DaShawn’s life has been one of constant change. Born in Muskegon, his biological parents were unequipped to take care of him so his biological father’s sister – his aunt, adopted him.
Unfortunately, his aunt and uncle, who he now refers to as “mom” and “dad” were old school. Old school meaning they beat him as punishment. By the time he got to high school, life was tough. He was bullied in high school and after the principal found a pen knife on him during a fight, he was expelled in the 10th grade.
Both in school and out of school, he was constantly running away from his mom and dad. He tried to live with friends for months at a time. They saw the bruises but he begged them to keep quiet. He followed a friend down to Holland to try and live a better life there, but it was too unstable.
DaShawn moved back to Muskegon to live with his biological mother. They lived in the projects on the outskirts of town. She was addicted to meth and alcohol so he ended up taking care of her including trips to the hospital when she overdosed. Home life was incredibly unsafe as drug addicts wandered in and out and he didn’t know where his mother was for long stretches of time.
Finally his biological mother was caught stealing to support her drug habit and was sent to jail. DaShawn had nowhere to go. He tried to commit suicide. DaShawn ended up at Pine Rest, a mental hospital. At the end of his stay, the administration told him he could go back to Muskegon or stay in Grand Rapids. Despite his lack of connection to GR, it was better than the alternative waiting for him in his hometown where he’d likely be homeless during a freezing cold Michigan winter.
He was first sent to Mel Trotter that took him in their youth program for six weeks. DaShawn was just barely 18 at the time and needed more time to get back on his feet. Mel Trotter referred him to the newly built Covenant House Michigan, Grand Rapids campus. DaShawn was one of the first residents.
CHM, Grand Rapids campus is a hands-on program. Right away, he was working with the social workers to obtain his personal identification. His birth certificate and social security card had been lost long ago in his housing shuffle.
Next up was school, he hadn’t attended a school in over two years. The social workers got DaShawn hooked up at Covenant House Academy. The school is right next to the shelter so there is a lot of accountability to go every day.
For his future, DaShawn can’t say for certain. He’d like to pursue modeling, something he’s been passionate about for years. But knows he needs to have a back-up plan. He likes to work with his hands so he’s thinking mechanical engineering. After Covenant House Michigan, he’d like to get his own apartment and eventually a house.
At the end of the day, he’s so grateful he is at CHM, Grand Rapids campus with a plan and a bright future instead of out in the chilly Michigan winter.