Location: Gateway Center
Male, Age 56
“Im a hard working men who Love christ
and like to help People”
Daniel Enger: (Interviewer) Good morning Ken, today is October 20, 2021, and we’re here at the Gateway Center in Atlanta, Georgia my name is Daniel Enger, and I have the pleasure of being here with you Ken. Thank you very much for taking the time to talk, I’m looking forward to hearing your story and learning from you Ken. My first question is a really big one namely, could you please tell the story of your live from the time you were a small child up to the present day, and please start by saying your name.
Ken: Good morning, my name is Ken Jones I grew up in a little town called Rome, Georgia it’s like 45 minutes from Atlanta I’m son of parents who were working middle class and once I was born we lived in the projects and then we got a house. My mom was a nurse, and my father was maintenance or janitor he worked all the time. As I was growing up I was the only son with five sisters I had chores to do and everybody had things to do, and my dad was a dysfunctional alcoholic he was very dysfunctional and seem like raging it was always chaos in my dysfunctional family growing up. Fightin and seemed like when I was going to school I felt ashamed of that, shame of the fightin and the way that the kids used to pick on me about my clothes, the clothes I used to wear it was like 1850 style and I was different from everybody else and I felt pretty just bad. I felt bad and because of that torment I seem like I had learning problems I couldn’t learn in school I had I just couldn’t remember things well. Every time I hear a ambulance or firetruck I would get scared. So, time went on and my father progressive with the alcohol got worse and worse and I seen my mother get shot in the back and it was so horrifying I didn’t know I was traumatized, and today I knowed that I was traumatized cause back then we didn’t get no counseling or I continued school and had to stay with my Uncle till she got out and I remember the song “whose that lady “ and I always thought of that song and I finished elementary school, I went to junior high, then I played sports got to dressing better cause I worked summer jobs and every summer I would go to Madison to my grandfather’s house my mother’s family in Madison, Georgia, we’d come through Atlanta often I always thought about Atlanta seen Atlanta and then when I graduated from school I went to Coosa Valley Trade School. I finished school I worked in Atlanta I would come back and forth to Atlanta to work and I always seen a lot of homeless people here in Atlanta but I didn’t never think I was gonna be in that position. So, I got back injuries on my job sort of was dysfunctional as working regular, and I had got married I married a beautiful lady and I had daughters and I got so I was so used to working and taking care of my family and when I got hurt several times I was, just wasn’t able to work and take care of my needs. So, I went through a great depression taking medication as well and I would think about how my daddy was when I was growing up he would try to fight, argue, take the place of his problems and try to put it on somebody else problem and that’s why my mom and dad fought. I learned just by being in the program Gateway that I not only had a alcohol problem but I had a mental aspect problem as well, because it would trigger back to the childhood days. I used to want to leave home and live with somebody else cause I just didn’t like it but finally I had got a divorce because of the alcoholism and I ran away to Atlanta thinking I was gonna get my life together and get back sober and get back with my family. But as I worked the job I went through a recovery program I worked a job and I end up losing my job because of my transportation I wasn’t able to work and I was set in Decatur I had a guy who said they would pick me up so I rented a room in Decatur and that didn’t last long because I wasn’t self-dependable depending on somebody else and I didn’t know the bus routes and I just seen a lot of people out on the street and I was scared. So, I ended up being homeless because I lost my job and I worked several jobs on the street and I was too shame to tell my family that I had lost my jobs and I was just not stayin nowhere. I went to different recovery programs to get help, and then I would fail and go back to street life again and started using drugs. And then I started going back going to recovery again and then I went to the hospital to see about my back and found out I had a degenerated disk and a pinched nerve in my lower back and I went to get help for that. And eventually I went back to work I worked at the Mercedes Benz Stadium I rented an apartment and I had a great friend named Robert who helped me through this addiction I had. And I bought a house and I stopped going to meetings thinking I had this thing, I