Eric Collins receives a Black History Award at Bishop Larry Trotter’s (right) church, Sweet Holy Spirit. (Photo by: chicagodefender.com)

By Katara Patton

Eric Collins and his young family recently received a big surprise; Earl Walker, Owner of W&W Towing Company, surprised the 21-year-old homeless man and his family as part of a Black History Celebration honoring heroes of the community. Collins, along with U.S. Congressman Bobby Rush and Former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones Jr, received the Black History Men of the Year Award for 2019. The annual event entitled, The Sweet Holy Spirit Black History Awards, was sponsored by Bishop Larry D. Trotter and the Sweet Holy Spirit Church of Chicago.

Collins marries Emani Todd.chicagodefender.com
Collins marries Emani Todd.

Collins received his award as well as a generous gift from Walker to put an end to the label of homelessness that has plagued Collins. Collins, his girlfriend Emani Todd and their 2-year-old and 6-month old sons, have been homeless for a combined three years. Collins has had a string of bad luck of being laid off a few jobs. However, he has refused to leave his family. In fact, it was just in 2017 that Collins and his family were living in a friend’s 1995 Chevy Tahoe in Zion, Illinois.

One night in the winter of 2018, Collins and his family returned from eating at a friend’s house and discovered that the truck in which they were residing was shot up with over 20 bullets. Collins obviously was distraught. Not only was the family’s temporary dwelling shattered with glass, but their belongings were destroyed.

Collins however refused to waver. Faced with the possibility that his young family might be separated, he turned to an old friend who lived in a subpar dwelling that lacked numerous necessities. The friend offered Collins the basement of the unstable home where rats and roaches were visible and active. Collins went out and purchased milk crates that would hold an old mattress from the ground, hence allowing his girlfriend and their two kids to sleep free from the rats on the floor. Collins sacrificed himself by sleeping on the floor to ensure that Emani and the babies were safe and comfortable.

Collins has managed to keep his family together in the Salvation Army Shelter located at 800 W. Florence in Chicago, Illinois. He and Emani have continue to struggle to find employment and of course, housing. But Collins has not given hope of marrying Emani. His desire is to ensure that they are forever bonded.

Walker recently learned of Collins’ struggles and agreed to finance the couple’s wedding at the Sweet Holy Spirit Church. Walker also surprised Collins with a job offer at Walker’s restaurant in Oak Forest. In addition, Walker presented the young couple with keys to a new car and a beautiful spacious apartment located in the 7800 block of Luella. The apartment is large enough for their two young sons, 2-year-old Laurell and six-month old Kentrell.

This article originally appeared in the Chicago Defender. 

Homeless Man Awarded Black History Figure of the Year Award; Receives New Home and Wedding

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