Danette says she doesn’t normally share her story, but God has really been asking her to do so lately.
“He says it’s time, so that must mean I’m finally ready,”
More than anything, Danette wants to encourage others who find themselves in tough situations. “I just hope that people who may be in the places God delivered me from can see the hope in Christ. Because he’s the only way.”
By her own admission, until the last few years, her life story has not been a happy one. She has experienced trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in her young twenty-three years. Danette grew up in Grand Rapids alongside her entire extended family; however, there were only three girls in the house in her formative years, as her mother raised Danette and her older sister as a single parent.
“I grew up with many forms of abuse, including sexual abuse, verbal abuse and emotional neglect,” Danette said. “By the time I was eighteen years old, my relationship with my mom was in a really bad place, so she asked me to leave,” Danette continued.
It was during those hard times of trying to find her way in the world that Danette began a relationship with someone who also abused her.
“What people don’t often understand is that trauma begets trauma,” Danette said. “It’s incredibly difficult for someone who has only seen one kind of relationship to believe and understand that they deserve something better—and can actually have it,” she said.
During that abusive relationship, Danette began going into a downward spiral. She stopped working, lost all her friendships, connections and money, and eventually ended up without a safe place to live.
“Before that experience, I thought people were homeless because they chose to be,” she said. “After it happened to me, I understood that isn’t true.”
When that abusive relationship ended, Danette sought refuge at a local shelter. There, a trusted family friend reached out and began taking her to church.
“I could finally let my guard down and rest when I went to church. It’s kind of like the Scripture verse that says it’s not the healthy people who need a doctor but the sick,” Danette said.
“The first time I cried out to God with ‘I can’t do this anymore—I am done and need you’ I was still staying at the shelter,” she continued. “I knew only God could rescue me, I couldn’t rescue myself and neither could anyone else. He made a way when there was no way.”
Danette attributes being homeless to her blessings today.
“Homelessness wasn’t the trauma. My trauma started years before. Being homeless was the way up. The way out. The first twenty years of my life were terrible, but it wasn’t until I became homeless that my life began to change.”
After months and months of couch surfing, transitional housing, and finally being connected with permanent housing, Danette started attending a Bible study. She says the people there and the passion they have for Jesus drew her in immediately.
“For the first time, I finally felt like I could belong somewhere in a community where people go to know who they are in Jesus,” she said.
During this time, Danette began healing some of her traumatic wounds and started doing homeless ministry service projects with other young adults. For the last eleven months, she’s been leading a small discipleship ministry where she goes downtown to have coffee and anyone who wants to attend a church service is given a ride and then taken back afterwards.
“Our goal is to disciple others out of homelessness by showing them the love of Jesus Christ,” she said.
Understanding that walking alongside others is not only what Jesus demonstrated when he was here on earth, but according to Danette, is exactly what people who are experiencing trauma need.
“We aren’t just a resource, we are friends. We are community. There aren’t enough healthy relationships. That’s what people need, I think,” she said.
That understanding is exactly why Danette is now on staff at Mel Trotter Ministries! Danette has been working in the kitchen at MTM since October 2021. She says being here has brought additional healing and the discernment to hear God’s voice and trust him with everything.
Since working at MTM, Danette said God has mended and completely restored her relationship with her mother. “We talk a few times a week—she has become my biggest supporter.”
With newfound friendships, a strong community of support and her past being restored, Danette future is bright.
“I know my passion and purpose now. I’m just so happy to be able to give back to the homeless community…because that’s still my community.”
*Names have been changed and stock photos have been used to protect the privacy of our guests.