stayed clean two years and thought I had it and I’d just go to church. So, I ended up working at Mercedes Benz Stadium was working like seven days a week for eight months straight, and I thought I could just drink a glass of wine but come to find out once I drunk that glass of wine a veil come over me and I went back into that addiction mode again. I was wantin a drink every day and I couldn’t keep my job, I ended up leaving my job. So, I stayed out for eight months homeless just tryin to make ends meet I stayed with a few people and they treated me so rough out there it was so crazy that I seen people that a lot of depression, people that had a lot of dysfunctional problems but finally I wanted to live and I know how I was brought up and I thought about the prodigal son and one of my dreams I was sleeping in a house I was working in I had to put insulation over me just to stay warm and I knew then that I had to go and get help again. I went to Saint Jude’s one time and they told me I couldn’t work there because I was getting my disability and I didn’t want to go to work so, I end up coming to Gateway and Wow what a lesson I learned. I said I’d never be at a homeless shelter but I had to put my pride down and face reality, Ken you need help, you need to take care of your responsibility, you need to be back with your family, you need to take care of your daughters, and you need to take care of your mother which is 87 years old, and she prayed for me many nights I know she prayed for me cause this Gateway opened doors for me and I didn’t know what to expect, next thing I know I’m in a jail cell. As many times as I’ve been to jail because of being homeless and shoplifting and doin crazy things I learned that I had a mental and substance abuse problem from my childhood days. And, I went to meetings I had Mr. Wells, Mr. Demetrius, and Ms. Amber and the whole staff of Gateway would work with me I end up doing chores I consistently did it every day because I wanted my life back they fed me. Today I feel like I work here as a counselor I treat this place like it’s my house. I make sure downstairs is ready for the homeless people to take showers every day, feed em, I talk to em every morning I tell em how they’re doin. I work with the maintenance Mr. Greg he taught me, I’ve done maintenance, but he taught me how to work around people and to keep myself up and be consistent at what I do and if I say I’mma do somethin do it, being consistent and being responsible. I went through the apprenticeship program I went through the internship work here at the internship for eight weeks, I finished my substance abuse class and now I’m in housing and today I have a house, I had a house in Snellville and I left it cause of my addiction, but now I got an apartment I move into an apartment in November. And, I’ve got some property that I have in Madison, Georgia that I’m getting back cause I’m getting back reunited with my family, I’m loving my daughter every day I talk to her, God has restored my life back (pause crying) I’m so happy to be back to a decent human being in society again a productive member of society again. And, I will always come back to work and help out at Gateway, I worked with Ms. Amber I fold towels, I help her with the closing closets, I make sure the towels are done every morning, I tell people what to do as far as the chores situations in the dome upper ward the recovery program we have. I’m just grateful for this Gateway, I’m grateful to have a place to go back to, I’m grateful to go back to my church, I’m grateful for anybody who called me today I am sober and clean to go and help anybody that need help if I can and, I look forward to my future. It ain’t what I want to do I think it’s what God’s purpose is in my life, my purpose in life is tell people about my homelessness, my addiction, my mental abuse, and childhood growing up, as well as making big money and taking it and having nice big houses, thinking I was higher than other people. And, my church had me to tell people about substance abuse, cigarettes, smoking and how to quit things. I ran from that so many times, I ran from doing God’s work and I ran back to doing what I wanted to do, and I ended up always being the prodigal son on the street. I thank you for letting me share this story I share it out of my heart and I thank Gateway, I thank Atlanta I thank the State Department, I thank the Police Department (crying) cause yall saved my life thank you for letting me share it.
Daniel: Ken, of all the things that you’ve accomplished or overcome in your life so far, what are you most proud of?
Ken: Rededicating myself to God and helping people that have the same problems I have went through in childhood, or addiction mode or anything that’s causing them to fall into the same problems that I went through, I try and help people why they just want to linger in it for a long period of time.
