Giving Thanks in Dexter
Kevin Mote, his fiancé Larysha, and their three kids moved to Dexter in April 2022 into the new Hilltop View Apartments. For Kevin and his family, it was a Godsend.
“God put you all in a position to help us out,” says Kevin. “I’m thankful for the help because I can do more for myself.”
Hilltop View Apts are owned and managed by Avalon Housing of Ann Arbor, a non-profit that works to end homelessness by developing affordable housing centered on community support. Residents of the 24-unit Hilltop have access to ongoing supportive services from the Veteran’s Administration and Faith in Action.
To get an apartment at Hilltop, Kevin and his family had to be approved first by the Housing Access for Washtenaw County and then approved again by Avalon Housing.
Before arriving in Dexter last spring, food and housing were a daily struggle for Kevin and Larysha, who were expecting their first child together.
“Life was ultimate hard having her pregnant,” recounts Kevin. “We lived in a house with no electricity, no hot water, and no heat. There was no food. We had to boil water. I had to fill up Faygo bottles with hot water and put them around Larysha at night to keep her warm. We slept with all our clothes on like we were camping.”
Leaving that place in search of something better, they found the Delonis Center, but that only offered limited shelter. For something more permanent, Kevin rented a room for $225 a week. He worked with most of the money going to the room and some left over for food. Kevin says he would tell his expecting fiancé, “I know it’s hard, but at least we got this room.”
Kevin is reflective of the course his life has taken.
“Growing up in the hood, I had no guidance,” he says. “I felt like crime was my only route. I felt like it was the only way to get what I wanted. I see the stupid stuff they’re doing now in the news. They’re just lost. People can’t guide themselves. I was once just like them.”
“I wouldn’t have gone to prison if I had the correct guidance,” Kevin continues. “When I came out, I didn’t know anything about anything. I didn’t know how car leases work or that you had to pay insurance. It might sound dumb to others, but it’s just knowledge I lack.”
Coming to Dexter has been a dramatic change for the Kevin, Larysha, and the kids.
“We love it,” he says. “It’s like everybody is happy. In the hood, everybody is packed in. Your actions affect other people. But there is more freedom out here, and nobody is running your business.”
“I like it here because a person doesn’t have to carry a gun to work,” he adds. “They don’t have to carry a gun to the gas station. I hear the kids playing, and they love it. These kids have never played outside. No kid has to duck bullets. Nobody has to live in a state of something awful could happen at any moment, even if it’s not going to happen.”
“I feel like it was a test God put us through,” continues Kevin. “That’s why I’m so appreciative for now. Waking up in a warm bed, a house with lights, and some food, that’s a lot to us. It might be nothing to some people, but it’s a lot to us.”
Kevin and Larysha’s two older children attend Mill Creek Middle School and Wylie Elementary. While Kevin assures us that his kids love their schools, those first days held a lot of apprehensions.
“The first day, we were kind of nervous because we’re African Americans coming out here,” says Kevin candidly. “When they told us we were coming to Dexter, I looked into it because I was wondering where they were sending us. I saw there were protests out here. They didn’t want black people out here. They felt like they were putting mentally ill people next to the schools.”
“That’s why I try to get so many jobs in the community to show them my family and I aren’t like that,” continues Kevin. “I want to come from the gutter and show them people aren’t bad. They’re just stuck and misunderstood. My way of talking might not be your way. A mom probably raised you. My mom didn’t raise me.”
“I feel like we’ve got to understand people, too,” adds Keven. “Everybody didn’t come from where you came from. Everybody’s not even. Your bad day might still be somebody’s good day.”
In addition to working at LaFontaine and delivering Uber Eats, Kevin has transferred his credits from Jackson Community College to Washtenaw Community College, where he intends to enroll and pursue a trade.
The coming holidays are going to be different for the family of five. When asked what he is looking forward to most this year, Kevin says, “We’re warm. We’ve got good clothes on. We’re happy. We’ve been thankful since we moved in, so we’ll continue giving thanks.”
And drawing inspiration from the signs around town supporting Dexter’s historic football team, he adds, “I like the saying you have around Dexter, ‘We Believe.’”
Photo: Kevin Mote. Photo by Doug Marrin.