Denise grew up in a family of 11 children, spending most of her childhood trying to fit in and gain the attention of her parents. At an early age, she was surrounded by alcohol and eventually turned to it as an escape from reality.

Though Denise struggled with obstacles at home and a learning disability at school, she focused on making a better life for herself. She eventually graduated high school and later earned her associate’s degree in specialized business for music and video, finding solace in music and joining a choir.

But life took a turn for Denise after her mother and grandmother passed away from cancer within a close timeframe. She soon turned to alcohol and opioids to numb the pain – and even considered suicide.

In hopes of a fresh start, Denise decided to move to Florida with a friend, bouncing from Venice, Siesta Key and Lakeland before landing in St. Petersburg. She began receiving reduced Social Security benefits in 2010, and the steady income initially helped Denise buy a home. The stability was short-lived, as she was unable to pay her mortgage due to drug use, and, ultimately, she lost her home.

Denise was homeless for a time before she sought refuge and sobriety at Turning Point and through Pinellas Hope. She breathed a sigh of relief when she was able to come to the St. Petersburg Free Clinic’s Virginia & David Baldwin Women’s Residence.

Finally, Denise was surrounded by women who supported and accepted her. She discovered her love of cooking, and she volunteered in the kitchen at the Women’s Residence before being hired as a cook – her first steady job in 20 years. And, she rekindled her passion for music, singing in a church choir and working with a vocal coach.

Denise now looks at life through a different lens, thanks to the Women’s Residence. Most importantly, she’s found a place where she belongs, and hopes to help other women find their place, too.

You can help more women like Denise find hope through the Baldwin Women’s Residence.