2018 was an incredible year for our Village, made possible by each and every one of you. We are all N Street Village and together enabled hope and healing for hundreds of women last year. And after pausing for a moment of gratitude, we must keep going – because our work is far from over.
D.C.’s 2018 Point-in-Time Count found there were 6,904 people experiencing homelessness in our city last year. On top of this, N Street Village’s Patricia Handy Place for Women has been at 100% capacity every night since it opened nearly three years ago.
Furthermore, it has become clear that a densely packed building with hundreds of highly-transient women in crisis will never be the dignified solution we would like.
And maybe that’s a good thing – because now we are more determined than ever to purse a better solution. The ultimate solution is of course quite simple: a home.
But the first step in the pursuit of housing exposes something far more complicated.
The crisis of poverty is like an iceberg, with the people on the street and in shelters as only the visible tip. Submerged directly underneath are individuals living on the fragile edge of housing and financial insecurity for long periods of time – with many falling in and out of homelessness without much assistance or intervention, if any.
The affordable housing crisis is inextricably linked to the forces creating and maintaining intergenerational poverty: structural racism, lack of equitable access to education and opportunity, the social determinants of disease and ill-health, blighted neighborhoods next door to unbridled gentrification, and so on.
This big picture problem is much larger than anything we can solve individually, and it will take energetic and efficient collaboration from multiple partners in the public and private sector arenas to make progress over time.
At N Street Village, our longstanding commitment is to that small segment of the iceberg tip who have multiple and compounding problems. They are women who need not only affordable housing but also built-in supports. Many are over 50, with chronic health problems. Almost all have experienced some form of trauma, and mental illness and/or addiction affect the majority. Most of these women want to work – they want the dignity and fulfillment that a job conveys, but few are likely to transcend barriers to employment like disability or health status, low-literacy or educational attainment, a criminal record, etc. And for the women who do work, they typically remain priced out of the D.C. housing market.
For many years we have been developing and refining our model of supportive housing. How do we know it works? We measure it. We have excellent success in helping women transition into permanent housing, stabilize their physical and behavioral health, and improve their self-reported quality of life.
Our work in chipping away at the iceberg’s tip will be even more effective when the submerged forces of poverty begin to melt. This will take a long time, and it will be dependent upon the appetite for justice, the vision for equity, and the moral fortitude of all sectors – government, business, philanthropy, corporate, non-profit, academic and so on.
In the meantime, we won’t stop chipping. For over 45 years, N Street Village has kept its promise to persist so long as there is need.
Together, we will accomplish a lot in 2019.
Chief Executive Officer