“Everything I do now, I’m trying to do the right way.”

March 23, 2022

Otis arrived at Roof Above with a purpose. “I came here to get the most done I can and then move on,” he says. At age 61, he’s proud to say he’s headed down a new path. “I’m trying to do positive things,” he says. “Keep my mind positive. Everything I do now, I’m trying to do it the right way.”  

Since Otis came to the Howard Levine Men’s Shelter last fall, Esther Ward has helped him get his birth certificate, Social Security card, and driver’s license. Best of all, she helped him claim the Social Security benefits he’ll be eligible to receive in May. Dee Dee Durr helped him get a cell phone and showed him how to set up an email account, build a resume and apply for jobs. He’s landed a position with Atrium Health making $15 an hour and hopes his paycheck combined with Social Security will soon help him afford a place of his own.

Otis lived in New York as a child but spent summers in Charlotte with his grandmother. He says his mother moved him and his two sisters 

almost every month to get them away from their father, an abusive alcoholic. When Otis was 12, in 1972, his mother moved to Charlotte for good. But they lived in a rough part of town, and he was introduced to drugs at an early age. By age 16, Otis was carrying a pistol every day. He says he learned to do what it took to survive on the street, and his family feared for his safety.  “My mom and them, they didn’t think I would live to be this age. But that’s the street. I’ve had enough of that.”  He’s determined to make the most of the time he has left. “My last years will be my best years,” he said.  

Otis graduated from North Mecklenburg High School and played ball at Ohio Valley University. He lived and worked in New York for years and still feels a pull toward the city, but he knows rent there is expensive. He’s a skilled car mechanic who’s ready to get his hands on his tools again.

He makes a point of sharing his gratitude with Roof Above staff: “Thank you for helping me change my life. Because coming here, that’s what it’s done for me.”