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Daniece Experienced Homelessness, Now She's Working to End It

July 31, 2020

In May, 2020, Daniece joined Pallet’s team as a manufacturing specialist. Like most of Pallet’s employees who build the company’s rapid, dignified, and proven shelters, Daniece has lived experience with homelessness, substance use disorder, and incarceration – and knows all too well the challenges people with similar backgrounds face when looking for work.

Now two months into her role at Pallet, we asked Daniece what she thought of her new career, her goals for the future, and what it means to be building shelter for people who are experiencing homelessness.

What do you do here at Pallet?

At Pallet, my job is a manufacturing specialist. My role is to build shelters for the homeless.

You’ve mentioned that, like most of Pallet’s employees, you have experience with homelessness, substance use disorder, and incarceration in your past. Can you tell us about that?

At times in my past it seemed the only constant in my life was rock bottom. I was born addicted to drugs. I have been incarcerated five times. My full-time job was selling drugs, boosting, and prostitution.

“I went from homelessness, to prison, to making shelter for the homeless.” — Daniece

What was your experience as someone who previously lived in homelessness?

I know all too well how it feels to be homeless! I come from living on the streets where my full-time job was selling drugs, boosting, and escorting myself and helping others do the same. At night I would stay awake to ensure that I was not robbed. I would constantly worry about my safety, worry about what the next person was going to do, I would constantly have to worry that I was pleasing the people around me so that they wouldn’t steal from me. I couldn’t go home because the Department of Corrections was after me. A good night would be prostituting with a few women, go in on a motel room together, just for the luxury to relax out of the elements for a few hours. Selling drugs and motivating boosters. I would wake up worried and ashamed. A cycle I repeated because I didn’t know anything else.

I always slept with one eye open to protect my safety and because my few possessions were all I had in life. The crowd I surrounded myself around could decide at any moment that if they wanted my stuff, they could simply take it. I had no peace, no calm, and no serenity.

Let’s go back to your experience with incarceration. How long were you incarcerated?

I’ve been incarcerated five times and came out of prison on the rapid release program after serving 45 months. While in prison this last time, I enrolled myself in a program called The IF Project. They helped me learn how to set realistic short- and long-term goals. A few of those goals are: stay sober, follow Department of Corrections direction, build new relationships, pay my fines, find a job that I love, obtain a driver’s license, buy a car, live in a safe environment, and ultimately find purpose.

I have been out of prison for four months and have met nearly all of my short-term goals, and am already working on my long-term goals. My job at Pallet has played a big part in my success. At Pallet, I have been able to reach nearly all of my short and long term goals.

Daniece joined Pallet’s team as a manufacturing specialist in May, 2020.

Daniece joined Pallet’s team as a manufacturing specialist in May, 2020.

“It feels like my life finally has meaning. Feeling like I have a purpose and a reason to wake up every morning.” — Daniece

What helped you to get out of prison?

While incarcerated I participated in life skill classes through The IF Project. While in a life skills class with The IF Project, I made goals for myself for my vision board with a one-year and a five-year plan.  These goals have been reached within a matter of four months. Each previous time I was released from prison, I could not put together 30 days without relapse and being on the run from the Department of Corrections.

My birthstone is rock bottom. I believed that I thrived in chaos and could not find a way out. But after serving 45 months in prison, I came out with a plan and a lot of goals.

What is your living situation like now?

Today, I live in transitional housing, have a job that I love, a job that employs ex-felons. Pallet treats me well, pays me well, and has given me a life that I never want to lose again. I have gotten the things that I need in compliance with paying my fines, which is a whole new world to me. I work 40 hours a week, sometimes I am totally exhausted at the end of a 10 hour shift, but I know that on the next pay day I will have the money that I need to continue this life and obtain the things that I need. The long and sometimes exhausting workdays lend me a sense of peace and accomplishment knowing I worked an honest day. I have my driver’s license, a car that I own 100%, and car insurance.

What role has Pallet played in helping you attain your current living situation?

Everything that I have today could not have been accomplished if I did not have my job at Pallet. It has taught me how to recognize my past and make a new path. It has helped me to break the cycle that I repeated too many times. Habits and chaotic way of life is really hard to break especially the ones that cause harm, but when we break that cycle, we find something better. Today I have a new, healthier cycle that I can depend on. I have the support of Pallet in every area of my life.

If I had I been given a shelter where I could sleep safely and protect everything that I own during my addiction, I would have been safe from the people that were in my life. Having the opportunity to be one of the people that builds homes for the homeless is such an amazing feeling. Giving back to the people, knowing it’s where I came from, offering them safety and a safe place to sleep – it feels like my life finally has meaning. Feeling like I have a purpose and a reason to wake up every morning.

What does it mean to be building shelter for people who are experiencing homelessness, given that you’ve experienced homelessness yourself?

I hope that with the safety of the homes that I build, the chaotic, unhealthy cycle can be broken for another person. I hope that with each shelter that is sent out with my loving intentions for another soul, they will be able to really call it home. I wouldn’t be where I am without my job. I love my job at Pallet and I now have a life that I never want to lose. My career is very rewarding and it keeps me going and it reminds me to thank my higher power daily. Every day I wake up and go to work, I get stronger in my own new recovery and learn new things every day from my job.

You’ve already accomplished many of the goals you set as you exited prison. What new goals do you have for the future?

From here my long-term goal is to build relationships with my kids. You see, I have been in and out of their lives just to leave again – so I now have to earn their trust. I plan to work at Pallet as my career, and to get where I can possibly go on the setup crew, the team that builds our shelters out in other states across America.

I also want to complete my Department of Corrections probation without violations so I can change the statistics and actually have a success story instead of the opposite, which is running from them.

And trying to find work fresh out of prison was definitely a struggle.  There are excellent employers out there that respect a felon’s time served, but they are few and far between. I was blessed to find Pallet early in my job search.

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About The IF Project

The IF Project is a unique collaboration of formerly and currently incarcerated adults working together with law enforcement personnel to affect change for those who are facing issues and challenges regarding incarceration and recidivism. Their work is built upon — and inspired by — these people sharing their personal experiences surrounding the issues of incarceration. The IF Project provides programs for youth, trainings for adults who work with youth and writing workshops, and trainings for men and women who are currently incarcerated.

Click here to learn more about The IF Project.

Daniece after learning how to use new manufacturing equipment at Pallet’s factory headquarters.

Daniece after learning how to use new manufacturing equipment at Pallet’s factory headquarters.

Daniece stands in a shelter she helped to build.

Daniece stands in a shelter she helped to build.

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