Karen

Karen was born and raised in D.C. She started using drugs in high school, as the pressure to be cool and fit in began to escalate. She graduated high school, but what began as a casual habit with friends soon spiraled into a serious drug addiction.

“My goal was to go to college, and I could have done it if I hadn’t started using.”

Karen started doing whatever she had to in order to get her fix. She lived on the streets, ending up in jail several times. She kept using until she tried to kill herself.

“I woke up in detox, not even remembering how I got there. I had tried to take my life.”

Wanting to continue to focus on her sobriety, the detox program recommended that Karen go to N Street Village. She moved into the Village’s Recovery Housing Program and immediately connected with the other women in the program. Her bright smile and friendliness soon became well-known throughout the community.

“I wanted to stay clean, at least I thought I did. I loved it while I was at N Street Village, but I had a hard time staying out of trouble.”

After completing the recovery program, Karen moved back home. Surrounded by her old friends and without the support of the Village, she soon found herself in the same cycle and old habits. One day, while she was out on the streets, she ran into an old friend from N Street Village who reminded her that she always had a place at the Village. Having hit rock bottom again, Karen knew she couldn’t do it on her own.

With the help of her N Street Village family, she once again started down the long road to recovery. In 2012, Karen was welcomed back to N Street Village as a permanent resident.

“This is my third – and longest – time I’ve ever been clean. The first two times I did it for my family. This time, I’m doing it for me.

As of May, Karen will be celebrating 10 years of sobriety.

Today, Karen is an active member of the community, volunteering her time at N Street Village’s welcome desk and generously sharing her story with the many groups and individuals that tour through the Village.

“N Street Village gave me my life back, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Pertrina

Pertrina was born in Washington, D.C. to high school sweethearts who divorced when she was young. Her mother remarried a man who provided financially for the family. Pertrina lived in a beautiful home, attended a good school, and went on nice vacations. As a teenager, Pertrina was victim to a violent sexual trauma that she kept secret for more than 40 years.

Throughout her twenties, she experimented with alcohol and drugs. She liked how the substances allowed her to hide from the pain of her childhood. The experimentation eventually led to a full addiction. Over the next two decades, Pertrina was unable to stay employed, cycling in and out of jail.

While waiting to be released from jail, Pertrina asked if she could be placed in a long term support program. She knew things had to change, or she would die. That’s when she was matched with N Street Village.

In March of 2012, Pertrina moved into our Recovery Housing program for women living with addiction and mental illness. She was filled with fear and was doubtful the program would work for her, but willing to try.

Devoted to her recovery, Pertrina found solace in N Street Village’s “Trauma Recovery and Empowerment,” and “Relapse Prevention” classes, where she learned to face her addiction and open up about her feelings. She began participating in The Theatre Lab’s Life Stories program and while preparing for a performance at the Kennedy Center, she shared her story of sexual assault for the very first time. Her powerful testimony is featured in Nicole Boxer’s documentary, How I Got Over.

Today, Pertrina has a safe, supportive community and apartment in N Street Village’s Permanent Supportive Housing program. She is proud to have a place to call home. Pertrina is confident that as long as she maintains a sober life, everything else will fall into place just perfectly.

She is an advocate for N Street Village and a community role model, sharing her story within the Village community and family as an example of what is possible when you take the time to put yourself first and are met with dignity and respect.

Rebecca

Rebecca was born HIV-positive with so many drugs in her systems that doctors told her she should have died.

“They told me I was a miracle baby. But for a long time, my life didn’t feel like a miracle.”

Rebecca was taken away from her mom and placed into the foster care system, where she was in and out of different homes until she was adopted by a single mom. In her new home, life was good for a short time. Then, her foster mom got remarried. Her new husband was a heavy drinker and quickly turned violent and abusive.

“I was scared all the time. I never felt safe. I couldn’t take the abuse, but I had no way to leave.”

But because of a series of health crises through her teenage years and early 20s – including a cancer diagnosis – Rebecca was dependent on her adopted family and had no way to get out.

Finally, at age 23, she packed a bag and snuck out of the house.

Rebecca left to find sanctuary with her sister, but soon found herself in a similar cycle of abuse and manipulation. Her sister would verbally abuse her, steal Rebecca’s money, and eventually talked her into marrying a man Rebecca barely knew – or even liked.

“All of the stress made me want to never rely on anyone ever again.”

Once again, Rebecca snuck out – afraid of what would happen if she told anyone she was leaving.

