DALLAS -- One of the mottos at Dallas Life homeless shelter is "We don't give handouts. We give hands up."

That support system helped more than two dozen people say goodbye to homelessness on Monday. 28 men and women are now celebrating a new lease on life off the streets.

"This is real change, instead of spare change," said Dallas Life Executive Director Bob Sweeney.

The Goodens are embracing that change.

"We came and we got humble here," said Derwin Gooden.

"You know, I didn’t graduate like this, so I never did this cap-and-gown thing," added his wife, Frances.

They earned their cap and gowns.

"We’ve come far," Frances admitted, as tears welled up in her eyes.

Frances (foreground) and Derwin Gooden (background).
Frances (foreground) and Derwin Gooden (background).

Her family walked into Dallas Life six months ago, after losing their jobs, then their five-bedroom home.

Frances worked in home care and looked after the elderly and disabled. Her husband was as a shipping clerk. They and their three kids bounced from hotel to hotel, then stayed with their grandma and worried where they'd land next.

Francis said the hardest part was "Not knowing the next step where our children would lay their heads."

That was until a lady at church told them they'd be welcomed at Dallas Life.

"Instead of being not accepted to the thought of coming to a homeless shelter, we embraced it," Derwin said.

Sweeney said the program was about giving people the ability to pick themselves up.

"The residents that have gone through our 10-month program have reconnected with their families," he said. "They are working. They have found places to live. They have mentors that have come alongside of them."

Now the Goodens are about to get keys to a new home.

"It is a second chance," Frances said.

She's the second-floor supervisor at the shelter. Derwin is the assistant manager for the shelter store.

They're not letting past setbacks stop them from being valedictorians in life.

"You might mess up," Frances said. "Things might happen, but you still can move on. There’s always a way, as long as you know it inside."