Someone once said, ‘there is no greater love than that of a father for his daughter; and when you hear the way this one particular father coats his words in wisdom and reflection, you know that despite the downs of life, parenting has always been an up. PAD participant Eddie is quiet when he wants, talkative when intrigued, and a vessel of Light when talks about his daughter.
In fact, his daughter is the reason why Eddie – a Florida native – made the move to Atlanta.
“I’m a single dad and I moved here from Florida about six years ago because my daughter wants to sing. After a while, we moved to the Westside because jobs around where we stayed were hard to get because I didn’t have childcare.”
Through connections such as the Peachtree & Pine Shelter who helped William take care of his daughter while he worked, Eddie was able to maintain a living and a roof over both their heads. After years of hard work, dedication and sacrifice, Eddie paid for his daughter’s graduation fees and sent her off to college with pride you can see in his eyes today.
Then life happened. And Eddie lost his job. Soon after, he began living on the streets and fell into a depression he didn’t think he would overcome. It wasn’t until the day Eddie was referred to PAD by an APD officer that he was able to start the journey back to stability.
For Eddie, PAD has placed him in a better position in life where can fully live and dream while being safe and secure. Since being with PAD, he has found housing and just recently became employed with Delta at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport as a result of a connection PAD provided between Eddie and the Atlanta Public Defender’s Office employment program.
Eddie feels more people could have a similar transformation if Atlantans really tried to understand what those trying to survive truly go through.
“Atlanta is not built for a poor person…the worst part about this area is the mental health issues. Some people – and the word crazy shouldn’t be used – don’t have the mental capacity to care for themselves. We need housing with treatment options like medication. The same for drugs too.”
While Eddie sees treatment as a necessity, he feels the treatment should be given with genuine compassion for the person and in a way that is helpful but also liberating. These enriching specifics are key to harm reduction, PAD’s philosophy of care. Through a non-judgmental approach to care that prioritizes health and safety, PAD care navigators understand that recovery is a process that takes time; it is each individual’s choice to begin their recovery journey in however way or means that fit.
“You can’t force people to stop, but [you can] diagnose. And I mean really diagnose them to provide help…Give [people living with unmet mental health needs and addiction] freedom. Give them an opportunity or help them find something. Don’t give me a hand out, give me a hand up.”
The ‘hand up’ Eddie has received as a participant of PAD has truly changed parts of his life. No longer worried about if he will have a bed to lay his head at night, Eddie can now carry his head in the clouds focused on his dreams. In five years, Eddie hopes to start his own business and make his own personal impact on the community of Atlanta.
This storytelling project was made possible by DeShonna Johnson-Garay, graduate student in public policy at the University of Georgia and PAD communications & advocacy intern. In summer 2019, DeShonna created a platform for participants and community members to share their perspectives on community safety, recovery, and Atlanta.