October 28, 2014


When I first saw Denise’s house, there were no tricycles but there were two children. They walked from one house, crossed the street, and entered another. I noticed with pain that both of those houses were on the foreclosure list. I didn’t want to involve the kids but it was my only choice, I gave the older boy a note with my phone number. Denise called me up and she and her neighbor Arleen have been a part of The Tricycle Collective ever since.

Denise lost her home in auction for a sale price of $10,000. In the aftermath, she rushed around the corner to scope out an unoccupied auction home, and decided to buy it herself, without the help of the United Community Housing Coalition or our $500. She won the home in auction for $1800.

But Denise wanted to keep living next door to her friend Arleen, their kids consider each other siblings and they rely strongly on one another for child care, home repairs and every day support. So Denise gave the home she had just purchased to her brother to put the money toward another house. She and Arleen bid on neighboring unoccupied properties in Highland Park. Arleen won, but Denise did not. In a cruel twist of fate, she has lost 2 homes in this year’s auction. This saga is not yet over and we will continue to fight for Denise and her children to have a roof over their head.

In the meantime, here is Denise’s story.


I was a first-time buyer. Had no clue of nothing. The realtor came and said “I have a house I want you to see.” He told me that it was owned by a woman in Florida who had bought a bundle of houses and was just trying to get rid of it. It was completely gutted out. It had nothing in it. I bought it for $3,000. And what I didn’t know that I was supposed to do was CHECK for Back Taxes.

I worked with a realtor and he didn’t tell me anything about the back taxes. When I got the deed from the city, the city didn’t tell me anything about the back taxes.

I didn’t know about them until I got a bill for $9,000 for one year alone. I had already owned the house a year when I found out. it was gaining interest all that time. Apparently I owed for 2008, 9 and 10. So I bought it in 2010 and I paid off 2008 when I found out- $9,000. Then I turned right back around and paid 2009-$6,000.

I was paying off all those back taxes but the reason I did not pay all of them is because I lost my job. When I got the bill for 2010 taxes, I just did not have it.

I have not started working again. I have put in applications. I have skills to work on houses but today, people are not paying for that. They want you to do a whole house for $50. If you’re not with a company, then they want you to wait for the money. There’s a lady right now who owes me so much money and I did her whole house. You can have a contract and you can take them to court but it’s still so much effort just to get paid. I would rather get a “job job” and make money. I just filled out an application as a postal worker, I went and did the training for the Sheriff Department. I’m just really trying too see who calls first. I would enjoy all of it.

I’ve acted all my life, I do black theatre gospel shows, so I’ve done that before, maybe about 15 years, and I’ve enjoyed doing that but the entertainment business today is just as rocky as anything else.

The thing is, if you give me the interview, I got the job. If I can just get my foot in the door, I have the job. It’s just about getting that foot in the door.

I bought the house in 2010 but I didn’t move in until the end of 2011 because I had to fix it up. I was staying with a friend that lives on 8 mile. I was staying at her house at night time and then fixing up the house in between that and work. I was a manager at a Group Home but I lost my job in 2013.

The thing about it was that when I first went through the house, it had nothing. I was told it was a 3-bedroom house. When I looked at the history, it was called a 5-bedroom house. But when I looked into the framing and the wiring, it’s a 2 bedroom house!

My dad taught me how to do this stuff so I do the majority of the drywall. But the framing was so jacked up and the wiring was crazy.

Who lives with me at the house is my foster kids Daniel, London, and Jordon. They are all foster children. Is today the 14th yet? London and Daniel will both be 10 months. This is just like having twins and boy does it feel like it.

I didn’t even want to foster, to be honest. My brother ended up getting a foster son and talked to me about how all the kids and babies that are just out there that get lost. I basically just went and got information. A lady came by the house just to talk to me about it. I asked her to give me some time to think about it and it didn’t happen ‘til 5 years later.

They tell the foster parents “always let the parents meet with the kids once a week.” We go to the Catholic Service and the parents, you know, meet their children, they stay with them about 3 hours. And they don’t see them again until next week. And that’s how its supposed to be.

But for me, its like, 3 hours out of a whole week is not enough. I got these babies when they were both 4 months old, they need to keep the scent and the love of their mom. I don’t ever want them to be more attached to me than to their own biological mom. I told the moms “you know what you guys are welcome to my home.” And both of the case managers looked at each other like this. Like “does she really realize what she just said?”

The parents would come, wash the kids up, sit down, eat dinner with us. And now, its’ like, the babies know their moms, they’re exited when their moms come. Not only that, these babies both have a brother and a sister. So I called the other foster parents and picked the other children up. I bring them over to my house and I keep them all day. I let them take their naps together, they play together they eat together. I do that at least twice a week just so they know “hey look, this is my little sister.” And it worked. It worked.

And, when I tell you, each of these parents are so grateful because I worked with them, I worked with the lawyer. Now they have unsupervised time together, they keep them all day. Daniel’s mom texted me today and said “my eyes are just full of tears, with joy, because my baby wouldn’t know me if you hadn’t been his foster mother.”

