When Diante Epps joined Centerline Drivers at one of its customer sites in Florida in February, he had no idea it was about to change his life.
He was driving locally for the customer, making deliveries across northern Florida, but he had one major problem – before joining Centerline, he had been evicted from his apartment and owed back rent. Because an eviction often prevents people from renting else, he had nowhere to turn and started sleeping in his truck.
That’s when workers doing lot inspections discovered him and let Jeanine Suarez, Centerline’s Managing Service Director for Ryder in Florida, know.
“We were blown away,” she said, “like, ‘what are you talking about?’ Then I reached out to the driver and I said, ‘I understand the predicament you’re in right now and we want to be able to help you.’”
She asked him if he’d be interested in joining Centerline’s Mobile Driver Service, which temporarily relocates drivers to areas with high need for drivers.
“When Jeanine reached out to me with a solution, I was thinking ‘why didn’t I hear about this before?” he said.
Centerline’s Mobile Driver Service provides transportation and lodging and the driver is dedicated to that job, generally for 4-6 weeks, often with an option to renew.
“I let him know it would provide him a place to stay free of charge and he’d receive per diems and higher pay,” Suarez said. “He pretty much broke into tears, saying, ‘I didn't realize that you guys had that as an offer.’ He told me it was a blessing in disguise because he was struggling and he was trying to figure out how he was going to get out of the hole he was in.”
Though his assignment at the customer was coming to an end, Suarez convinced the company to keep him for a few extra days while she worked out logistics. So she put him up in a hotel for a few days using hotel rewards points accumulated by the company.
“Obviously he didn't have enough money for a hotel because he was just starting the assignment he had started on the 18th, so he hadn't been paid yet,” Suarez said, “So we put him up in a hotel until he was able to travel to his new job.”
On Feb. 27, he flew to Ohio – a choice he made because it was the closest work site to his daughter in Illinois, who he hadn’t seen in over a year.
“He was immediately convinced,” Suarez said. “He owed a lot of money on his apartment and I told him this was how he can get ahead, and once this job is done, you can stay indefinitely with Mobile. It was everything he was looking for.”
Since his job began, Epps has made himself a home, enjoyed his work and reunited with his family.
“I was able to see my daughter and I’m looking forward to having a week off with her for spring break,” he said. “And then I’m going to call in for another mobile account!”
No one knows for certain how many homeless truck drivers are on the roads, but estimates say it could be as high as 5 percent of drivers. And while it’s not uncommon for truck drivers to use a PO Box as a permanent address while they’re driving consistently, it’s a different story when it’s not a proactive decision.
For Epps, the solution has been incredibly successful. With permanent work, he’s not focused on housing – either getting his own or worrying about paying off his previous apartment. The peace of mind that comes with a stable job has given him the opportunity to catch up on paying that debt that he owes from his last apartment. Once that debt is paid off, he'll be able to pay off some additional debts and save money.
With one assignment nearing completion and another visit with his daughter pending, Epps is focused on building himself back up. He stays with Centerline not just because of the help with getting back on his feet, but also because of the opportunities.
“I love working with my current client and with Centerline,” he said. “Knowing that I always have an option at a mobile job, even when the job gets slow, makes me want to stay with Centerline.”