Stories of Faith & Hope From Our Graduates
Our staff can tell you all about Dallas LIFE, our programs and services. But those who tell Dallas LIFE's story best are our residents. Read what our New Life Program graduates have to say about their time at Dallas LIFE. You can't help but be encouraged!
Meet Derwin & Frances: Repo to Restored
"There should be a Dallas Life everywhere."
What started out as a few leaky pipes resulted in Derwin and his wife, Frances, losing their house and most everything they owned.
“After paying for repairs and water bills costing over $800 a month, she lost her job and then I lost mine,” Derwin explains. “We quickly went through our savings and before we knew it, two cars disappeared from the driveway.”
“Repo.” Frances whispers.
After living in hotel rooms with their three kids, ages 5, 8, and 16, the couple turned to Dallas LIFE. “I heard about it from a woman at church.” Frances recalls. “She said it was a good place for children and families.” “We really believe that when we came here, it was God controlling our steps,” Derwin adds.
After arriving at Dallas LIFE, both Derwin and Frances earned jobs at the shelter and their children also adjusted incredibly well. “They fell right into it!” Derwin laughs. “There was one thing that really helped the transition and that was putting a name to our family. We took our last name, and put “TEAM” in front of it. No matter what we do or where we go, we do it together, as a team. And they love that closeness.”
With the help and support of Dallas LIFE, all three of their children got involved in after school activities and their oldest son began his first job. He’s caught on super quickly in his training. “They told him that training for the job usually takes about 13 weeks. For him, they said it would only take three weeks.” Derwin beams.
Both Derwin and Frances graduated from the Homeless No More Recovery Program. When asked to name their favorite program class, neither of them could name one. Instead, they named five. “They’re not preaching at you. They’re giving you life lessons, things that are going to help you on your walk with God.” Derwin explains.
Frances nods before adding, “I know that there’s a purpose to the program. It helped me to see a lot of things that I didn’t see before, and helped me grow in ways that I didn’t think I needed to.”
One thing that both Derwin and Frances made perfectly clear is that they will not keep their new found success—and faith—to themselves.
“When we were established in a home we used to say we need to go give back and volunteer. We need to take our kids and show them how the less fortunate live. We never did. Now both agree that we will give back to Dallas LIFE,” Derwin states. “God uses us as seeds. He blesses us with certain things, but those things are meant to bless someone else with, not for us to hold onto. Our cup is already overflowing.”
Derwin then raises a hand. “I gotta say one more thing. There should be a Dallas LIFE everywhere.” How great that
Since graduating the Gooden family has stayed independent, they have housing for their family and jobs. They are also very involved in their local church and Derwin helps lead an evangelism ministry. They both look back and see Dallas LIFE as the change they needed and they are glad their lives will never be the same again.
Meet LaShawnda: It Can Happen to Anyone...
"I never thought in a million years this would happen to me."
LaShawnda and her husband had good jobs – she at a major retailer and he at a worldwide manufacturing company. They lived along with their one-year old in a nice house, and often entertained friends. There was no warning that life was about to blindside them, and when it did, they found themselves without a support system.
"First, I lost my job," LaShawnda explained. "I thought we'd be OK while I looked for a new one, but then my husband lost his job. It was surreal." Though they both diligently looked for work, within a few months, they lost their savings, their car – and ultimately, their home.
With no family in the Metroplex and no money to travel to their hometown in New York, there were few options. For LaShawnda, a homeless shelter was totally out of the question. Friends opened their home, and LaShawnda's struggling family moved in with them. It was not very long before the friends faced eviction. Anger, resentment, and depression began to take deep root in LaShawnda's life. Much had happened in such a short period of time, and none of it had been good.
Her sister called to tell her of a homeless shelter that looked like the perfect place for LaShawnda's family. Living out of state, she had discovered it online. It was Dallas LIFE. Though she was still strongly against going to a homeless shelter, LaShawnda called Dallas LIFE. They were warmly welcomed. LaShawnda enrolled in the 10-month New LIFE program. And – a new baby was on the way.
