Communities of Faith Collaborating to Provide Justice for All in Our City


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By Gary Maring

N Street Village Board Member and Interfaith Founder with Luther Place Memorial Church

In the years after the fiery devastation along 14th street following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in April 1968, Luther Place Memorial Church began to consider its property and location as an opportunity to help minister to the wounded of the city.  It began transforming dilapidated row houses on N Street into what became a smorgasbord of faith inspired programs (Bread for the City, Deborah’s Place, Zacchaeus Medical Clinic, Sarah House, Bethany Women’s Center, etc.) to help bring healing in the community. A multidenominational religious community led by Luther Place, with a Protestant, Jewish, and Catholic coalition (ProJeCt), gradually created what was to become known as N Street Village.  A critical step along the way was Luther Place’s opening of its church doors to the homeless in the cold winter of 1976.  From that event in the winter of 1976, there was no turning back.  Our interfaith ministry to homeless women grew and eventually became a full continuum of services for women coming out of homelessness. Through dedicated and persistent leadership, in December 1996 we celebrated the opening of a grand new facility at 14th and N Street NW that included Promise Place housing, the continuum of programs for homeless women, and Eden House, 51 apartments serving low and moderate income individuals and families. This facility along with the Luther Place Night Shelter formed the core of N Street Village until recent years when two additional programs were brought into the Village; Miriam’s House for women with HIV/AIDS and Erna’s House, permanent supportive housing for formerly homeless women.

Now in 2016, 40 years after the opening of its first shelter in the basement of Luther Place and 20 years after opening its flagship property across 14th street from the church, N Street Village is continuing to “keep our promise”. We are delighted to report that the Village has dramatically expanded its services to homeless women this year as part of Homeward DC, a citywide effort to make homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring by 2020 and includes facilities in all 8-Wards as part of the solution.

In April of this year, N Street Village was selected to manage short-term emergency housing operations for women in downtown DC at the newly renovated Patricia Handy Place for Women (PHPW), the first of the city’s Homeward DC plan, which is located in Chinatown at 810 Fifth Street NW in Ward 2. The new shelter, which provides 213 beds for single women, replaces the old Federal City Shelter. With this expansion, the Village has more than doubled its staff and is serving more than 1,400 women and 52 families in four locations.

My wife Margaret and I were among the first to recently volunteer to serve meals at the beautiful new PHPW and it brought back memories of serving at the opening of N Street Village’s first homeless shelter in the basement of our church, Luther Place, that cold winter 40 years ago when so many people were dying on the streets. We have come a long way in providing the full range of services needed to help so many women restore the wholeness of life but unfortunately there are still many falling through the cracks. We know we can do better in our nation’s capital and thus continue to work with the Washington Interfaith Network (WIN) and other coalitions to advocate for ending homelessness and providing permanent housing solutions for all.

The interfaith example of N Street Village’s founding and many years of service to homeless women, and the diligent advocacy work of the Washington Interfaith Network, show the power of faith in action.  Although much remains to be done, we celebrate that communities of faith have been at the forefront of justice initiatives for ‘the least of these’ in our city for nearly half a century since the tragic events surrounding the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.

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September Volunteer Spotlight

This month get to know N Street Village volunteer, Jim Luetkemeyer. Jim started serving breakfast to the community in December 2013. In addition to direct service, Jim and his public relations colleagues have updated and created new volunteer materials including, guide books for N Street Village’s volunteer and in-kind office. Let’s get to know Jim…

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I have volunteered with N Street Village since 2013. Until last month, I was a senior partner at a prominent public relations firm in DC. But last month, my wife and I decided to take the unusual step to leave our jobs and spend the next year traveling the world. We’re calling it our “one-year retirement” as we will be coming back to DC in a year to find new jobs and to settle back into living, working and volunteering in the city we love. I learned about N Street Village by chance as I lived just around the corner in Logan Circle. Along with travel, I also enjoy following my alma mater Oklahoma State Cowboys football team, and the Washington Nationals.

Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in the DC area? I was raised on a family farm in Okeene, Oklahoma, a one-stoplight town. In college at Oklahoma State, I traveled to DC as part of a student journalism conference and fell in love with the city. When I moved, I planned to be here for three years, but I’ve lived in DC for 18 years.

 What is your favorite D.C. restaurant? One way to judge this is by the meals I made sure I had before leaving town for a year – they were El Sol on 11th St. NW, El Pollo Rico in Arlington, Great Wall, and Stoney’s.

