CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Reginald "Reggie" Cain battled drugs and alcohol, served jail time, went through a painful divorce and was homeless.
Despite the odds, he turned his life around. At age 61, Cain will walk across the stage in cap and gown Saturday to receive a bachelor's degree in behavioral health from West Virginia State University.
Cain now uses his life experiences to help others. He already has two transitional houses for men 18 and older and has plans to open more.
"I've gone through everything all the residents have gone through," said Cain of South Charleston. "I would like to see hope for other people. It's never too late. I turned my life around at an old age. Getting these guys at a younger age is gratifying."
Cain, who grew up in St. Albans, was just a kid when his father left and his mother worked two jobs to take care of the family. He was a star athlete at St. Albans High, where he excelled in track and football.
Over the years, he held several jobs where he began at entry level and quickly worked his way into management.
"I was blessed to have good jobs," he said. "I wasn't happy and didn't feel I was making a difference."
Dissatisfaction and bad choices led to a domino effect of substance abuse, divorce, depression, homelessness and lack of direction. At one point, drug abuse led to jail time.
Sometimes, hitting rock bottom leads to looking up with faith and hope.
"It took years to see direction and purpose in life," he said. "I knew the Lord had something better for me to do. In 2009, I started school."
He stayed in transitional housing and paid for school with student loans and a Pell grant.
He first enrolled in Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College, where he earned an associate degree in behavioral health science and addiction counseling as well as a peer support certification. He served as student government president and delivered the commencement address at graduation.
With credits that transferred to West Virginia State University, he launched into his goal of earning a degree in behavioral health. He made the dean's list every semester.
In 2010, while living in transitional housing, he had a vision that he could offer hope to others by opening similar places for other men. He had no money to take on such a task.
"The Lord spoke to me and told me I didn't have to wait," he said. "The Lord placed people in my path" who could help.
The first house opened in Rand last year and another in Dunbar this year. He met landlords willing to rent the houses. He worked with his college to get graduating seniors in need of internships to do counseling. Donors stepped up with donations ranging from cash to furnishings.
Each of the transitional homes is called Redemption House.
Tenants attend classes, hold down jobs, help with maintenance and pay rent. The idea is for them to have a support system as they overcome addictions, become self-sufficient, and are linked with services that will lead to training and jobs. The men live together as a family and look out for each other. There is zero tolerance for drug or alcohol use.
Men, who are referred by the state Department of Corrections or area shelters, are chosen because they show determination to work hard and have better lives.
For some it seems more like a first chance than a second.
Tisean Johnson, 36, grew up in Miami, where he came from a broken home and never felt he had a support system. He came to West Virginia for a "dramatic change" and in 2003 was convicted of a drug felony. He faced jail time and struggled with emotional issues.