A commitment to others drives this seasoned Detroit lawyer to assist in providing asylum-seekers with resources that will help them settle into the community.
Moving to a new country is scary. Fleeing from your home into a new country with no resources or support can be downright terrifying. Denise M. Hudson, a 30-year probate lawyer, witnessed the struggle firsthand after volunteering with Freedom House Detroit.
“I’m an active member of my sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., the Alpha Row Omega Chapter,” she says. “In our sorority, we have target programs, and a few years ago our target was global impact. As a part of that, I was asked, as a chairperson, to facilitate a United Nations celebration and I reached out and see if they would come and speak.”
Leaders with Freedom House agreed to speak and through their words, Hudson increasingly became more interested in their mission, which is to “uphold a fundamental American principle” by providing services and support to people who are seeking asylum in the United States. “I became increasingly more involved with Freedom House, playing with children and working with the residents,” Hudson adds.
Eventually, they asked her to serve on their board. She agreed, and acted as a member for about three years before becoming president of the board this year. As president, she works to find volunteers, applies for grants and helps to facilitate fundraisers that support the organization’s services for asylum-seekers, which includes everything from job readiness and English courses to legal services and even shelter.
“I’m so committed to it because Detroit is the only place in the country that (has) a full-service facility,” she says. “Whatever it is they need, they can get those services through Freedom House, and it doesn’t cost them anything.” The main goal, Hudson says, is to help people who are seeking asylum get settled in the community and restart their lives in the most efficient way possible.
“You have babies, families, people waiting to be reunited with their families, kids and teenagers (at Freedom House),” she explains. “These are people who have skills and who are willing to incorporate themselves into the community and it’s good for us as a community and country to be more diverse.” And her work with Freedom House is only one way that Hudson, who currently lives Bloomfield Township, works to assist those living in her native Detroit.
She once worked as an administrator with the U.S. District Court and would see how lawyers were helping others. This experience inspired her, and with her mother’s support, she decided to become a lawyer. “(My mother) told me that she thought I would make a good attorney,” Hudson says. As it happened, Hudson’s father always wanted to be a lawyer.
She would go on to get a law degree from the University of Detroit (now the University of Detroit Mercy) along with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in counseling from Michigan State University – all of which she uses to assist locals in everything from high-profile court proceedings to litigations, estate disagreements and power of attorney cases.
“Typically, people will come with problems and they don’t know what to do, where to turn or how to start,” she says. “Counseling and psychology comes in handy when dealing with families that may have interpersonal problems. Having that person in the middle that isn’t emotional and can talk to all parties is very important.”
In addition, she serves on the board of the Greater Detroit Chapter of the United Nations Association, where she works to highlight issues that the United Nations focuses on through different activities and community meetings. She has also taught law at the University of Detroit Mercy for the past four years and volunteers with the community to speak on the importance of estate planning and healthy seniors. Hudson says, “I just really enjoy helping people.”