Former homeless man gets a new lease on life

    With the stroke of a pen, Deshaye Blackwell signed a new lease on life. Hours earlier, he was living on the streets.

    With supporters by his side, Blackwell says he's known all along, a higher power would make moving day possible.

    "Just prayed a lot and stayed focused and knew things would change eventually,” he says.

    Moving in means moving on from a life of homelessness. At 18 years old, his father died and he had no other family to turn to.

    Life didn't cut Blackwell many breaks. He lost his construction job because of a spinal injury.

    Home became any place he could find peace.

    "Sleeping in a park or a Metro station. I'd just pick anywhere to sleep,” he says. “I had to take it as it came."

    After nearly two years on Arlington's streets, volunteers from the Arlington Street People's Assistance Network, or ASPAN, found Deshaye and told him about a rental assistance program to help him restart his life.

    Deshaye's story and every story of the individuals we work with is there are community members who need help,” says Meg Tuccillo, an ASPAN board member.

    There's a bright future ahead for Blackwell, who wants to go to college and get a business degree.

    Donated furniture, a little faith from friends and a home for the holiday are enough to get him started on those goals.

    "It definitely means a lot,” he says. “That's the best Christmas present anyone could want."

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