He has a new home, now needs church clothes

01/10/2013 6:05 PM

01/10/2013 6:43 PM

Eddie Miller, a Vietnam veteran, was displaced from the apartment he shared with his friend after he refused to let him use drugs in their home.

“I wouldn’t let him do drugs in there with me,” said Miller, 58.

When Miller’s wife died in July 2011, he went home to Chicago to pay his final respects. While in Chicago, Miller said his friend threw out his belongings and secretly moved out of the apartment. When Miller returned to Miami, all of his photos and clothes were gone.

“That’s all I bought to Miami with me when I came here to help him,” said Miller. “I never thought he could do anything like that to me. He even told me he used my wife’s death against me.”

Miller initially slept on a friend’s couch, but eventually his home was a bench at the Earlington Heights Metrorail station at NW 21st Avenue and 41st Street.

“I was scared. I didn’t know that much about Miami,” said Miller.

He refused to call his family in Chicago for help and for a month he slept at the station.

“I had too much pride. I told them I was coming to Miami and I had a place to live,” said Miller. “I couldn’t tell them that I was sleeping on the streets now.”

While visiting the VA Hospital, Miller met a case worker from the Miami Outpatient Substance Abuse Clinic. She told him of the Volunteers of America veterans’ housing program. After meeting all the guidelines, Miller moved into the housing complex in September 2011.

While living there, he became involved with two organizations — Carrfour, a nonprofit established in 1993 by the Homeless Committee of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce to help homeless people find affordable housing, and Operation Scared Trust, which helps homeless veterans in South Florida. Through his volunteer work, Miller met Seth Eisenberg, the president of Operation Sacred Trust.

Eisenberg told Miller of an affordable housing complex, Dr. Barbara Carey Shuler Manor, at 1400 NW 54th St. The housing complex is home to mostly veterans who were once homeless. Miller applied and within four months moved into a fully furnished one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment.

Miller said the first night in his apartment he went to his balcony and did a happy dance.

“I bet if anyone saw me, they probably thought I was crazy,” Miller said, laughing. “But I didn’t care. I was so happy to have a place to call my own.”

Once Miller was settled in his apartment, he did what he likes to do best, lending a helping hand. He was nominated as the first tenant council president for the new housing complex.

He assisted people moving into their apartments, cooked for residents and mentored people who were recently homeless.

“It can be hard assimilating back into living with people once you’ve lived on the streets for so long,” Miller said. “There is a different set of rules to living on the streets. I want to help them adjust.”

Eisenberg said Miller is always willing to go the extra mile for people, which is why he nominated Miller for The Miami Herald Wish Book.

“It makes me feel good about myself. I don’t want nothing in return,” said Miller.

Although Miller enjoys giving, he said he wouldn’t mind having some new clothes to replace those he lost. He owns one linen suit and a few shirts and shorts.

“I want to have that Sunday’s best,” Miller said, referring to his church attire. “That’s how I was raised. I would feel truly blessed.”

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