Aspiring Model and Entrepreneur
“I wish people knew that you don't have to be on the street to be homeless. When you think of homelessness, you think of the guy who's sleeping on the train station - I was the person who wore Calvin Klein.”
What are some of your favorite things about Chicago?
What do you like to do in your free time?
"I write poetry. I am currently in social media content creation - the whole goal with that is normalizing mental health amongst people of color, specifically the black community. That's really how I want to show up in the world, as someone who cares a lot about mental health."
How did your journey with youth homelessness start?
What happened after you moved out of your friend's apartment?
“After a while, I ended up moving back in with my mom. I was always getting threatened that she was going to kick me out, basically. So just having that feeling of not having a stable place to stay was really nerve-wracking, on top of, like, me not having a good therapist and me still trying to deal with trauma the best way I knew how to. I [went] to my brother. He ended up kicking me out because of some stuff. I ended up going back to my mom's house, and I thought, I'm not going to get traded back and forth. I'm not going to do this with nobody. So I ended up running away and I went to Texas.'"
How did you find housing when you moved to Texas?
After this experience, Denishe moved in with a kind stranger until she was placed in a housing program in Texas.
Why did you leave Texas and come to Chicago?
“All of a sudden I got a call from my dad's wife. She said, 'Hey, your dad is looking for you.' This was literally a couple of months after I ran away, but I thought, 'It's okay. You know, family.' So, I left. At that time I didn't feel like I had a relationship with my dad, and the majority of my family was in Chicago. I wanted a relationship with my family.”
What was living with your dad like?
“It was really dirty. Rats, roaches, mold and stuff. Me and my dad still didn’t have a relationship. He would just be on the phone with his wife for a majority of the day. And if it [wasn’t] that, it was like him constantly picking at little things I was doing. I told my cousin I needed therapy, and he told my dad. And [my dad] was like, I personally think that you don't need a therapist. And I'm, like I said, in the most respectful way possible, like, you don't know me at all. [One day] when he came home, I told him, ‘Hey, I'm leaving to go to a shelter.’ He said I was going to be a prostitute. He said a lot of hurtful things before I left.”
After leaving her father's house, Denishe moved to a short-term group residence created by the Night Ministry.
What was moving to this short-term residence like?
After four months at this short-term residence, Denishe is moving on to the Night Ministry’s transitional living program.
How do you feel about moving on to a transitional living program?
“It makes me feel really grateful that I took the leap of faith to begin with. Like, to go from having [my father] say that I’m going to be a prostitute, I’m going to be on the streets, to having my own place now - I feel really proud of myself. Always believe in that gut feeling and know your worth.”
What was the hardest part of homelessness for you?
Do you have a therapist now?
“Yes, I do. Her name’s Amanda, she’s from Rush - I love Amanda. A therapist has been a dream ever since I was in high school, and now I have one, and I'm so grateful that I have one.”
What do you wish people knew about youth homelessness?
“That you don't have to be on the street to be homeless. There was some shame about me saying I was homeless. When you think of homelessness, you think of the guy who's sleeping on the train station. I was the person who wore Calvin Klein, who had makeup all done up with the lashes, and I would go to modeling events, and stuff like that. But it wasn't trying to flex on people - it was for my sanity. So [know that] it doesn't matter where you are in life, you always have by [you] at least like a couple of people who are going through that housing instability.”
What goals do you have for the future?
What's your favorite poem that you've written, and why?
“Writing was my escape from everything. One thing I love to do is see the transition between how I was before and how I am now. I wrote this poem when I was living with my dad and I was working at Anthropologie.”
Poem: Lip Gloss & Roaches
I wake up at 12pm. “Oh, shit” I mutter while I realize I’m about to be late for work. I sit up in my bed ignoring the bug on the left side of my head and I get up, to meet the day once again. Roaches race me to the kitchen as I begin to make myself breakfast, I pull a dish from the stack and watch the 6-legged creatures scatter around to find another hiding place. I wash my dish and quickly make some pancakes while my dad is complaining about his kids again in another language.
Once I finish my food I excitedly gaze at my closet wondering what I’m gonna wear today. I pick the bright yellow top with some flared green bottoms to help cheer my mood up. I tell my father to have a good day and that I love him to which he replied “Yeah, okay”. I rush down the stairs and into the sunlight where strangers compliment my outfit and ask me how my day started. I happily wear a smile on my face because I know that everywhere won’t be like home. My co-workers laugh with me and talk about their life and all I can do is be happy for them because I know my day is coming.
I know my day is coming where I can wake up in a clean apartment with my cat snoozing beside me while the sunshine covers my face. I’ll walk to the kitchen and make myself some hot tea and those pancakes I love to make, but this time I’ll have bacon and sausage, maybe even some fruit on the side. I’ll start my morning off with the beautiful melodies of what a wonderful world as I eat my breakfast in peace.