After eight short months of marriage, Thomas and Denise moved to Denver to transition into a new phase of life. But the newlyweds soon found themselves homeless and living at two different shelters—one for men and one for women. Every evening, they said goodnight over a cell phone call, but all they wanted was to be together again.
They first met at Thomas’s church in New Jersey. Denise had just returned to the East Coast after helping her sister open a coffee shop in Oklahoma, but she was having trouble finding work. When someone asked her to come to church with them, she thought it was the last thing she needed, but politely accepted the invitation. When she saw Thomas in the crowd, his big smile drew her in. “I wanted the kind of peace he had to be able to just smile.”
Thomas was a former bus driver, so it was natural that he drove the church van helping bring Denise and others to church events and Bible studies. And as Denise developed her relationship with God, the two of them noticed their relationship growing as well.
In March 2013, they decided to get married. Thomas was driving a cab, but Denise still struggled to find a job. The financial pressure was beginning to mount. That Christmas, Thomas drove to Colorado in search of better opportunities for them, and in January, Denise joined him in Denver.
After a week living in a hotel and looking for jobs, their money ran out and they suddenly became homeless.
To their surprise, none of the shelters they found would allow them to stay overnight together because they did not have dependent children, so they had to stay at separate shelters for months. Thomas stayed at Denver Rescue Mission’s Lawrence Street Shelter, and Denise had to stay at several different shelters depending on what was available. Each night, the newlywed couple would say a lonely goodnight over a phone call. “There was such a void,” Denise says. “We just wanted to be together.”
In May 2013, Denise was able to find a job with benefits, but six months later she had open heart surgery and wasn’t able to work while she recovered. Thomas was receiving disability for a detached retina in his right eye, but it wasn’t enough for them to rent an apartment. They knew they needed to find a better solution.
That’s when Thomas learned about the STAR transitional program at The Crossing, and after three months, a room became available for them.
Now that they’ve joined the STAR program, they’re finally together again, and they couldn’t be more grateful. “It’s been a good experience here,” Thomas shared with another big smile. “The people here are good, and the staff are really encouraging.”
That encouragement, along with their deep faith in Jesus Christ, has carried them through other difficult situations too, like when they found out this summer that Denise has breast cancer. “God is a healer,” Thomas says passionately. “When she went through her heart surgery, we prayed about it, and God provided. We trust Him to provide for us through this process as well.”
Overall, Thomas and Denise see this as a God-given opportunity to move forward. In between classes and case management required by the STAR program, Thomas is studying information technology at a local university, and Denise is finding new ways to build into the lives of her neighbors at The Crossing. She’s even started helping other STAR and New Life Program participants repair and hem their clothes. “It’s a good place to build your foundation,” they say in unison.
Thomas and Denise have been through some difficult situations, but thanks to the STAR program, they’re not alone in the challenges they face. And as we come alongside those experiencing homelessness in our community, we’re not alone either because you’re right here with us. Your faithful support makes life-changing opportunities possible for people like Thomas and Denise. Together with them, we thank you for helping us reach out to our homeless and struggling neighbors, offering them a chance to build a new and better foundation.
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Thomas and Denise's story was featured in the October 2015 issue of Changing Lives titled "Building a Foundation Together."
Also in this issue:
- Letter from the CEO
- 9th Annual Turkey Chase 5K
- 13th Annual Harvest Farm Fall Festival & Corn Maze