On December 2nd, our community gathered to celebrate 40 years of N Street Village serving our city’s most vulnerable. Following a service at Luther Place Memorial Church, Schroeder Stribling, N Street Village’s Executive Director, shared this welcome with over 100 friends in attendance at the Founders’ Day Luncheon.
“Welcome and good morning all – what a beautiful day.
I have the pleasure and privilege of knowing most of you here, but for any whom I don’t know my name is Schroeder Stribling and I am the Executive Director of N Street Village.
Today we have the extraordinary opportunity to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of our mission. We started the day with a ceremony to place a mezuzah at the threshold of Erna’s House – our newest housing program which is named after Erna Steinbruck – Pastor John’s wife and one of our founders who is here with us today. Erna’s House provides permanent supportive housing for 31 formerly chronically homeless women – a fitting tribute to the legacy of Erna herself.
I learned today at that ceremony that tradition holds that one should kiss the mezuzah whenever you leave the house – the purpose of this ritual is to be reminded of what God expects of us as we go out into the world. As the founding of our mission reminds us – God expects of us to do the work of justice and compassion and mercy. So this was a fitting note at the beginning of this day in which we have the opportunity to celebrate our 40th anniversary and to express gratitude to our founders whose commitment to these ideas first established this community and this safe haven.
We have much that we can and should feel proud of on this anniversary.
We are witness here to justice and healing every day. I can think of a few specific examples: recently we had a graduation for our Recovery Housing residents who are working on addiction recovery, which was a beautiful celebration; our Ambassadors of Praise if you were in the service this morning; our recent performance at the Kennedy Center. This week I had a conversation with a woman who helped me lead a tour to introduce some new people to N Street Village — she told the story of the recent death of her husband and the loss of other resources and how she was forced to sleep in her car until she finally came to safety at Luther Place Night Shelter. And then this morning at Erna’s House we met a woman who wanted to very much meet “THE” Erna Steinbruck, the “Erna” of “Erna’s House” — because she was so grateful for the safety and welcome of her new home.
And we witness justice in the way people treat each other in this community every day — in the dignity and respect that people afford one another and in the hospitality that is mutually exchanged. We have much to be grateful for. This is the rich inheritance of our founding – and our founders – and it is an echo of the passion and the principles that they brought to this endeavor.
AND…Tomorrow — we should get right back to feeling disquieted and urgent about the justice and healing that is yet to be done. I want to reference an article that many of you may have read in the Washington Post recently about our friend and collaborator Lynn Brantley who is here today. This article was discussing the state of hunger in the District currently and Lynn Brantley, one of the founders of Capitol Area Food Bank, shares her grave concerns about a lack of progress. The article states: “Despite the success of the Food Bank, she remains unsatisfied.”
We should ALL remain unsatisfied.
Today N Street Village is serving over 1,200 people a year. We provide 142 beds of housing for homeless and low-income women, we offer a breadth of supportive services, and we operate Eden House, which is affordable rental housing for low- and moderate-income individuals and families. And we have many partner agencies that are providing similar critical and important services across the city. AND yet — I am going to tell you some discouraging truths about the present moment, which will hopefully continue to inspire our passion and pursuit of justice — because I don’t think Pastor John would forgive me if I fail to at least agitate you just a little bit…
The annual survey of homelessness confirms that homelessness is still on the rise in our city, especially among women and families. The median income of the women we serve here is $300 a month and a third of the women have no income at all. Significant majorities of the people we serve are affected by addiction, mental illness, trauma, or chronic health problems. Here in our city average rent for a 1 bedroom apartment has now risen to $1,100 a month and we have lost half of our inventory of affordable rental housing over the last decade. Our census tells us that one in five residents is living in poverty and unemployment almost doubled in 5 years to 10%. The rate of HIV infection is at epidemic levels – and, as we all know, other health and well-being disparities fall disgracefully right down along the lines of race and gender and social economic status.
So, Pastor John – I have agitated them… (Looks to Pastor John and receives a peace sign in response.)
So now let us take the celebration of today and allow it to reignite in all of us the inspiration of our founders. Let us feel urgent about justice, and let us feel an undeniable impulse for compassion that will not let us rest. Let the celebration of today give us strength and courage for the journey ahead. Thank you all.”