LaShawnda graduated from the New Life program. She assists new women when they come to Dallas LIFE and understands the fear they feel. She assures them they are in the best place to make a fresh start. Her anger, resentment and depression have dissolved into peace and hope. And her new baby girl has safely arrived. "I'm not the same person," LaShawnda beams. "I wouldn't trade my time at Dallas LIFE for anything. It gave me a safe place to recover spiritually, physically and emotionally. I will definitely give back."
Meet Connie: Homelessness to business ownership.
"God kept saying, I got you."
A death in the family sparked a complete 180° in Connie’s life. Family disputes over her mother’s will left her with little to nothing after her mothers passing. “I’m selling the house – get all your stuff together now because I’m selling it,” Connie’s sister snapped.
As she dealt with financial hardship in California, Connie’s mother encouraged her to move into her home in Texas. Connie lived with her mother and worked to get back on her feet for two years until her mother passed away. She then began a business where she made fresh baked goods from her mother’s kitchen out of necessity. Yet, the decision was made – the home was being sold.
Connie’s sister refused to pay her portion of the utility bill. Without electricity, water, gas, and a telephone, Connie’s baking business could no longer thrive. “I slept outside of the Lifetime Fitness in my car during the winter months, and nobody there knew that I was homeless.”
The daily routine of sleeping in her car, showering after a workout at the gym, and hiding her homelessness became Connie's lifestyle until she finally convinced her family for help. While staying at her daughters house she was noticeably unwelcome, and often not offered an invitation to eat dinner with the family. Connie eventually decided that it was time for her to rebuild her life at a homeless shelter. Silent tears fell as she wrestled with God over her life on her first night at Dallas LIFE. “Lord seriously, you have me here? You have me here out of all places? I have family out here!” But God kept saying, “I got you,” Connie remembers.
After a few months, Dallas LIFE Women’s Program Director Estella Johnson told Connie that she was going to work in the Kitchen. Though apprehensive at first, Connie quickly adjusted to working in the kitchen and was soon recognized as one to always offer a helping hand.
Connie was offered a volunteer position as a Dallas LIFE Cook where she supervised the morning crew, night crew, and often worked double shifts. Occasionally she prepared baked goods using her own supplies. Her baking lead many other residents to also volunteer in the kitchen. Connie made fresh cinnamon rolls, banana pudding, cookies, and more every Wednesday for the Staff meetings.
Connie then accepted a paid position as the manager of the “C-Store,” the Dallas LIFE in house mini store and gill for hot food.“I put in a lot of hours and I am glad I did. It perfected my baking skills, managing skills, and people enjoyed working with me. I enjoyed every minute of it.”
Now as a Dallas LIFE Alumni Connie owns her own baking business called Sweet Treasures by Connie, she has her own apartment that is now fully furnished, and has her own car to make deliveries of her bake goods. She bakes all of her baked goods from scratch out of her home and credits the perfection of her baking skills to her time at Dallas LIFE where she was given the opportunity to work in the kitchen, improve her skills, and takes steps to the greater life that she now lives. Connie plans to give back to Dallas LIFE as a volunteer now that she is an Alumni.
Email SweetTreasuresByConnie@Gmail.com to get a taste of Connie’s fresh, homemade, German chocolate cake, cookies, pies and any of her signature banana pudding dishes.
Brigitte: Addicted, Lost & Confused
"Dallas LIFE made me new again."
Most of our New Life recovery program participants have at least some "buyer's remorse" when days in that 10-month period become arduous. Not Brigitte. When she arrived at Dallas LIFE broke, strung out, and weighing in at less than 80 pounds, she was READY to get busy. She signed up for the New Life program on her second day at Dallas LIFE. And she never looked back.
"It made me new again," she states without hesitation.
Addicted to crack for 33 years and estranged from her family, Brigitte appeared at Dallas LIFE lost and confused, and without a reason to believe that this experience would be any different than any other time she had tried to get clean. "That was until God grabbed me," she proclaims. "I can't describe it any other way."
