George's story is one of heartbreak, redemption and joy.
Having come in to the program two years ago as an ATI participant, he was ordered into the North Charleston program instead of being sent to jail. At the hearing he explained to the judge that he had lost his job and was currently homeless and living at the shelter. His clothes were tattered; his eyes were worn, and to all who met him, George looked desperate.
Everyone remembers George's first meeting in the program, when he arrived on a bicycle and hobbled into the front door. Although tired, he smiled, shook hands and said how pleased he was to meet us "fine folks." It didn't take long for the program staff to realize that George was a little slow and could not read. He said that he had never read much, but always liked to work hard. George said that he had a stack of job applications that he needed help with because every time he want to a job site, they asked him to fill one out.
The father of four girls, George's wife of 15 years had kicked him out of the home several months ago; and, he had been homeless since then. The first thing the program did was to get George tested at Vocational Rehabilitation. The results indicated that George was illiterate, and his cognitive abilities were slow, but that he could perform many jobs. With assistance from the program, George was hired for the maintenance department of the Sheraton Hotel. George worked hard. He took three bus routes from the shelter to get to the hotel but arrived on time everyday. Soon George moved out of the homeless shelter; and, with help from the program help, he was able to secure a three-bedroom apartment near work.
Three months passed and George came into a meeting one night very worried about a letter he had received from his preteen daughter telling him about being molested by her mother's boyfriend. He asked the staff to read the letter to him because he knew something was wrong with his baby and he was worried. The next day a member of the program staff went with George to show the letter to Lowcountry Children's Services. They provide counseling to child abuse victims and make reports to DSS. LCS made the report, and soon DSS investigated the claim. A fatherhood program staff member was present at every hearing. The four girls were temporarily placed into foster care; and, six months of investigations and treatment plans ensued.
At the final hearing, DSS determined that abuse had occurred with two of the children, that the mother refused treatment for her alcoholism, and that the offender was still being allowed in the home. Also at the final hearing, the Court awarded custody to George. Although George successfully graduated from the fatherhood program he still visits regularly and reports that his girls are smart and doing well in school. He is so proud!
George still works at the Sheraton and is doing fine. The program referred George to Habitat for Humanity where he met the qualifications for a new house that he should be getting soon. George tells the staff that the program saved his life and his children's souls. For some, George was just a deadbeat dad, but to his daughters, he is their hero.