The Houston family experienced homelessness for two years, moving between the homes of family and friends. With nowhere to go and in dire need of help, Denver Rescue Mission was there or them at just the right time. Now, about a year and a half after graduating from the Mission’s STAR Transitional Program, this family of nine is settled into a seven-bedroom duplex. It’s because of your support that during a turbulent season of their lives, their experience at the Mission not only led them to a stable home, but left them with heartfelt memories.
Wayne, Jeanette, and their seven daughters, Shantavia, Olivia, Jayla, Jalissa, Alicia, Araiah, and Alexia, spent two years living at The Crossing. They made a mark on Mission staff, not only because they were one of our largest families, but also because of their unavoidable closeness, strength and love.
You may remember the Houston family from our July 2018 newsletter: Boy Meets Girl.
“When you see such a big family, it just shows how resilient they are,” said Jaquella Brennan, the family’s former case manager. “That’s a lot of mouths to feed! The kids were always so respectful—so loving. It was beautiful to watch their family dynamic.”
Before coming to the Mission, Wayne got laid off from his job and could no longer afford paying
rent. “It constantly felt like I let my family down because I wasn’t able to keep a roof over their
heads,” he said. “Jeanette helped take care of the kids while I was working and trying to find places for us to go. Having a big family is stressful on all parties when you’re living with other people, so that was hard. But, as a family, we made it easier for each other.”
Three-year-old Alexia was a newborn when her family first arrived at Denver Rescue Mission. She spent her first two years living at The Crossing, the Mission’s residential facility, where her family received guidance and support as part of the STAR Transitional Program. Now, she loves having the space to run around in her home and play with her six older sisters.
Thank you for making it possible for kids like Alexia to grow up in a stable home.
Wayne and Jeanette heard about the STAR program, which helps working families secure stable housing and transition to self sufficiency, from Wayne’s mother, who used to volunteer at the
Mission. For Wayne, the biggest takeaway from the program was learning how to better manage his money to ensure he was able to pay bills. “For a lot of families, unhealthy spending habits contribute to the cycle of poverty,” Jaquella said. “When they learn how to have a healthy relationship with money, it looks so much different.”
With seven daughters to raise, Jeanette appreciated the support from the Mission’s youth program. “It was a lot of help with all of them being in school,” she said. “They did tutoring, [received] help with their homework, and at the same time, they learned respect and manners.”
Wayne and Jeanette attended a parenting class as part of the program, and the collaboration with other parents provided valuable tips that they implement in their home today.
2018: Fond Memories From The Program
The Crossing provided a season of fond memories for the Houston children. During a time of groundwork and preparation for Wayne and Jeanette, their seven daughters loved spending time in the Denver Broncos Youth Center and making friends at The Crossing. “They still talk about going back and visiting, even after a year of not being there,” Wayne said. “I think it had a really good impact on all of us.”
“It’s really nice to have our own house keys again.”Wayne
The Mission helped the Houstons secure a Section 8 housing voucher when they graduated from the STAR program, which allows them to pay only 30 percent of their income on rent. They found a duplex in Barnum, a neighborhood in West Denver, with seven bedrooms—ideal for the seven girls whose ages ranges from three to 16. “It felt really good,” Wayne said. “It’s really nice having our own house keys again.”
Through the Mission’s vehicle donation program, they received a donated 1994 Chevrolet Suburban, which is big enough for their whole family.
After graduation, Mission case managers often follow up with former STAR families to check in. “It’s nice [for the Houstons] to hear a familiar voice and know that if anything were to go wrong, they still have people they can reach out to,” Jaquella said. “They have a lot of people in their corner who want to see them win.”
The COVID-19 pandemic recently caused a few hurdles for the Houstons. Wayne lost his job at Home Depot and is currently receiving unemployment compensation while he looks for a new job. Jeanette is helping the girls as they all pursue remote learning.
But, because of their time in the STAR program, the Houstons have the tools to handle adversity that comes their way. “[Our goals are] to stay on top of our bills, keep a roof over our heads and keep us all together as a family,” Wayne said. “The only thing I can say is thank God for the Rescue Mission.”