For a long time, Daiquan Davis’s house in Trenton had been a safe haven. He lived there since he was in elementary school with his mother, grandmother, uncle, and his three younger brothers.
But after his mother and grandmother passed away, the home fell into disrepair. His uncle, who owns the property, couldn’t afford the utilities. One by one, they disappeared – no more water, no more heat, no more electricity.
Daiquan, his brother and their uncle continued living there, while relatives took in two younger brothers. For three years, their circumstances grew worse. Then, Daiquan fell in love. His girlfriend got pregnant, and Daiquan knew he needed to change his life.
“I used to be real antisocial and depressed because of where I lived. I never wanted to be there,” Daiquan said. His expanding family “was all the motivation I needed. I knew I really had to get up out of there. I had my son on the way, so I had to make that step to get out for my son.”
So Daiquan reached out to the CEAS Center in Trenton. CEAS stands for Coordinated Entry Assessment System. The center collaborates with community partners like Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton to link homeless adults and unaccompanied youth ages 18 to 21 to housing and housing-related services.
That’s how Daiquan first met Monique Rashford, a case manager with Catholic Charities’ Rapid Re-Housing program in Mercer County. Rapid Re-Housing is short-term rental assistance and services. It’s intended to help people get housing quickly, become self-sufficient, and stay housed. Applicants must be employed or employable.
The program funds the security deposit and first month’s rent and 70 percent of the second and third months’ rent. At the same time, clients are required to put that 70 percent into a bank account, as a way to build savings. Staff teach clients budgeting strategies and provide food and furniture assistance as needed. At the end of that three-month period, staff can extend support, if needed, to ensure housing stability.
Catholic Charities offers Rapid Re-Housing in Mercer and Burlington counties – and recently received funding to expand the program to Ocean County.
In Trenton, Rashford helped Daiquan find an apartment, and the family moved in last June. Baby Kamari was born in October, and his parents were thrilled they were able to bring him home to a safe, clean apartment.
“I feel good, like I came a long way. I’m appreciative of what I have now. At the same time, I’m trying to push forward and better myself,” he said.
His one-bedroom apartment is on the fifth floor. “There are a lot of steps,” Daiquan laughed. And his brother, now 21, still lives with him. So he hopes to move to a larger apartment when his lease is up in May. And eventually, he plans to buy his family a house.
“I want everything on one level. I want a balcony too,” said Daiquan, who works at Target but plans to get a commercial driver’s license and become a truck driver. “I see us in a cozy, nice little place – a place where I want to be.”
As he proudly scrolled through photos of his son on his phone, he added: “I don’t want him to go through the things I went through. I want a better life for him. I want him to have every success.”