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“You can do all things with just a little bit of resources.” Deon’s Place, a community based project to house the homeless, will host open house Dec. 10

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The barriers that homeless people face trying to get into apartments or homes can be overwhelming. Mattie Reese, through her nonprofit, Connecting the Dots with Mattie, Inc., and community partners are helping previous homeless individuals experience stable housing courtesy of her new Deon’s Place, a giant house located in the Village of McFarland.

Reese had spent months preparing a home for six formerly homeless people who now have some stability and are thriving. The greater community will get a chance to see Deon’s Place when they host an open house on Saturday, Dec. 10, noon-2 p.m., at 5804 Cedar Court in McFarland.

Reese is the founder of Connecting the Dots, a local grassroots organization committed to providing people facing economic insecurity with the resources that they need to make it through each day. Clients officially moved into Deon’s Place, which has three bedrooms upstairs and three bedrooms downstairs, along with four and a half baths, in September.

Mattie Reese
(Photo supplied.)

“We had our first sit-down meeting about two weeks ago, and I’m pretty pleased with the way that the house is running. I don’t have to worry about too much,” Reese tells Madison365. “My clients all have employment at this present time. Some of their credit scores have flourished due to the fact that they’re having a stable place over their head where they can sleep well and not have to worry about being cold or being outside or where the next meal is coming from. 

“So I have seen major change in our clients within 30 days. There is nothing like having your own home where you can cook, where you can have responsibilities, where you feel safe and where you can function,” she adds.

During the pandemic, Reese had been working with homeless individuals who had been at the homeless encampment in McPike Park and were moved to Reindahl Park on the north side where the city had decided to have them relocated.

She had a friend who was working at the Magnuson Hotel and had about $5,000 saved up.

“I went through the park and I went from one tent to another and asked them if I was to put them into a hotel, would they come? There were about 60 folks at the time in that park, and three of them stayed out because they kind of wanted to just live off the land,” Reese remembers. “But I had them in the hotel at the Magnuson. So then the county assisted in helping with their stay during COVID.

“So then I was able to not have to come up with that funding to pay the hotel because the county took over that bill,” she continues. “So I started feeding them, giving them case management and breaking down the barriers of being homeless and putting them into permanent housing, transitional housing. And I was just finding that with those clients, they weren’t able to meet the criteria for getting market-rate apartments.”

Reese felt some of her clients would be doomed if they couldn’t meet that criteria so she brainstormed what she would do next.

“I started sitting down and talking with my pastor, [End Time Ministries International] Bishop Godfrey Stubbs, and I’m like, ‘I really want to do a house for these clients I’ve had for two years since COVID started.’”

Reese knew that she had several clients that didn’t meet some housing qualifications but met her organization’s qualifications.

“I felt like we could house them and rebuild their lives. And so I searched and I searched and I ended up partnering with an African American landlord by the name of Anita Taylor. She had a house in McFarland and she agreed to do it,” Reese remembers.

They agreed that the place would be called “Deon’s Place” after Taylor’s late son.

“Miss Anita had told me a story about how her son had passed away due to homelessness and being out on the streets and involved in drugs and different things like that,” Reese says. “He died in his car, and he was there for a very long time before anyone even noticed that he was dead. It was 24 hours before anyone noticed he was dead in the car at a gas station.

“So Deon’s Place represents the struggle of being homeless and no one hearing your cry, where you’re just asking for a little bit of help but don’t know how to,” she adds. “We named it Deon’s Place because we want to make sure that his legacy lives on to say that if just somebody would have noticed then he probably would be here today. So we want to try to alleviate that for our homeless population.”

Deon’s Place

Reese wanted to make sure that Deon’s Place was fully furnished when the six clients moved in.

“The realtor that found the place for Miss Anita was Becki Friday and she donated 18 percent of her earnings to Connect the Dots to get furniture in the place downstairs,” Reese says. “Other than that, all of the furniture in the house came from myself and Miss Anita’s other home. We wanted them to have a ready home so they could come right into the house and not have to worry about anything … just get started on rebuilding their lives.”

 

Deon’s Place has six bedrooms and is fully furnished.

Reese says she’s excited for the greater community to see Deon’s Place at the Dec. 10 open house. It will be an opportunity for the public, especially people living in McFarland, to come in and introduce themselves to their new neighbors.

“We want folks to come in and see how well we have put this place together for homeless people to let them know that their lives matter, as well, and that you can do all things with just a little bit of resources,” Reese says. “We have given them a beautiful place to start their new lives and to make sure that homelessness doesn’t creep up on them again and an opportunity to learn through our program, learning how to once again be a tenant, learning how to stay employed, learning how to balance a checkbook.

“Our whole program, it’s all about the way of life and our program runs for 24 months. So if after 24 months, not only can you go into permanent housing, but you also can go into buying a home or buying a condo, because we have these things in place. You’ve been on your job for two years and your credit score has flourished. You have what you need to go in and make it where you don’t ever have to be homeless again.”

The ultimate goal for her clients, Reese adds, is not just stable housing but building generational wealth.

“Our generation as African Americans and as marginalized folks, low to moderate income folks, we haven’t really been introduced to the tools of life that can better our lives,” she says. “I mean, a lot of people say, ‘Oh, yeah, you have an equal opportunity.’ But do we really have equal opportunity when we don’t know how to play the game? So we don’t have equal opportunities because we are seldom candidates for things like owning our own homes. But if we set ourselves up to be candidates, then we could succeed. So that is what I desire to put in our clients … we want to set them up as much as we can so that they can succeed.”

With that in mind, Deon’s Place open house is not only the celebration of the end of a beautiful community-based project, but the beginning of possibilities of many more.

“Hopefully, we can get some folks on board and if we can get more partners on board and more funding, I think it will make the process even easier the next time we want to do this,” Reese says. “We would love to purchase another spot where we can house maybe six more people or 12 more people … so we’re not stopping here. Our goal is to be a resource to ending homelessness.”