Happy Father’s Day from Roof Above! We appreciate all the fathers and father figures in our lives. May today be filled with cherished memories and the love of those closest to your hearts.
Ask Keith Jackson about his family and he beams. Keith has a blended family with two sons and two daughters, and when his wife retired, they moved to Charlotte to be close to their grandchildren. Ranging in age from two to ten, his four grandchildren keep him busy when he’s not at Roof Above. He shows up for their recitals and plays and activities. During weekend sleepovers, they get active at the park and spoiled with treats. Papa Keith, as they call him, is all in, introducing his grandchildren to as many different things as he can.
Keith is all in at work too. He serves as a Neighbor Support Specialist (NSS) at Roof Above’s Day Services Center. When Keith was hired, the NSS position was brand new. Keith has a background in working with people experiencing homelessness and in security, so he was a natural fit. As with any new position, his job description has evolved. “It’s actually a good thing. It gives you room to grow and to shift gears and to really use different ways to implement things. You’re not restricted. I feel there’s room that we can make things happen that aren’t necessarily inside the box, that we can figure things out and be creative.”
Keith finds it easy to relate to the neighbors. “I struggled through school and with finding myself and with a sense of insecurity. So that led me to do things that I’m not very proud of. I started drinking a lot and partying too much and ran the streets.”
After finding a church program, Keith chose to change his life. He has been sober for 30 years. “Part of the reason why I want to help out is because I know where some of the neighbors have been, and I know what they’re going through.”
Keith understands the value of mentorship. “When I was at my lowest, I had some really good men who invested time in me. There was a mentor who I literally spoke to every day for a year. He really showed me what it was to be a role model.”
Keith’s father was a provider and made sure his family was okay, but he wasn’t nurturing. While Keith doesn’t blame his father for that, he decided to parent differently. “With my children, I’ve always told them how much I loved them. I always made an effort to say, ‘Guys, I love you. I’m here for you.’
“I really wanted to live that and not just say it. That’s how I developed the way that I deal with younger men. And now that I’m here at Roof Above with not necessarily younger men, but older men too, the principles are still the same. You’re dealing with people who need to be listened to, who have a need, who have a story.”
Keith has a bachelor’s degree in counseling. He believes his gift lies in one-on-ones, talking with people. Keith’s desire to help others is evident in how he shows up every day, whether he’s offering someone a bottle of water, listening with patience to someone’s experience, or even saving someone’s life by administering Narcan. When asked about his role as an NSS, he says, “It’s rewarding and it’s hard. It’s not an easy job to do. But what I tell people is that it wasn’t always easy for me. And then, knowing that you have someone who can take a moment just to even listen, to care, that’s huge. You can make a small difference in someone’s day. It’s a big deal.”
Keith believes that part of his success at work is because of the people at Roof Above. “Everyone here has made me feel welcome, from my supervisors to all the volunteers, the staff, my coworkers, even the neighbors. I love the people that I work with. I feel empowered to help. My supervisors value my opinion, and they’ve given me the room to stretch out and see if there’s anything that I can do, within reason, to really help the neighbors.”
The lessons Keith has learned as a father and mentor help him to shine in his role as an NSS at Roof Above.