Daniel: Ken, you’ve gained a lot of hard-fought wisdom from experiences in your life so far, if you were invited to share your wisdom with school kids in your community giving them guidance to live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives what would you tell them?
Ken: To always have a positive attitude, always know that you can achieve anything you want to, not with the can’t, I can’t do something, there’s no such word as that you can do anything. Mind your parents, your mentors, your teachers, people that are there to teach you if something ain’t right don’t do it.
Daniel: Ken in what ways would you say that your life is going well these days? I know you already addressed that. Please talk a little bit about how life is good for you at the present day.
Ken: Life is good to me today cause if I decide I want to go somewhere or go see my mother, take care of the yard do something around her house or I could leave I have restored back some of the things I lost, and I’m dependable on my little job I’m gettin, I used to have a service called Honey Dew Services and while I was here I was doing small jobs for them but now they know that I’m dependable and I’m gone do the best I can on each job I do. Same thing with my mother, and the same thing with praising God that’s the only way I can make it through Him I can’t do it on my own.
Daniel: How did that happen Ken, what led to things going well for you who or what has contributed most to your doing well these days?
Ken: As to me doing well was learning that I was powerless I can’t control what nobody think, I can’t control how they feel about me, I cannot control drugs and alcohol and I been to many substance abuse clinics, drug rehabs, meetings but the most important one was Gateway Upward Program. They taught me a lot of morals, taught me responsibility, and they taught me that I cannot do one of any mind-altering drugs. I can’t go by my feelings make me want to run to do things that’s not right.
Daniel: Ken, looking ahead now when it comes to living a healthy, safe, stable, and happy life what are your hopes and dreams looking ahead?
Ken: My hopes and dreams looking ahead is to stay healthy, to eat I’ve been concerned about my health wise as well since I been here. Going to the doctors, making appointments and keeping them, seeing about my colon cancer every year, and going to church and going to group meetings. Just going to meetings, going to schools I want to go to tell people about careers go to college, go to trade school to do something positive with their life instead of thinking that somebody gone give them something, cause nobody don’t owe nobody nothing but yourself.
Daniel: Ken, as you pursue those hopes and dreams what are some of the personal strengths you draw on?
Ken: My sponsor, my higher power, staff members, going to meetings, doing positive things, don’t have to steal, don’t have to do nothin that’s against the law, doing the right things and ask if I want something, cause somebody always watching.
Daniel: Ken, what challenges and obstacles do you see standing between you and the realization of your hopes and dreams, what holds you back?
Ken: Negative thinking, doubten, pursuing my goals, learning to accept the things I can’t change, and the courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference, that’s my Serenity Prayer.
Daniel: Ken, what needs to be done so that those challenges and obstacles can be overcome and you can realize your personal hopes and dreams?
Ken: I’d like to be a counselor, I’d like to open up shelters, I’d like to help centers like Gateway, Atlanta Mission, I’d like to volunteer New Life Church is a great church that does help a lot of people on Candler Road and just be a part of caring for people. I can’t look down just because somebody is less fortunate than me as I, because they probably went through somethin everybody done went through something, you never know what another person has went through in life. I know there’s a lot of mental institutions have been shut down, like Northwest Regional in Rome, Georgia, and they got a State Georgia Regional here in Atlanta. And I noticed a lot of people here in Atlanta is from them places and I think they need to reopen state mental health centers again. Or send them somewhere they can live or get help instead of just leaving them on the street.
Daniel: Ken, allow me now to shift to the community. How would you describe your community, or who are the people who make up your community?
Ken: I don’t know how to answer that question but I was at church last week Sunday and this gentlemen that’s on the school board they’ve given funds to help the community but the community’s not spending it wisely. I notice some of the colleges here in Atlanta they got all kind of grants but the facilities are still the same as in 1960, so, who’s managing the money I don’t know but I think we need to look at manageability, look out for other people instead of just trying to keep and put money in our pockets for ourselves honestly.