Brigitte became a model New Life student, graduated and got an apartment. She earned a certificate in medical coding and billing and is in college working toward a degree. She has a job in the Dallas LIFE security office and encourages residents to persevere through the program, and to find God.
Remember Brigitte's estranged family? Her parents attended her graduation and listened proudly to her address the audience. Her entire family later celebrated Christmas together for the first time in 30 years.
"My life is full of joy and opportunity, and it's because of what God did for me through Dallas LIFE." Brigitte never looked back, indeed.
Judy: A New Beginning- At 65!
"I found God, patience & hope."
"Most shelters don't know what to do with someone like me."
By "someone like me," Judy is referring to the fact that she was 65 years old when she arrived at Dallas LIFE. In the world of homeless recovery, senior adults are something of an anomaly – but not here! At Dallas LIFE there is not only a place, but also a plan for homeless seniors.
Judy's world had unraveled in a moment, when a random drug test at work resulted in felony charges for carrying her own daily prescription medications in one prescription bottle. A prolonged legal battle continued, left Judy without a job – and with the realization that she had become addicted to prescription drugs.
She went to live with relatives in East Texas, "but I didn't want to be around all their meds," Judy reflects. An Internet search revealed that Dallas LIFE was a place that took seniors, and she soon made her way here. The kindness of the staff and residents made a strong first impression, and within a short time she joined the New Life recovery program. She also completely stopped taking medications, because for the first time in a very long time, Judy sensed that God was with her and would give her the strength to change. She graduated from the program and now lives happily in her own apartment. "Dallas LIFE helped me find God, taught me patience, and gave me hope," Judy smiles confidently. She believes in the power of a new beginning – and that it can still happen at 65!
Anna: The Voice of Dallas Life
"I felt welcomed and safe."
Life circumstances had sent Anna to Georgia to live with her brother. But things did not work out. "That's how I became homeless," she reflects. "And I did graduate from college, so it was devastating to lose not only everything but also everyone, and have nowhere to go. So I came to Dallas by bus, and then to Dallas LIFE."
Being a single female, Anna's first concern was her personal safety. She immediately found that Dallas LIFE places great emphasis on the safety and well being of its residents. She immediately felt welcomed by the staff and safe in the shelter.
Anna joined the New Life program and got to work on her own emotional healing. She graduated from the program. Having never attended church before, she also discovered the chapel services at Dallas LIFE to be "one of the greatest things about this place." Anna found out through Dallas LIFE that God loves her and she has built her new life on that spiritual foundation.
Anna serves as our receptionist, and there is no better person to be the first voice you hear at Dallas LIFE! She carefully explains to each caller or visitor exactly how everything works at Dallas LIFE, what is expected and what can be accomplished here.
But what brings the biggest smile from Anna is to hear her say that she is now "welcomed" by her father and stepmother. Their estranged relationship has been restored and they spend time together at holidays. So it's no exaggeration when Anna can be heard on the phone telling someone that Dallas LIFE is "outstanding."
Omar: Finding His Potential
"I was changed, immediately."
Say "good morning" to Omar and prepare to be encouraged – or perhaps even have your entire day turned around.
Omar has a special gift of joy, which could have been snuffed out when his own world fell apart, but didn't.
He lost his job, which was terrible enough. But Omar had some health issues that needed to be addressed, so losing his benefits was a second wave of disaster. "It threw me into having to consider going to a shelter," he reflects, "and I have to admit, the stigma of that was almost too much to handle."
When Omar found out about Dallas LIFE – that it had a program to help with life issues, a job search and finding housing, PLUS a medical clinic, he knew that God was about to do big things in his life. "He gave me provision, perspective, and purpose through the New Life program. I was changed, immediately." He was loved, immediately, as well, and became a constant encouragement to his classmates and the staff at Dallas LIFE.
Omar graduated from the New Life program – with much celebration from his fellow graduates and program directors! He is now on staff as the manager of the Dallas LIFE Convenience store.
"I have a college degree, but the New Life program is so much more valuable to me," Omar emphasizes, with his infectious joy. "Dallas LIFE is where I found what my true potential really is."
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