She lived with various friends, shelters, and on the streets, doing what she could to get by. Finally, one night while sleeping in a park, a woman told her about N Street Village.

“I came to N Street Village in 2018. I started going to the Day Center. They helped me find housing at Miriam’s House, where I live with other women who are HIV-positive.”

Rebecca is proud to have her own apartment and with the help of N Street Village staff, she has gone back to school and earned her degree – with honors. Through the Village’s MARJ & MAK Vocational Center, she is earning her Food Handler License with Together We Bake, a local empowerment-based job training program for women.

“Today, I am just trying to learn as much as possible. I finally have the chance to dream big and see things happen for myself.”

Ruth

Ruth grew up in D.C. and, as she describes it, “life was good.”

She graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in art, got married, and had two kids – all while continuing to teach. Then, her mother got sick.

“My parents had helped me get through school. They’d helped me through my divorce and helped raise my kids. Of course I moved in to help them.”

After her mother died, Ruth continued her role as caretaker when her dad was diagnosed with dementia and cancer.
But when her dad passed, everything fell apart. Ruth’s siblings came in and took over.

“My brother came with a lawyer and took me to court. They told me to get out.”

For the first time in her life, Ruth had nothing. She stayed as long as she could, trying to find a job. The power and gas were shut off, and Ruth would walk miles to the library to stay warm during the day. She learned how to use food stamps and local food pantries. Without a phone or electricity, she lost contact with her sons.

“Finally, after the water had been shut off for a full week at the house, I knew I couldn’t stay any longer.”

Ruth remembered that a friend had mentioned N Street Village – so she took what she could and left.

Ruth arrived at the Village’s emergency and temporary shelter, the Patricia Handy Place for Women. They helped her get a bed and clothes. She started going to N Street Village’s Day Center where she could get meals and do her laundry. Best of all, she was able to start making artwork through the Village’s art classes.

“At that point I started to feel hope again.”

Ruth at the 2019 Gala & Auction next to her artwork.

Today, Ruth has become an integral part of the Village family. She often volunteers her time as a receptionist in the Wellness Center and has been able to start teaching art again as a part-time substitute. In addition, she was proud to share her story in The Washington Post this past winter.

And, just a few months ago, Ruth was able to work with the staff at N Street Village to move from Patricia Handy into the Village’s Permanent Supportive Housing program, where she has her own room and plenty of space to keep her art supplies and a growing portfolio.

“I still have a long way to go, but I am hopeful about what the future holds.”

Meet Village Client, Ellen

Ambassador Council Co-Chair Sharon Gund,
Council Member Sarah Stone-Psihas, and Board
and Council Member Jeanne Specchio with
N Street Village Client Ellen (second from right).

Every year, the N Street Village Ambassadors Council hosts the Annual Craft Fair at the beginning of December. The popular event features holiday crafts, festive music, snacks and activities for residents and clients. This year, a new item – a healthcare kit – was added to the mix, inspired by Bethany Day Center client, Ellen.

 

Ellen is well-known around N Street Village for her enthusiasm to encourage and educate those around her, especially about healthy living. Her teaching style ranges from thoughtful one-on-one conversations to interactive activities.

 

Ellen says the idea for making the kits at the Craft Fair came from her mother and father, who encouraged her to be creative from a young age and invent her own kits. “These helped me to solve problems and be self sufficient.” She continued, “Young women I met in the shelter system inspired me to upgrade my kits and the N Street Village Ambassadors Council helped me share my idea so other women could have the same tools!”

Paula

“As a woman who had lost her safe place to live and her home at the hands of people she trusted, N Street Village provided me a place to heal, receive a kind word, a smile, lots of laughter, and the ability to begin dreaming again.”

Paula arrived at N Street Village in 2016, carrying everything she owned in three bags and towing years of bitterness, anger, and despair.

Paula had a successful career for 16 years, a husband, and two sons. Then she got the call from her sister – her father had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and needed help. She uprooted her family, left everything behind, and came back to her childhood home in D.C. to care for her dad. A few years after moving her husband passed away suddenly from a heart attack. Four months later, her father died.

In an instant, Paula’s entire life changed. She found herself a widow, with nowhere to go, no money, no job, and two young sons. She and her sons were living in her car, sleeping with a knife for protection, and pawning the precious few belongings they had left to buy food. When her youngest son got sick, Paula sold the car in order to get a hotel room. That money soon ran out.

