family is rooting for you every step of the way!

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