From Homeless to Hopeful — Diondre’s Story — 

Thanks for visiting the Front Door Blog. What follows verbatim are the words that Diondre, one of our Clare Housing residents, shared with 450 attendees at our A Place to Call Home Breakfast on Wednesday, October 7, 2015. We are so grateful that Diondre has generously shared his story with all of us.

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Good morning! I hope everyone is having a good time, because I am! My name is Diondre. I am 29 years old and I am a resident of Clare Housing.

As a young child growing up, I wanted what I didn’t have; stability, a beautiful neighborhood, a beautiful home. I always knew I was loved, unconditionally, but, my mother and father were battling their drug addiction. That left me battling for parental attention, acceptance, often times, even for food to put on the table.

Diondre stunned a crowd of over 450 attendees with his bravery and candor.

Diondre stunned a crowd of over 450 attendees with his bravery and candor.

When I was a kid, I thought all those Disney movies were real. I believed in a Prince Charming, an Aladdin, a Mr. Smith, the hero who would come into my life and rescue me. I was a kid that never wanted to accept what was real. Always looking for a way out. Whether it was drugs, over achieving, becoming a workaholic, or completely falling into a depression. It was a sad reality, and it’s a very lonely place to be.

You’re really at your lowest when you’re depending on someone else to care more for you than you do for yourself.

Fast forward to 2004. The exciting world of fashion and beauty, the world in which I dreamt of being a part of, was suddenly within reach. I met someone who showed me there was a whole other world out there, and I could be a part of it. I got my cosmetology license, and suddenly I was doing runways and shows that I never imagined possible.

Nov. 19, 2010 three letters changed my life. “H.I.V”. Inside I died. But I knew I couldn’t be mad at anyone else because I did this to myself.  I had unprotected sex with a partner I knew was HIV+.

Immediately, I was referred to the Minnesota AIDS Project, and my case manager, Mary Norris. But I completely detached from everything that was going on in the world. I ran away from everything. I was alone, in denial.

Then, the LA fashion scene entered my life. But, at the height of a great opportunity, came my world of drugs. I was spinning out of control. Every time I climbed higher, I fell harder. I couldn’t function. I was addicted to crystal meth.

So, I came home… to Minnesota. To my roots. I reconnected with friends and family and returned to work. But I couldn’t kick my habit and I returned to active use.

After returning home I returned to the Minnesota AIDS Project and reconnected with my case manager, Mary Norris. Mary got me on a waiting list for housing. But, there was a waiting list. A long list.

For over 3 years I went from couch hopping, to being homeless, to staying with my cousin, with ex’s, in a shelter, in treatment, until I signed my lease in March of this year for an apartment at Spirit on Lake.

I had been on the waiting list for housing for 5-years. And suddenly, I had a home. I had a key to my own place. That was my magic moment. The moment I realized I could make it. I could start over again. And this time, it would be different.

Today, I am aware. I care. The fear of being ashamed is starting to lift. I want to be open, honest.

With treatment behind me, and stable housing, I can dream, I can reflect. I can remember. Remember that there are a lot people I didn’t give credit where credit is due. My family, especially my parents, for finding the courage and strength to do the hard work and turn their lives around. My ex-partner, neighbors, people who still see the spark I often throw to the wayside. They see potential. I realize that there are people who bless me every day and now I have gratitude for them.

I accept the truth of what my life was and is. I accept my role in messing up my life. I accept that it’s a fight every day. I accept that me, Diondre, made some bad choices. I don’t know. I may have affected someone’s innocence. I may have fucked up someone’s dreams. That’s hard to live with. But, it’s also changed me.

I don’t expect my mother to be my shield or sword anymore. I don’t expect my ex-partners or drugs to be my shield or sword anymore. I expect me. I’m wise enough and strong enough now to face the battle on my own. I know I can make it if I just stick with the support I have.

Today, I have hope for the future. I was on 3 pills a day; today it’s only one. And, today… my viral load is undetectable.

There may even be a cure in my lifetime. THAT gives me hope.

I can make it now because I have a place to call home. I have my own key to a whole future that lies ahead and is waiting for me. And, challenges await. But, I’m ready!

I want to be a voice for the voiceless. To stand up against the judgement and the stigma that even sometimes, I created. I want to change the landscape of the Twin Cities by sharing my story. So, thank you for allowing me to be here today to “practice”.

And, thank you for your emotional and financial support for Clare Housing to continue their vision of providing affordable housing until all the Diondre’s, and Jimmie’s, and Gregory’s, and Cindy’s, and Rick’s are no longer homeless… I am deeply and profoundly grateful.

And most of all, I humbled by your presence here this morning. I join my voice with Dorothy’s… There’s no place like home!

Thank you.

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Thank you, Diondre, for sharing you story with us. Thank you to the over 450 attended the breakfast with us on October 7, 2015. Thanks to all of you who, inspired by Diondre’s story, choose to make a donation to support people like Diondre find home.