They’ll be leaving soon. That’s how it supposed to work! I’m excited about that. I told the parents “look, if you ever feel stressed, if you ever feel like it’s too much, I can help.” I will help them because I want them to succeed. It’s time for the family to be back together.

But on the other hand is Jordan, my 2-year old. His mom got put out of her place so I asked my friend if it was possible if she could stay somewhere until she got on her feet. We worked it out that she could stay at a boarding house for women. The women there don’t have any rent for 6 months, it’s free of everything. And you have a roof over your head and food and the thing is you’re supposed to save your money during that time.

But she took her boyfriend there and I guess heywent back later when everyone was in a meeting and stole the big screen television and the lawnmower. And because we have neighborhood watch, the neighbors saw exactly who took that TV. So they kicked her out. I told her, “you’re not to be trusted. I cannot have you around.” She said “I’m gonna be living in my car.” But my thing is I can’t even feel sorry for you because I gave you a chance.

So now she sees her son Jordan three hours a week.

I just feel sorry for Jordan because he’s 2 going on 3. He knows who his mom is. Every now and then he asks “where’s mommy?” And then he has siblings, he has two brothers and a sister. He used to know that in the beginning. But now if you ask who his sister is he says “London.” “What’s your brother’s name?” “Daniel.” His foster siblings.

I’ll continue to be a foster mother because, for one, when I have gotten results like I have gotten like with these parents, that’s the reward in and of itself. You don’t even need nothing else. But no more babies! The ways this ended up, it may not always end up that well. This wasn’t nothing but God, and it still wasn’t easy! If it hadn’t been for Arlene and Yolanda, it would’ve been very very frustrating.

I got to this neighborhood after Arleen did.

When I came to this neighborhood, no one was communicating with no one. But that’s just me. I communicate, I talk, I share. And now, I feel like everybody is connected. When the new neighbors came in I knocked on the door “Hi, I’m Denise Foxx, I’m the new neighbor, I appreciate you living here.” And from then on, they have just been “Hi Denise!” That’s how it starts.

Sometimes when people move in and you don’t say anything, you keep a distance, that becomes the way it is. The lady next door never said a word, she’d just look at me. So I said “good morning” “How are ya” “God bless you.” And now, it’s different. She came and helped me put hostas in my garden, we shovel snow together, she’ll come over and we’ll talk. Sometimes you got to go that extra mile. It takes that. See I’m not from the city either, I’m from the South. People there are used to working together.

I think a lot of people are scared now. Who would’ve though that a 17-year-old boy would be killed just down the street. This boy walked on his tippy-toes, he was special ED. They followed him off the bus, they tussled with him. Mind you, I’m in my window. This is daytime, broad daylight. When I saw the crime tape, I asked my neighbor Jennifer what it was for. We looked down the street, the boy is gone. We in the window didn’t hear a gunshot, nothing at all.

They said that whoever it was thought he had some money and was trying to rob him. He was 17 and he was mentally retarded. He had no money, maybe he had a dollar and some change. No credit cards, no nothing. I know for a fact he never hurt no body. All he ever did was walk to the Dollar Store on his tippy-toes, walk back.

That was about 5-6 days ago. And then, a week before that, this first block. They just shot a man never bothered anybody. Never hurt anyone. Trying to rob him. With that man, he also had no money. These houses almost make you think people have something, but if they knew the struggle….

It’s scary, it makes you live on edge.

I’ve never been broken into here. But that house there, they broke into her house. This is what they did. They took her small flat screen television. Killed her German Shepherd. Killed the dog. They had broke in the back of her house but they dropped the television for whatever reason and it was just broken in the back of the alley. Senseless waste.

Now they’re coming in their home. Where are you safe? We try to get in before dark but, you know.

I have an alarm system but these alarm people, they call you and if you don’t respond, they’ll just keep calling you. I’m like “if I didn’t answer the phone, call the cops! Why are you still calling me?” My alarm went off, I’m with ADT, and they had probably called me at 5:00, they finally sent the cops at like 8:00.

I didn’t know anything about the auction. I didn’t know a thing about it. My plan was, I got foreclosed, I gotta move. I have my sister, my brother, my mom, all here in Detroit. I don’t know if I’ll stay in Detroit, I always said if I leave from this house I’ll go to Atlanta.

Honey when you came to tell us about the auction, as soon as I saw Arleen, I said “God has sent someone to us. I just want you to know, He did it.” I said “this is her number right here that we have got to call because there is hope.”

But if I don’t keep the place, well that means I have to move. And I go from there.

One guy lost his house and killed himself. That kind a thinking is not an option. And it’s sad when people think that way.

But I’m gonna tell you what I truly believe, is that if God will bring me to it, he’ll bring me through it. And I have just that much faith. I’ve seen some days worse than this, that I thought I wasn’t gonna make it. And I did.



To read more stories of families on the front lines of foreclosure, visit the testimonials page.

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