On a Saturday evening you will find me…Now, planning the next leg of my journey, but before, you’d find me in Logan Circle having a drink with friends.

Where is the last place you travelled to? I’m one month into a yearlong journey! I’m currently writing this in the passenger seat on a winding road to Arenal in Costa Rica, so the last place would be San Juan, Costa Rica!

What is your favorite D.C. landmark? I love the National Museum of Art East Building – both for its architecture and the art inside, especially the Calder mobiles.

 Describe N Street Village in 3 words or less. Community, Recovery, Hope.

 What do you enjoy most about volunteering at N Street Village? Being a part of this great service to the community.

 What has been one of your biggest surprises about N Street Village? The comprehensive services provided. When I first walked by, I assumed it was just a soup kitchen.

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N Street Village 2016 Coat Drive: Because No Woman Should Be Left in the Cold

FullSizeRenderThis past January, over 500 DC homeless citizens experienced a hypothermia emergency in a single day. On that day alone, emergency responders received over 400 calls to the hypothermia hotline which lead to a shortage of the city’s hypothermia vans and other resources. This situation is both inexcusable and preventable.

N Street Village is taking action again this year with our Annual Coat Drive. This year is a special one for us because we have doubled our housing capacity since last winter and now we need TWICE as many coats last year! We are hoping to receive at least 400 coats to ensure that every woman who walks through our doors does not go cold this winter. We are most in need of women’s wool and down coats sizes Large to 6X, and we also accept unisex coats including fleece and down jackets and vests.

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The coats really do make a difference—just ask our women! “Receiving a coat from N Street Village made me happy because I knew I would feel the warmth during the winter months,” said N Street Village alumna Carlita. Current resident Debra agreed and shared her gratitude with us: “The coats really keep you warm. I’m just so happy to have one. Thank you!”

To schedule a drop-off appointment or get more information, please contact Adam Brunell at (202) 939-2058 or by email at abrunell@nstreetvillage.org.

Please join us to set a new standard of care for all the members of our community!

Thank you all for your generosity and kindness.

Blessings,

Adam Brunell

N Street Village Volunteer and In-Kind Coordinatorcropped Louise-Adam-Debra-Carlita coat drive

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Staff Spotlight…

Friends and Family Day 2016-24-min

Please join us in welcoming Adam Brunell!  Adam joins N Street Village’s Development Team as its Volunteer and In-Kind Gifts Coordinator.  In this role, Adam is looking forward to meeting our current volunteers and continuing to match volunteers with meaningful opportunities, specifically at The Patricia Handy Place for Women. Adam has recently shared with us more about himself and interest in working at N Street Village. Let’s get to know Adam…

After graduating with a degree from Vassar College in mathematics, I worked for several environmental organizations as a field organizer around such issues as limiting carbon emissions from power plants and reducing dangerous pollution from coal-fired power plants. After several years of organizing at the systemic level, I decided I needed to work directly with people. I then started a position as the assistant to the executive director at Hyacinth’s Place, a permanent supportive housing program in Northeast DC for homeless women with mental health diagnoses. I am excited to continue this line of work here at N Street Village.

NSV: Where are you from originally from?

AB: I was born in Plano, Texas and I grew up in different parts of Connecticut. I’ve been in DC for 2 years and I love it!

NSV: What inspired you to work at N Street Village?

AB: I had a serious brain injury less than a year after getting out of a college, and then pretty soon that led to the worsening of my symptoms. I had a really tough time getting it together, life just became really hard. I only made it through because of the support of my friends and family. What inspired me to work at the Village is the hope to do what people once did for me—to make someone’s trying times a bump in the road rather than the road itself.

NSV: What do you do on a daily basis at N Street Village?

AB: Every day is a little bit different! In the first few weeks here, I led a team of corporate volunteers, picked up trays of muffins from a local bakery, received hundreds of donated items, instituted policies for communicating with our new housing program, and learned our volunteer and donation databases. You never know what your day will look like!

NSV: What do you wish other people knew about N Street Village?

AB: I wish people knew how just how much the Village offers– emergency housing, temporary housing, permanent supportive housing, housing for those in recovery, housing for those with HIV/AIDS, and housing for seniors– over four hundred beds in total. And that’s just housing! The Village also offers yoga lessons and employment training, has a dentist’s and doctor’s office on site, and is the only place in DC to serve food for free 365 days a year no matter the weather, guaranteed. When I first started working here, the breadth of the Village’s services surprised me, and I think our volunteers are also amazed at the range of programs we offer.

