Austin Cole’s Story

By LIFT on February 8, 2013

Categories: Our Work, Real Stories

When you meet Austin Cole, you are immediately drawn to his energy. Looking more like a retired football player, than the truck driver that he is, he greets you with a smile and makes you feel like you are an old friend. Meeting Mr. Cole, you would never think that just a couple of years ago this single father had been homeless sleeping in his car with his son.

Originally from Dallas, Texas, Mr. Cole grew up the third of eight siblings born to a single mother. Even though his father wasn’t around growing up, he was surrounded by family who instilled values he holds most dear to himself  today—hard work and education.  Having a mom who was a college professor meant that education was necessary and entering the workforce at age 11 as a construction worker meant that hard work was like air to him.

When Mr. Cole and his son, whom he was raising alone, decided to follow his mother and sister to Washington, DC, things didn’t quite go as planned. In DC, he found himself homeless and living out of his car. He lived in his car for two and a half years. When he met LIFT through his sister who is also a member he remembers having little but feeling like he knew LIFT would be there for him. “I didn’t have anything when I came to LIFT. Everyone was so nice. They care. Like seriously, it’s home for me. They are mature and knowledgeable. Most people in the world flip you. Not LIFT.”

Mr. Cole worked together with LIFT to access many vital services: the most important of which was employment. Immediately, results followed. In fact, the same day that Mr. Cole posted his resume on a driving website with the help of a LIFT advocate, nine (yes nine!) driving companies responded. He saw it as a sign that LIFT was the one he should be working with!

He recalls going to other places for help but never getting it. Even though some of the agencies were closer to where he lives, he prefers to travel further to work with the LIFT team. “Other employment agencies need lessons from you guys. LIFT has a professional attitude. You guys have such patience here,” he exclaims when reflecting on his experience.

In the last year, Mr. Cole has worked with LIFT’s DC team to find other employment opportunities, obtain housing, save much needed funds, healthcare assistance, and even professional development opportunities. He now has multiple professional certifications. He is currently getting his Hazmat, which trains him to handle and transport dangerous, explosive and hazardous materials by truck. This makes him even more qualified to do the work for which he is so passionate.

For Mr. Cole, working with LIFT became a family affair. LIFT advocates helped his son enroll in the military. He reflects on how his son saw firsthand at LIFT what it takes to find employment and now he has aspirations to be an aviation mechanic. Now 19, he is charting his career path in the military.

Though he has reached his goals several times over, Mr. Cole’s journey with LIFT is far from over. With every goal achieved, he continues to set new ones and has become an ambassador for LIFT in his own neighborhood. He makes announcements in church and tells his neighbors and friends about the organization that has influenced him in such an impactful way. He says, “LIFT has been a positive influence. A positive attitude brings positive actions. Positive attitudes are contagious. I must avoid the negative. LIFT makes me always leave with a smile.”