Eugene Henry, 63, wears a crisp suit and carries a briefcase in hand at all times. His friends and family call him “Bubby.” He’s an older gentleman with grandkids and a twinkle in his eye. Mr. Henry arrived at Gateway in December 2013 and, although he was in a new and unfamiliar place, he had an air of confidence that I would come to know as characteristic.
What I did not know at the time, however, was what Mr. Henry kept inside that briefcase of his … “Trophies,” he calls them. Momentos from the past: awards, letters, and, most notably, a photocopy of a wanted sign featuring a younger-looking version of himself. The photograph is worn, but his likeness is undeniable. Could this really be the Bubby Henry we’ve all come to know and love at GWC?
Eugene spent 17 years in Federal Prison before coming to Gateway. And although he made some big changes during his time in prison, Eugene found himself on the streets with nowhere to go for several days before he sought out Gateway Center’s help. “I’m not the same person I was when I went in,” he explains during our interview, “I dug deep into myself and when I came to Gateway, I made a conscious decision to help other people.”
Eugene did help people. He was quickly recognized by his case manager as a role model for other clients and was promoted to Resident Assistant–helping our case management team and mentoring his peers. Eventually, he rose to “Resident Intern” and began working with staff and gaining customer service skills. Mr. Henry was respectful and always went out of his way to be kind to those who needed his help.
While we spoke, Mr. Henry began to pull out pages from his briefcase and lay them carefully before me on the table. Certificates of achievement, letters
of recommendation, and even an award given him by the Speaker’s Bureau for his role debunking stereotypes about homelessness in Atlanta, one story at a time.
“These are trophies to me. I want to frame them and put them on the wall of my new apartment. Sure, maybe they didn’t come from Georgia State, Emory University, or Harvard, but it means so much to me. I carry them around to remind me of where I’ve been … And where I want to go.”
Eugene was a mentor before he arrived at Gateway and continues to mentor others on their journey long after. He often returns to Gateway to volunteer and help out at the front desk. About Gateway he says, “Gateway is a special place. I wanted to have my own key to my own apartment. Now I have both.”
Congratulations Mr. Henry. We couldn’t be more proud!