NSV: As someone who works with N Street Village volunteers nearly every day, what impact do you see our volunteers having on our community?

AB: Not only are our volunteers essential to the functioning of the Village, but also they are a key source of positivity and warmth. In order to be successful, the Village has to be a place of kindness and hope. The volunteers are big part of that. Their enthusiasm is contagious and their warm-heartedness makes the community a brighter place.

NSV: Describe N Street Village in 3 words:

Affirming, inspiring, uplifting.

NSV: When you are not at N Street Village, what do you do in your spare time?

AB: Outside of work, I spend my time playing basketball outside, learning strange instruments (the banjo is about as annoying in real life as you think it is), and talking about the patriarchy.

NSV: What is your favorite YouTube video and why

AB: My favorite YouTube video has to be Kerri Strug completing her final vault in the 1996 Olympics! After seriously spraining her ankle and tearing her tendon, she could barely walk back to finish her final fault. She had to complete one more vault for the US gymnastics team to win, and the way she barely sticks the landing before collapsing to the ground always gets me. So inspiring! To be honest I’m actually crying a little bit while writing this.

 

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May Volunteer Spotlight

Nasheed Amin

Photograph by Nick & Erin Donner Photography

This month get to know N Street Village volunteer, Nasheed Amin. Nasheed started volunteering at N Street Village in October 2015. Nasheed facilitates a weekly computer literacy and job search class. Nasheed supports clients with submitting job applications, resumes, and provides training on how to use Microsoft Office Suite. During snowstorms, Nasheed also serves as an emergency meal service volunteer in our day center.  Let’s get know Nasheed…

For my first 5 years in DC, fresh out of college, I worked at the National Institute of Health. I quickly became the go-to for informal “tech support” for my particular office and ran tutorials on different software topics for my colleagues.

For the past 5 years, I have been self-employed as an educational consultant. I work with students of all ages, focusing on standardized tests, academic subjects, and college/graduate school admissions. Alongside my older brother, I spend a large portion of my time teaching and tutoring for a small, but mighty, company called Sherpa Prep that focuses on GRE/GMAT preparation.

I live with my fiancé, Chris, and our loving – but crazy – beagle, Darwin. Having lived in the neighborhood since 2007, I finally realized I just had to make time and schedule standing volunteer hours like I schedule everything else in my life. And, it has been such a blessing! 

Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in the DC area? I am originally from the only TOWN in Pennsylvania (Bloomsburg, look it up – everything else is a village or borough), but have called DC home for the last 10 years.

What is your favorite D.C. restaurant? Oh, there are so many. But, whether I’m in a gown or yoga pants, you can probably find me at Stoney’s. It’s never pretentious. And, they know how to cook a mean burger and chicken tenders.

On a Saturday evening you will find me…See #2 or at a wedding. Friends question whether I am a professional wedding guest. And, if I have to dance to “Uptown Funk” one more time…

What is the last movie you watched (and enjoyed)? The Martian, with Matt Damon. It made me feel inspired and just plain stupid all at the same time. (I like to think I’m smart. But, I will never be THAT smart. I realize its fiction. But, still).

What is your favorite D.C. landmark? It’s a toss-up between Haines Point (great views without the tourist traffic) and the Zoo. I can go say hi to the monkeys whenever I want on a lunch break for free.

Describe N Street Village in 3 words or less. My sisters’ keeper.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering at N Street Village? I love having the autonomy of setting my own work hours and helping people succeed every day. However, to be perfectly honest, I help the people and the children of those who can actually afford me get further in life. At N Street Village, even if I am just helping a client set up her first email address, it may not seem big. But, tiny ripples can one day turn into huge waves. If I can play the slightest role in helping just one client build a more sustainable life for herself and/or her family, that ultimately means more to the world than whether one my test prep students chooses Harvard over Yale.

What makes N Street Village unique to you?  I’ve lived in the same building for nearly 9 years. I don’t know a single neighbor’s name (to be fair, I know every dogs’ name, but not their humans’ names). Since I started volunteering in the Fall, I love walking down the street and now knowing my neighbors’ names, smiling and saying hello, and the sense of community I now get to have.