“I laid out all the cash I had left on the bed and counted it. It wasn’t going to be enough for another night at the hotel.”

Paula found a safe place for her sons with friends, but she had nowhere else to turn. She called the Shelter Hotline and arrived on the doorstep of N Street Village on a Friday afternoon. She was able to get a bed at N Street Village’s newly opened emergency shelter, the Patricia Handy Place for Women. She came back to the Village flagship site on Monday ready to do the work necessary to get her life and independence back. She started taking classes, getting involved in the community, and doing everything she could to use the tools and resources around her.

“I thought the classes were about learning – learning how to use computers, how to do yoga, how to make jewelry – but looking back, I’ve come to realize they were about healing the entire time.”

Paula began to take advantage of everything the Village – and the city – had to offer.

“I’d spent my entire life taking care of everyone else – taking care of my husband, taking care of my family, taking care of my father, taking care of my sons. It’d always been about someone else. Now it’s finally about me.”

Today, Paula has completed “Back to Work at 50+,” a highly-competitive multi-week course. She is living in a nearby shelter and working to move into her own apartment. Paula has started making jewelry and is talking about what it would take to start a small business once she has more permanent housing. She is hopeful about her next chapter.

“I wasn’t responsible for becoming homeless. But I am 100% responsible for what I do with my life afterward. I don’t know what’s next for the second half of my life, but I do know there’s excitement in everything I’m able to do and try now.”

Courtney

Courtney grew up in an upper middle class, suburban family, but from an early age she felt different – “I didn’t know exactly what I was.” Born Calvin, she felt most comfortable with female friends and enjoyed being “girly.” Like most kids, she just wanted to be herself — unfortunately her parents would not accept her as a girl.

She struggled to survive living her “double life.” She started using drugs and alcohol to cope, but wasn’t concerned because “partying was what young people did.”

Years of partying led to losing her job, her home, and slipping into a deep depression. She felt hopeless and was in and out of the hospital.

Homeless, desperate and alone, she attempted suicide. “I couldn’t see any light.” A judge ordered her to a 30-day psychiatric program; she stayed two months. Finally feeling more stable, she was reluctant to leave. Her case manager recommended N Street Village.

“The minute I walked in, I felt relieved.”

Courtney moved into N Street Village’s Luther Place Night Shelter, a transitional housing program where residents focus on gaining stability and access to income and housing resources. She began attending recovery meetings and other activities – the support from the N Street Village community helped her regain her confidence.

“N Street Village was a big change, but the right one. I felt so welcome here – just as I am.”

Today Courtney is maintaining her stability and sobriety, looking for employment as well as rebuilding her relationship with her family. She enjoys giving back to her community and N Street Village family.

Courtney dreams of one day going to college to pursue a degree in fashion.

Paula

“As a woman who had lost her safe place to live and her home at the hands of people she trusted, N Street Village provided me a place to heal, receive a kind word, a smile, lots of laughter, and the ability to begin dreaming again.”

Paula arrived at N Street Village in 2016, carrying everything she owned in three bags and towing years of bitterness, anger, and despair.

Paula had a successful career for 16 years, a husband, and two sons. Then she got the call from her sister – her father had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and needed help. She uprooted her family, left everything behind, and came back to her childhood home in D.C. to care for her dad. A few years after moving her husband passed away suddenly from a heart attack. Four months later, her father died.

In an instant, Paula’s entire life changed. She found herself a widow, with nowhere to go, no money, no job, and two young sons. She and her sons were living in her car, sleeping with a knife for protection, and pawning the precious few belongings they had left to buy food. When her youngest son got sick, Paula sold the car in order to get a hotel room. That money soon ran out.

“I laid out all the cash I had left on the bed and counted it. It wasn’t going to be enough for another night at the hotel.”

Paula found a safe place for her sons with friends, but she had nowhere else to turn. She called the Shelter Hotline and arrived on the doorstep of N Street Village on a Friday afternoon. She was able to get a bed at N Street Village’s newly opened emergency shelter, the Patricia Handy Place for Women. She came back to the Village flagship site on Monday ready to do the work necessary to get her life and independence back. She started taking classes, getting involved in the community, and doing everything she could to use the tools and resources around her.

“I thought the classes were about learning – learning how to use computers, how to do yoga, how to make jewelry – but looking back, I’ve come to realize they were about healing the entire time.”

Paula began to take advantage of everything the Village – and the city – had to offer.

