Life with Gracie: Opening doors for metro Atlanta’s homeless

Roderick Streeter lives with his toddler in an upstairs two-bedroom apartment, still a little uneasy about their future.

In a good week, his job with a local moving company commands barely $200 a week, and there have been weeks when he didn’t work at all.

And so while he is thankful to finally have a place to call home, he can’t help but worry that he and Roderick Jr. could end up shuffling between shelters, soup lines and street benches.

It happened before.

Each year, a staggering 2.5 million children are homeless in the U.S. Of those, 73,953 live in Georgia.

Last year, there were 4,300 homeless people in metro Atlanta.

This is not a new problem. Family and child homelessness as a significant social problem in the United States dates back to the mid-1980s. Since then, the number of homeless families with children has steadily increased, now constituting nearly 40 percent of the overall homeless population.

Fathers like Streeter, however, are often missing from any discussion, but we hear a lot about single moms and rightly so. Although mothers are still the primary parents in the majority of homeless families, the Urban Institute estimates that some 16 percent of homeless families include a dad.

Until a month ago when a woman snapped a photo of him and his little boy in a soup line and posted it on Facebook, Roderick Streeter was one of them.

He became homeless last year for all the usual, complicated reasons. The high cost of child care, no child care, until finally no job.

“I didn’t have a baby sitter,” he said. “I missed so much work, they let me go.”

Unable to pay rent, Streeter lost his home and everything he owned. His parents long dead and young sisters with their own problems, he had no one to turn to for help.

Homeless shelters turned them away. They didn’t accept men with children, he was told.

And so for half a year, Streeter, with his little boy in tow, wandered from soup line to soup line for food and from park bench to hospital bench for rest. Once, he awakened to find someone had taken little Roderick from his arms.

In a panic, he headed to nearby Grady Hospital, and just as he approached the emergency room door, Streeter spotted a stranger carrying his little boy.

He reached and grabbed him and ran.

If you’re shaking your head in wonderment just about now, I understand. Imagine the horror Streeter must have felt.

In December, his luck seemed to change. The woman who snapped that photo and collected his phone number called. She knew someone who knew someone who knew someone who could help.

The six degrees of separation theory that says we’re each six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world was working on the father’s behalf.

The woman reached out to Torreen Cummings, the vice president of business development at CFLane, a real estate company and strong supporter of Open Doors, the collaborative of nonprofits and private real estate companies that works to find permanent housing for the homeless.

“Our goal is to reduce the glut of homelessness in Atlanta,” said Aaron Goldman, one of its co-founders. “There are lots of very good housing efforts in the city, but this is the first one that formalizes a relationship with the private sector — that’s the magic. It’s led to housing on a much efficient and effective scale than anywhere in the country.”

Open Doors, MMM's 2016 Nonprofit Partner, houses the homeless from MMM Law on Vimeo.

Cummings immediately reached out to Open Doors, and by the end of January, the 41-year-old single dad and his son were off the street, at home just off Campbellton Road in Atlanta.

When we last spoke, they were using their connections to help Streeter land a better-paying job.

Since 2012, Open Doors has helped find housing for more than 3,000 individuals and families, who are matched with vocational, financial, mental health and other services to help them toward long-term stability.

Last year alone, the collaborative placed homeless men and women in 606 apartments. They say more landlords willing to help are needed.

People who are aware of Open Doors’ efforts offer the collaborative high praise. Supporters and donors include a who’s who of the local apartment community, as well as law firm Morris Manning and Martin.

“It’s doing amazing work for the homeless within our community,” said Louise Wells, managing partner at MMM. “We are 100 percent committed to helping them reduce homelessness in the Atlanta area.”

Who couldn’t get behind that?

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Living

Things to do around Atlanta: Jazz, Boo at the Zoo and Zaved Akhtar
Things to do around Atlanta: Jazz, Boo at the Zoo and Zaved Akhtar

“Boo at the Zoo,” which kicks off this weekend, will provide fun for the whole family at Zoo Atlanta. There’s also jazz at the Velvet Note and the sounds of India with Javed Akhtar. If you want something more educational, check out the interactive exhibit in downtown Atlanta on the global refugee crisis by Doctors Without Borders...
Atlanta Opera’s ‘West Side Story’ still relevant 60 years later
Atlanta Opera’s ‘West Side Story’ still relevant 60 years later

Musicals come and go, but the story of the Sharks vs. the Jets, of Tony and Maria who fall in love against the odds, can still seem as moving today as when it premiered more than 60 years ago. When the Atlanta Opera opens its 2018-19 season with a new production of the classic musical at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre on Nov. 3, the...
Robert DeNiro visits Atlanta for Nobu groundbreaking at Phipps Plaza
Robert DeNiro visits Atlanta for Nobu groundbreaking at Phipps Plaza

After several minutes of comprehensive details and thanks from local city officials and Simon mall executives, Robert DeNiro trotted to the podium in his casual black ensemble and sneakers, grinned and said, “It’s gonna be great!” An hour later, seated to the side of the groundbreaking area for the 10,000-square-foot Nobu Hotel and...
7 of the spookiest places to celebrate Halloween in America
7 of the spookiest places to celebrate Halloween in America

Bone-chilling buildings, eerie trails and even stranger worlds are guaranteed situations for horrifying fun this fall. Across the nation, major cities and whistle-stop towns take All Hallows' Eve to astronomical extremes to give the masses iconic, horror movie-like scares and amusement.  424 Market St. San Diego, California 92101 Once ranked as...
Where will your family’s diaries and scrapbooks end up? Make a plan now
Where will your family’s diaries and scrapbooks end up? Make a plan now

Many of the state’s archives and libraries celebrate October as Georgia Archives Month. Among the institutions that collect and preserve historical documents, books and other artifacts are the Georgia Archives, National Archives at Atlanta, larger universities, as well as public and private regional colleges and many local historical societies...
More Stories