This month, we would like to introduce you to N Street Village staff member Evelene Duhart. Evelene began working at N Street Village in 2005 as a case manager and she recently transitioned into new position as program manager of our newest residential program, Erna’s House. Evelene recently shared with us more about herself and her experience at N Street Village.
NSV: Tell us a little about yourself.
ED: I was born in Edgecombe County, North Carolina — the youngest of 3 girls and daughter of a sharecropper. After graduating from high school in 1968 and having had enough of the country life I moved to D.C. From that point on, I have lived here except for a short period when I returned to North Carolina to have my child. I am the mother of one son and the proud grandmother of a 4-year-old boy.
NSV: What do you do at Erna’s House?
ED: On a daily basis I meet with ladies that have experienced or are experiencing homelessness, who are used to being told to get out, who are fearful of both physical and emotional harm (emotional being the most damaging), who have gone long periods of time without anything to eat and had no place to sleep, and who are not used to someone just saying “Hi” to them. I see me, 10 years ago, walking through the doors and it gives me hope for them that they may stay long enough to recognize that things can change.
NSV: Who does Erna’s House serve?
ED: Erna’s House provides permanent supportive housing for up to 31 women with histories of chronic homelessness. Our residents have been homeless and abused, have identified and unidentified mental health issues, and struggle with substance abuse. We serve women that need and want change in their current situation.
NSV: As your first residents move in, what does finding permanent housing through Erna’s House mean to them?
ED: I have had many wonderful experiences meeting the ladies moving into Erna’s House. One resident has a history of being sheltered for a period of time for rest, regaining her strength, and then returning to the street to stay. Since being at Erna’s House she continues to go out during the day and follow a routine of sitting at bus stops and seeing familiar faces but she returns daily to her apartment with a smile and has not found it necessary to spend another night outside. When I see her she reports, “Everything is fine. I am going upstairs to fix me a sandwich. I like it here.” She brings a smile to my heart. There are more of these moments and I welcome each of them.
NSV: How will Erna’s House staff help the new residents adjust and create a feeling of community?
ED: One thing we will have is a monthly floor meeting to get better acquainted with residents. We may invite one or two residents from different floors to participate, like a meet and greet. Having community dinners will bring the community together as will fun outings like trips to Six Flags, concerts, and shopping excursions. We have a wonderful staff at Erna’s House and they have great ideas for how this will work.
NSV: What has surprised you most about working at N Street Village?
ED: The growth of our organization in a short period of time has really impressed me. This speaks volumes for the dedication and hard work of our staff.
NSV: What do you wish other people knew about N Street Village?
ED: That we are here, and that we are dedicated to empowering women to reach their desired living standards and to not to give up on their dreams and goals — all while playing our part in ending homelessness.
NSV: If you weren’t working at N Street Village, what would you be doing instead?
ED: Knowing what I know now about N Street Village I would be trying to work on my resume to become an employee, for SHO.