“I’d spent my entire life taking care of everyone else – taking care of my husband, taking care of my family, taking care of my father, taking care of my sons. It’d always been about someone else. Now it’s finally about me.”

Today, Paula has completed “Back to Work at 50+,” a highly-competitive multi-week course. She is living in a nearby shelter and working to move into her own apartment. Paula has started making jewelry and is talking about what it would take to start a small business once she has more permanent housing. She is hopeful about her next chapter.

“I wasn’t responsible for becoming homeless. But I am 100% responsible for what I do with my life afterward. I don’t know what’s next for the second half of my life, but I do know there’s excitement in everything I’m able to do and try now.”

Karen

Karen

Karen was born and raised in D.C. She started using drugs in high school, as the pressure to be cool and fit in began to escalate. She graduated high school, but what began as a casual habit with friends soon spiraled into a serious drug addiction.

“My goal was to go to college, and I could have done it if I hadn’t started using.”

Karen started doing whatever she had to in order to get her fix. She lived on the streets, ending up in jail several times. She kept using until she tried to kill herself.

“I woke up in detox, not even remembering how I got there. I had tried to take my life.”

Wanting to continue to focus on her sobriety, the detox program recommended that Karen go to N Street Village. She moved into the Village’s Recovery Housing Program and immediately connected with the other women in the program. Her bright smile and friendliness soon became well-known throughout the community.

“I wanted to stay clean, at least I thought I did. I loved it while I was at N Street Village, but I had a hard time staying out of trouble.”

After completing the recovery program, Karen moved back home. Surrounded by her old friends and without the support of the Village, she soon found herself in the same cycle and old habits. One day, while she was out on the streets, she ran into an old friend from N Street Village who reminded her that she always had a place at the Village. Having hit rock bottom again, Karen knew she couldn’t do it on her own.

With the help of her N Street Village family, she once again started down the long road to recovery. In 2012, Karen was welcomed back to N Street Village as a permanent resident.

“This is my third – and longest – time I’ve ever been clean. The first two times I did it for my family. This time, I’m doing it for me.”

As of May, Karen will be celebrating 10 years of sobriety.

Today, Karen is an active member of the community, volunteering her time at N Street Village’s welcome desk and generously sharing her story with the many groups and individuals that tour through the Village.

“N Street Village gave me my life back, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Peggie

“I feel proud of myself today. I am an example of what is possible.”

Peggie grew up in D.C. in a large family – the oldest girl with 12 siblings. Her father was a minister and her mother worked for the Department of Agriculture. After graduating from high school and finishing some college courses, Peggie worked as a kindergarten teacher for three years.

Peggie started dating; she and her boyfriend were drinking and partying and Peggie found herself pregnant. A few years after her son was born, her boyfriend left her and her son to survive on their own. Peggie got a job with Child Protective Services, but continued to drink – “I thought alcohol would cure my pain.”

After the birth of her second child, Peggie continued to work for Child Protective Services. She thought she had her drinking under control. That all changed when she went to work drunk one day and promptly lost the job she loved.

Peggie struggled to keep a steady job, and somehow managed despite her continued drinking. However, during the economic downturn in 2009, Peggie lost another job and shortly after lost her house.

“I spiraled out – I couldn’t deal with life anymore.”

After years of drinking, Peggie was ready for a change. She reached out to her son, who did some research online and found N Street Village. After entering the Village Day Center and meeting Evelyn Green, Day Services Manager, Peggie felt ready to make real, positive change. She entered the Village Recovery Housing program.

While in the Recovery Housing program, Peggie worked with Theatre Lab and other residents to create a play about their life experience and recovery journey. They performed the production at a sold-out, one night show at the Kennedy Center. The filmmaker Nicole Boxer captured entire process inan award-winning documentary, How I Got Over.

After graduating from the Recovery Program, Peggie left N Street Village to live with family in Baltimore. Unfortunately, it was not the best environment for Peggie’s recovery and she starting drinking again. After another trip to detox, she knew she couldn’t do it on her own. In December 2015 Peggie walked through the doors of the Village again. She felt embarrassed that she had come back, she was afraid she would be seen as a failure, but she was ready to recommit herself to recovery. When she walked into the Village Day Center, Evelyn greeted her with open arms and without judgement – “Where have you been? We missed you!”

Peggie continues to work hard at recovery and is a mentor in the Village. She hopes to find permanent housing soon and become an advocate for other women in need.