It Can Happen to Anybody… By Bill Mueller

In FTHP’s 10+ years of serving up hot breakfasts on Saturday mornings in downtown Atlanta we have heard a lot of different stories from our friends on the street about what led to their homelessness. Yes, there are plenty of broken families, mental illness, domestic abuse, prolonged addiction, legal problems, veterans with PTSD and all the usual suspects. But sometimes it’s just a bit of bad luck and bad timing.

One of those who experienced some bad luck is Roderick Streeter, a committed and loving dad of his young son, Roderick, Jr. He had a job and an apartment and while he was struggling a bit managing everything (including full custody of little Roderick), he was making it. Then he got laid off unexpectedly through no fault of his own. Bad luck. And with no financial cushion to see him through the job-hunting process, they lost their apartment and father and son ended up on the streets of Atlanta.

They stayed homeless for several months – scrambling to get meals and other kinds of help when and where they could. Roderick eventually heard about FTHP’s Saturday morning breakfast service and brought Roderick, Jr. several times for a hot and hearty meal. On the fourth Saturday in a row that father and son were waiting first in line at 6:45am on a cold December morning, a couple of our trained leaders started a conversation with Roderick and learned of his situation. It was clear that Roderick was eager to find work and willing to do whatever he could to make a life for him and his son. But for a guy living on the edge, that single stroke of bad luck in getting laid off proved more than he could handle on his own. And things spiraled downhill from there. It could happen to anybody.

In line with our organization’s expanded mission to go “beyond breakfast”, we saw an opportunity to offer a hand up. FTHP took the lead and enlisted the help of other nonprofits and generous individuals. Together, we helped Roderick find a job, housing assistance, subsidized daycare and more. Donations streamed in and helped to furnish their apartment. And we worked with Roderick to put together a household budget that showed him how to manage income and expenses for the short and even the longer term.

Long story short, Roderick and his son are doing great. He has a stable job and has been promoted to manager of a quick-service restaurant. He is totally financially self-sufficient. His son is doing well in school. Both are healthy and happy and positive about their future. And both are extremely grateful.

Everybody on the street has a story to tell. Often it’s complicated and involves many years of bad decisions and failures of all kinds and not learning from mistakes and being unwilling to help themselves toward a better life. But sometimes it’s just a little bit of bad luck. It can happen to anybody. It happened to Roderick Streeter but he didn’t let it defeat him. He accepted a little bit of a hand up and worked hard to rebuild and regain his productive life.

We at FTHP are glad Roderick found our breakfast line and grateful for the generosity of our sponsors and others who made it possible for us to offer him a hand up. And we are thrilled that he worked so hard to turn things around and is doing so well. Seeing him today it’s hard to imagine him and his son living for months and months on the street. But for those who live close to the edge of poverty, it doesn’t take much for things to go downhill fast. It can happen to anybody. And when it happens to somebody in our Saturday morning breakfast line we’ll be ready to go “beyond breakfast” again to help them get off the street, get back on their feet and turn things around – one at a time, when they’re ready.