Eli is a military veteran who struggled with addiction for over thirty years. After leaving the US Army, he ended up homeless and on the street, but he knew that he wanted to make a change. A Veteran’s Affairs caseworker suggested that he work with the Salvation Army Residential Recovery Program in Atlanta.
While in the recovery program, Eilyah joined Back on My Feet, a non-profit that combats homelessness through the power of running and community support. He eventually landed a job as a Houseman at the JW Marriott Atlanta. In December 2018, Eli will graduate from Atlanta Technical College with a degree in HVAC/R. He has been working on the this degree at night while working full time in order to increase his earning potential. He has also completed four marathons since 2015.
The main takeaway of his ED Talk, “Economic Inclusion of the Story of Eli” will be that the economic development community needs to focus on helping "people like me" that are on the bottom rung and desperately trying to turn their lives around. They need in support in many ways but they also need jobs (and ideally jobs with health benefits). And that's precisely where the economic development profession can help. Economic developers shouldn't just focus on creating technology jobs and life sciences jobs with salaries of $75,000+. An entry level or minimum wage job may not seem like much to the private and public sector leaders that we report to. But it can be a lifeline -- and a path out of poverty -- for Eli and others like him.