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From Homelessness to City Hall: A Success Story | News

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From Homelessness to City Hall: A Success Story

Homelessness can take on many faces, especially in an economy which has left many unemployed for so long.

Two women have used a little-known program to go from homelessness to Atlanta City Hall.

On this day, Miaya Johnson answers phones, files papers, and types entries into the computer -- and can't help but wonder if it's all real.

"Thankful isn't even a strong enough word," she says.

It's her seventh day as the new executive assistant for Atlanta City Councilmember Kwanza Hall -- a job she got several months after finding herself homeless.

"I was just in a really bad home situation," says Johnson, "both for myself and my children, and I decided I needed to get out of it."

So she did the strong thing: took her family out of what she calls a "mentally abusive" marriage, despite not having her own source of income. Johnson found a transitional shelter; then she found First Step Staffing, which helps the homeless find employment.

"It's one of the reasons people don't get back in the workforce," Councilmember Hall said. "They feel there are no opportunities."

Hall was looking for a way to spotlight programs to help the homeless; he has made his executive assistant position a rotating opportunity for people who have fallen on hard times.

Erica Merriwether was Hall's first assistant hired from First Step Staffing. Those who knew her home situation kept it a secret around City Hall -- until a reception honoring her Monday night.

"They were just in awe to think, 'OK we would have never imagined what's happened in your life,'" Merriwether said.

She now works at the Mansion on Peachtree in the accounts payable department. In addition, Merriwether has also purchased a new home. She shares a similar drive to Johnson, her successor at City Hall -- women who never imagine they'd be homeless but have taken the right steps to get back up.














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