Once Homeless, Now Starting His Own Business and Finishing College

December 1st, 2010
Dennis Hampton, photographed at the HRC

When his problems seemed insurmountable, Dennis Hampton fell into a resigned despondency. His life, he felt, was without value. And his homelessness pictured his frame of mind.

“Living in the park, sleeping on a bench, I felt degraded and isolated,” Dennis says. “But I also thought this was what I deserved. I had given up on life.”

Dennis came to the Housing Resource Center a year and a half ago. His transformation since that time has been dramatic. Indeed, his gentle politeness and confident air belies the struggles he has endured.

Dennis is now renting a home in Dearborn, working on his degree at Wayne State, and launching his own small business. Through mental health services from Southwest Counseling Solutions, he has brought his manic-depressive disorder under control. Dennis believes that his past abuse of drugs and alcohol were attempts to self-medicate because of his severe mental illness. He is now drug-free and sober.

Dennis, 42, was born in Detroit. After graduating from Mumford High, he moved to Connecticut, where he became involved in criminal activity to support his heroin habit. At 20 years old, he was sent to prison for armed robbery. He served 11 years.

During his imprisonment, Dennis met a woman who became his wife. After his release, they settled in Connecticut to start a family. He took a job at a manufacturing company, and was quickly promoted to a supervisor position.

After being laid off in 2003, Dennis and his wife moved to Pontiac. Dennis worked at a trucking company. However, his marriage was already coming apart, and a year later it ended. His (former) wife and their two young children moved back to Connecticut to be close to her family.

Dennis’ life unraveled after the divorce. His drug and alcohol abuse worsened. He lost his job and his place to stay. He wore out his welcome with family and friends, and then lived on the streets.

“I burned all my bridges with everyone that cared about me,” Dennis says.

Eventually, he went to the Detroit Rescue Mission in the Cass Corridor. At the Mission, he rediscovered his sense of self-worth by reconnecting with his spirituality.

“I decided to change my life, and the people at the Mission referred me to the Housing Resource Center to help me move forward,” Dennis says.

Each person who seeks help at the Housing Resource Center (HRC) has a unique tale of woe that has left the individual homeless or close to being homeless. Each story is different, but all involve a combination of bad choices and adverse conditions that have brought on this crisis. The HRC provides comprehensive housing and support services to help individuals overcome their adverse conditions and also make better choices that will enhance their future quality of life. Through the HRC, Dennis received a housing voucher that enables him to pay his rent.

“We are very proud of Dennis,” says Meghan Buslepp, one of several HRC staff persons that helped Dennis. “He has made tremendous strides to turn his life around, and is determined to help others do the same.”

Dennis recently obtained an $8300 grant through Michigan Rehabilitation Services, a state agency that assists those with disabilities. The grant was based on a business plan that Dennis put together after completing a small business course. Dennis is using the money to establish a company that will provide janitorial services, snow removal, and landscaping.

“As my company becomes successful, I want to hire people with disabilities and those who were once homeless and are seeking to rebuild their lives,” Dennis says.

At Wayne State, Dennis is majoring in business management, with a minor in social work. He is maintaining an A average, and hopes to graduate next year.

Of all his recent accomplishments, Dennis considers one to be the most significant: His reunification with his two children, after five years of being apart. His sons are now seven and eight years old. Dennis has travelled to Connecticut to see them, and they spent their summer vacation with him this year. Dennis’ deepest aspiration, he says, is to be is a good father and positive influence for his sons.

“This is a wonderful time in my life,” Dennis says. “It’s not easy, but the challenges I’m working through are rewarding and I’m optimistic about where life will take me.”

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