Dreshawn hasn’t always wanted to share his story.
A traumatic period during his teenage years was enough to convince him to keep history in the past. But now in his early 20s, he recognizes that sharing his story instills hope and compassion in others.
When Dreshawn was 17, his family entered Family Promise’s shelter program. Dreshawn vividly recalls how the reality of his situation hit him when he recognized a classmate who happened to be at a shelter site.
“We talked briefly, but I didn’t want to have a long conversation,” Dreshawn recalls. “That moment broke me. If our homelessness ever struck home for me, that was the time.”
The classmate never mentioned the encounter, even though the two young men saw each other every day at school or football practice. But Dreshawn never forgot. It was a metaphor for his struggle with homelessness: though he was hiding his situation, it was always on his mind.
“It was stressful. Friends would ask to come over, but they were unaware I didn’t have a house to come home to,” he explains. “When we had a house, we had security, a place to relax, and privacy. I’d come home knowing I was in my own place. [When we lost our home], we lost all that. I went into survival mode. I had to deal with these things when I should have focused on being a teenager.”
The ripple effect of homelessness reaches into aspects of life people often take for granted. In addition to trying to comprehend the loss of a home, families must navigate everyday logistics that become almost impractical in a shelter environment. Where does a child do homework? Where can one find privacy and quiet? Where will a teenager’s friends pick him up to go to a football game?
Dreshawn describes the encounter with his classmate as his lowest point, but it led to a revelation. Always one to seek truth in scripture, he’d once come across Jesus’ quote, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” In this moment, the line helped him realize that with faith and belief in himself, he could work through anything.
At Family Promise, Dreshawn began to think about his future and was encouraged to apply to college. But the support didn’t end there. Family Promise volunteers helped Dreshawn get a scholarship and ensured he had all he’d need for school – bedding, a mini-fridge, a laptop. Today, he’s in his second year of law school.
At Family Promise, Dreshawn says he acquired practical skills like budgeting and planning, but he also found the strength to succeed. He doesn’t see himself as a victim, or even as a survivor.
“I’m an overcomer,” he says. “We all have a story to tell. Family Promise showed me that you decide what you allow to define you and that faith and hard work can turn a bad situation into something beautiful.”
Now he wants to offer hope to others going through a similar situation and expose the true impact of homelessness.
“I [hope my story] will help those listening, whether they’re in the same situation or just don’t know about Family Promise and the way it changes lives,” says Dreshawn. “When I was at Family Promise, I learned to look within myself, to have confidence and set goals, and that has made all the difference. I believe that God is a way-maker and has turned my troubles into testimony.”