“Not everyone has a safety net.” Mercy Housing resident Denae shares her story

Denae with Mercy Housing CEO and President, Jane Graf. Denae shared her story at a Mercy Housing fundraiser in 2015
Denae with Mercy Housing CEO and President, Jane Graf. Denae shared her story at a Mercy Housing fundraiser in 2015

Denae was homeless when she found Mercy Housing. A single mother of a young daughter, she was living off and on with her mother and her friends.

“Growing up, my childhood was what any child would have wanted,” Denae says. “We were a strong, close family with our own loving traditions.”

Her happy family life ended when her dad’s drinking caused him to lose his job when Denae was 12 years old. His unemployment was made worse by health issues due to his boxing hobby. He eventually ended up in jail and spent months going through trial.

“My mom was working, and I was responsible for taking care of my sister, cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry,” Denae says. “Although I did well in school, I became pregnant at 17 and didn’t graduate.”

Denae diligently began working toward an associate’s degree, but had trouble keeping up with the many pressures of full-time school, full-time work, and full-time parenting.

Denae’s mother encouraged her to apply to Decatur Place, a transitional community for single parents intent on improving their lives. “I was excited to turn things around for me and my daughter…it was such a great feeling when we were accepted into the program, and when we got our keys. My time at Decatur has been a time of significant growth for me.”

Today, Denae is working full-time at a restaurant. She plans on getting an associate’s degree in Criminal Justice. “I would like to use my degree to be a youth advocate. I believe these sort of problems start at a young age, and I want to help children avoid what my family went through when my dad was in court.”

Denae meets regularly with her case worker, not only when it is scheduled, but also when she needs support. She also participates in as many onsite classes as she can.

“I want my daughter to see me do well so that it motivates her to do well. I want to see her graduate high school, achieve her college degree, and pursue her dreams,” Denae says. “Not everyone has the luxury of a safety net in their lives, and I am so fortunate to have found Mercy Housing as a foundation for me to build a better life and achieve my dreams despite the many challenges I’ve faced.”