National News

From homeless to hero, journey of one St. Louis Fire Department employee

Posted November 9, 2017 2:52 p.m. EST

— Rodney Edwards answers around 40 calls a day as an EMS Dispatcher for the St. Louis Fire Department. He doesn't know the story on the other end of line, but it's up to him to help.

But he has his own story, one that many might not expect.

"This is kind of where it all started, it was a trying time," said Edwards as he walked down the 4500 block of Greer in the Greater Ville neighborhood of north St. Louis.

In 2007, he lost his job and his home. He was estranged from his family, but he convinced a relative to let him live in a vacant home she owned.

"No back door, no plumbing, no walls, critters running around," Edwards said of his home for two years.

But what he did inside that vacant home is where the story goes next.

"I applied for a Pell Grant and enrolled at St. Louis Community College Forest Park. I made the Dean's List. All these kids had MacBook Pros and iPads and I went to the library old school."

He studied inside his vacant house with a single light. He took a gym class so he could have a place to shower.

"I showered, cut my hair and brushed my teeth, it's kind of embarrassing," he said with a chuckle. Because Edwards can laugh at his situation.

Through a program, he entered into an EMT program and eventually got a job with the Northeast Ambulance and Fire Protection District. He kept going with his studies and got his Emergency Medical Dispatch certificate in 2012.

Eventually, he landed a job with the St. Louis Fire Department.

"It's an honor to wear this uniform," he said choking up. "They saw I had drive and I had hustle, and I believed in the culture and the core values of the fire department."

Recently he was promoted to Fire Equipment Dispatcher and was honored at the St. Louis Blues Game as a community maker.

He shakes it off, but he knows his story is an inspiration.

"I never let my circumstances dictate my outcome. If I can say anything about this amazing journey, it's a reminder to not put a period where a comma should go."