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March Volunteer Spotlight Lily Sehn

untitledThis month, get to know N Street Village volunteer, Lily Sehn. Lily began her service at N Street Village in August of 2014 to fulfill a desire to serve an organization supporting women in her local community. Lily serves breakfast, picks-up a weekly bread donation, and is an active member of N Street Village’s Impact Committee. Let’s get to know Lily…

I moved to DC almost four years ago for graduate school at American University. I now work at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and live not too far from N Street Village in Logan Circle. I got involved with N Street through an Impact Committee wine tasting event almost 2 year years ago, and have been on the committee helping to plan events ever since. I do a regular bread pick-up from Whole Foods some Thursday mornings, and I try to serve breakfast and lunch in the Day Center when my schedule allows. In addition to volunteering at N Street Village, I also volunteer with the Crisis Text Line, which is a relatively new text-messaging based hotline. In my downtime, I’m an avid bruncher and I’m training to run the Cherry Blossom 10 miler for the first time in April.

Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in the DC area? I like to consider myself a local girl. I grew up in Middleburg, VA, which is just over an hour outside DC. My parents have a little farm where I grew up helping my dad raise sheep as a hobby. My parents would bring me into DC all the time to visit museums and go to great restaurants, which has influenced both my love of art and food.

What is your favorite D.C. restaurant? I have too many favorites to name just one… but you can never go wrong with a great pizza from Ghibellina or Etto. Oyamel is also a favorite—they have the best freshly made guacamole.

On a Saturday evening you will find me…It depends on how busy my week has been! There is an equal chance of finding me out catching up with friends over drinks on 14th street, or at home relaxing. I also go out to Middleburg every few weeks to see my parents and my dog, Lola, on the farm.

What is the last movie you watched (and enjoyed)? I watch a lot of documentaries, especially about art and fashion. One of my favorites recently is “Iris” which is a biographical documentary about Iris Apfel. She has the greatest style and attitude–I can only hope to be half as confident and stylish when I’m in my 90’s!

What is your favorite D.C. landmark? My favorite place in all of DC is the Botanic Garden Conservatory over by the Capitol. I especially love the orchids. There are so many different and beautiful kinds of orchids. I just wish I was better at growing them at home so I could enjoy the flowers all the time… improving my green thumb is definitely on my goal list for 2016.

Describe N Street Village in 3 words or less. Welcoming energetic community.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering at N Street Village? I first became involved with N Street because I was looking for ways to further connect with the community around me, and have always been committed to supporting women’s organizations. I love how welcoming the Village is, whether it’s the clients when I serve breakfast, or Impact Committee members when we meet to plan a fundraiser. Not to mention the staff! Heidi and everyone else that I’ve worked with are all so dedicated to what they do. I’m so proud to be a part of such an amazing community, and I find myself talking about N Street to anyone who will listen!

What makes N Street Village unique to you? The energy and enthusiasm of the clients who find solace here, and the amazing network of supporters across DC and elsewhere. N Street Village is an incredible organization that continues to enhance and improve the lives of so many, including myself.

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How will you give hope this holiday season?

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Out of all of the blessings we treasure in life, hope is one that we hold dearest for its ability to triumph over circumstance and for the trust it gives us in the future.

For many women who arrive at the doors of N Street Village, hope is a distant memory clouded by overwhelming circumstances.  A renewed sense of hope is one of the most valuable gifts we can give.

AnnFor more than 20 years, Ann worked in the nursing field as a caretaker until her life changed drastically when she was diagnosed and underwent treatment for cancer. Unable to return to work, she lost her job, her benefits, and exhausted her savings. Just days after Christmas, Ann lost her apartment. She rode the bus and Metro train for three days until on New Year’s Eve, exhausted and alone, Ann found an emergency shelter to stay in. That is where she heard about N Street Village.

Ann became a regular at our Day Center and thanks to the warm support of the N Street Village community, she began to feel hopeful again and see a path forward. She moved into our Luther Place Night Shelter and immediately began to focus on personal healing and finding employment.

Today, Ann has a job as a private nurse and is living in permanent housing at N Street Village where she receives ongoing support and access to health and wellness services. She regularly volunteers at N Street Village, hoping to give back to the organization that was there when she seemingly had nothing.

When you give to N Street Village you give hope that builds stronger citizens, mothers, sisters, families and communities.

Like Ann, we know the power of giving back to those who have helped us along the way. In this spirit, the first 100 people to make a gift of $300 or more will receive a limited-edition bracelet, handmade by the N Street Village Craft Collective. Share this holiday gift with an important person in your life while also helping to cover the costs of one week of services for a woman living at Erna’s House, our permanent supportive housing program.  Give now — every donation will make a difference!

Thank you for being an ambassador of hope at N Street Village this holiday season!

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