Daniel: Ken, do you feel that you are a part of a community, and if so how would you describe that community?
Ken: Today I’m a part of this community that’s caring the Gateway Center Community is caring they would love to pick somebody clean somebody up, wash em but the person has got to wanna be able to get help. I see a lot of people that don’t really want to get help, they just want to come wash up and go back out there and do the same thing over and over again. But, I know these health facilities around here they really care about these people in Atlanta, they really do all of em they open they doors, give em shelter, give em somthin to eat, and give em resource to go get help. I really think that me being in the situation now I never been around this situation before til I been at Gateway I ain’t never been at no property like this. And they out there just hurtin their self just fightin each other man when they got help in here they got help but they rather stay out there and fight. I don’t know how to solve that problem.
Daniel: Ken, when it comes to living a healthy, safe, stable, and happy life how would you describe the hopes and dreams of people in this community, what are their hopes and dreams?
Ken: For the one’s that want it they’ll come in the shelter and get all that Gateway have to offer, and they will help them with housing, with stability, maintain sobriety, help them with glasses health, they give you all that free clinic here. I feel real good about the people that’s tryin to help these people out here on the street, like they helped me.
Daniel: Ken, in this community what are some of the strengths that people draw on as they strive to realize their hopes and dreams and live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives?
Ken: Just being around this community here when people come out of Gateway when somebody working on somethin good and they strong, they look clean, they look nice and they can remember this guy was out here knocking on the door trying to come in here when they first got here, and then when they come back two or three months later and see having a house to go to, that builds the people out there up, they know it can be done they just gotta make that choice to do it.
Daniel: Ken, again speaking of this community what are some of the challenges and obstacles that make it harder for people here to realize their hopes and dreams and live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives what holds them back?
Ken: Doin what the next man do, watchin other people, don’t want to man up and make their own decisions. It’s just like a game they all want to be in that game I think they want the easy way out I don’t know ain’t used to havin something. I guess they just born like that they feed off each other.
Daniel: Ken, from your perspective what’s needs to be done so that those challenges and obstacles can be overcome and people in your community can realize their hopes and dreams and live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives? What needs to be done to over come the challenges that you just talked about?
Ken: Need to open up more doors for help and assistance, need more help and assistance like the mental institutions they need to open them doors up, need to open more doors like Gateway, Atlanta Mission, and if they want to stay out on the street, if they have a place to go it’s no reason for them to be on the street if they decide to be on the street there should be some consequences about that cause you don’t need to keep clean up the city and not keep it miserable. I would take pride in my state and my county and make sure it was cleaned up if I had choices to do that.
Daniel: Ken, imagine please that you’re a powerful leader you’re a decision maker who could really make things happen, how would you change the system to help people in your community to realize their hopes and dreams and live a healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives. You’re a powerful leader and you can change the system what would you do?
Ken: I would make a homeless rehabilitation center you take em off the streets like they do in jail and make em have to get up, they have to make they beds up they have to clean themselves up, they have to clean up the areas. I would have shelter refuge I don’t know what I would call it but I would make sure that they would be taken care of but I would make sure that they would be given some responsibilities instead of them just thinking they can get the easy way out. And once they graduate I would help em with housing to get em back on their feet. But they gotta start getting rebilitated it ain’t what they want to do it’s got to be ordered it’s got to be mandated.
Daniel: Ken, my final question for you please, imagine you had a million dollars and you could spend it to help your community realize their hopes and dreams and live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives how exactly would you spend a million dollars to do that?
Ken: I’d do like these centers do give em a place to get help mercy care like Gateway I would have them have places to go it’d be mandated make sure their health is taken care of, pay the doctors and stuff to make sure everybody is healthy to makem productive that’ll boost the economy up by working people and it’d cut a lot of welfare off and everything else by people working. And get right medical conditions I think that’s pretty much it. Thanks for letting me share that it comes from my heart.