'I want to help people be better versions of themselves:' Meet the woman behind Joyce's House

MILWAUKEE -- FOX6 recently held a contest called 'Remarkable Women.' It's part of a nationwide initiative by our parent company, Nexstar Media, to honor women making an impact in their communities. From a plethora of entries, four well-deserving finalists emerged.

Our first finalist is Mercedez Butts and this is her story.

At 28th & North, on the city's northwest side, is a home that represents a dream, transition, and hope. It's called Joyce's House -- a safe, sober-living home for up to eight women recovering from addiction.

Credit: GM. Creative Photography

The woman behind it all is Mercedez Butts.

"Joyce is and was my grandmother who struggled with addiction for over 33 years," said Butts.

Butts, a former substance abuse counselor, and now life and recovery coach has known for a long time she was put on this earth for a reason. She wants to help people be better versions of themselves.

Mercedez Butts

Joyce, who was able to stay sober the last 14 years of her life, was known to help others who also struggled with addiction.

"My grandmother was an amazing person beyond words," said Butts. "She was so helpful and she was very loving and was funny, too."

Just days after Joyce's death in 2015, Butts says something strange happened.

"I had a dream about Joyce`s House," said Butts. "I saw the name, people of many different nationalities, I saw five bedrooms. It was very uplifting and I saw women happy and getting themselves back together."

In 2019, that dream became a reality.

Credit: Christopher E. Burton

"I took sacrifices," said Butts. "Not paying rent at times, sacrificing my livelihood." "So opening and cutting the ribbon and walking in the doors was like, 'grandma girl, we did it.' Our family dynamic has changed."

Inside Joyce's House, you'll find a kitchen, living area, meeting space, and bedrooms upstairs named for each of Joyce's sisters. They also offer financial literacy and career development and also offer cooking classes.

The women at Joyce's House typically stay for about six months while they complete the program.

It was Butts' husband who wanted us to know just how remarkable he thinks she is. She knows the importance of a healthy support system.

Mercedez Butts along with her husband and two children the day Joyce's House opened. Credit: Christopher E. Burton

"I think it's amazing to have somebody love me in that kind of way," said Butts about her husband's nomination.

It's a love she not only shows to her two children but other young people who might be dealing with hard times.

"Believe in yourself," said Butts. Don't let the environment control who you are."

"You're young, gifted, and black. Move forward. Change the dynamic. My kids have seen me do it," said Butts.

"My children are my legacy," she continued. "When I transition from this life, that's what I'll be remembered for -- helping the world become a better place and my kids will do the same."