Pomp and Circumstance played over the speakers as graduates, donned in caps and gowns, walked to their seats. Dallas Life held the ceremony Thursday morning for its 'Homeless No More' program graduates.
"Can't judge a book by its cover," Steve Wagner said. "Never thought in a thousand years I'd be in a homeless shelter."
Wagner is one of 35 people who graduated on Thursday from the 10 month program. He said he's already been working and saved up enough money to leave Dallas Life months ago, but stayed. "To finish the program," Wagner said. "To finish what I started."
The faith-based program provides counseling, job training, and coping skills to help graduates succeed and break out of homelessness. Dallas Life said its program has a 90-percent success rate.
"Homelessness is not going to go away," Dallas Life Executive Director Bob Sweeney said. "It's not a disease we need to fix. It's a disorder we need to address."
According the the Point in Time Homeless Count, homelessness in Dallas and Collin Counties has gone up 9 percent since last year.
"When I came here in January and it was really cold outside, part of me just wanted to walk away... the last place I ever saw myself being was living in a homeless shelter," Fadziso 'Naomi' Makoni told the crowd. She was chosen to speak at graduation. "I appreciate you all so much. I just encourage anyone in the program to just trust God. Seek his will in everything, and then put in the work."
Dallas Life started the program 15-years ago. This is the 30th class to graduate.