Dennis' Story

The worst part of being homeless wasn’t living in a dumpster, it was that I was alone. I felt like no one cared.

I grew up in Hudsonville. Everyone sees it as a good Christian town, but by the time I was in 4th grade I was doing marijuana and I got arrested. By junior high I was doing a variety of drugs, which I would maintain through the next 15-20 years until I started smoking crack cocaine. Once crack took over, it cost me my relationship with my family and friends. It took over my whole life. I kept losing all my jobs for not showing up.

Not long after that I was living on the streets, sleeping outside, sometimes hotels, I lived in an abandoned cardboard dumpster on 28th street for an entire winter. I worked a little bit here and there and all the money I made supported my habit.

The worst part of being homeless wasn’t living in a dumpster, it was that I was alone. I felt like no one cared. My own family told me they never wanted anything to do with me. I couldn’t build relationships with people because I felt “less than.”

Drugs cost me a marriage, a house… everything. In 1995, I got arrested for possession of crack cocaine and sentenced to 300 hours of community service at a church. I got to know the pastor and that was my first introduction to the Lord. When I continued to go downhill and became homeless, that pastor brought me to Mel Trotter Ministries for the first time. I stayed about 8 months, then relapsed into my old lifestyle for another 10 years. In 2005, I came back to MTM. This time I graduated from the program, but when my marriage fell apart, I started using drugs again to numb the pain.

All of this time, God was working on me. I fought with Him about coming back again – but it was on my mind. I kept telling the Lord I could do it myself. But I couldn’t. Finally the person I was living with dropped me off at the Mission and told me not to come back. I was tired and fully broken, I guess. That’s when God does His best work. I opened my heart and made the commitment to put Him first.

I haven’t looked back. Today I am a different man. I’ve been clean and sober since 2011 and I’m now the “go to guy” in the facilities department here at Mel Trotter Ministries. I have my own place, a nice car and my family back. But the main thing is, I have peace in my life – that peace that only the Lord can bring me. I work here at Mel Trotter and my job in facilities gives me the opportunity to show guys like me what God is all about and how He can restore their lives.

I help with our auto program fixing up and auctioning vehicles. The most rewarding part is helping someone else. I’m not a preacher or nothing like that but I can share my testimony and maybe encourage someone that life can get better, it just takes a little effort and work. I’ve made many friends here at MTM including Jimmy who struggles with alcoholism and usually gets help through our profoundly intoxicated shelter. I continue to share the hope of Jesus Christ with him and show him that he is loved and when he's ready to get sober, I'll be there for him. I share the hope that I have found in verse 16 of Galatians 5: 

"So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh." 

I've found peace in riding motorcycles with my friends in my free time. The open road gives me time to think about how far I've come and I can focus on God. I was a slave to drugs and the power drugs had over me was lifted. I don’t know what the Lord has planned for me, I don’t know what tomorrow will bring but I would sure like to keep doing what I’m doing and retire from MTM someday. 

It’s not a person’s choice to be homeless, it could be poor decision making, mental illness, addiction, finances and a lot of people – especially families – can’t live on their income these days.

They aren’t bad people. No one wants to be living on the street. I wish more people would show them compassion. Thanks to the partners who support this Mission, more people like me have a chance to discover that they are made in the image of God and he has great plans for their life.

Posted September, 2019.

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