“I’m still pinching myself”

By Shane Yost, N Street Village Manager of Individual Giving

The first thing you notice when you walk into Mary’s apartment is how well-decorated the space is.   Everything is placed just so.  There are flowers on the table, cookie jars on the shelf, and colorful throw rugs on the floor.  The cozy apartment makes you feel warm and comfortable.

Mary is clearly proud of her apartment. After eleven years of living in shelters during the best of times and on the streets during the worst of times, Mary now does not just have a place to live—she has a place to call home.

Mary is one of 31 residents at Erna’s House, N Street Village’s new permanent supportive housing program for chronically homeless women. Erna’s House is named in honor of Erna Steinbruck, who founded N Street Village along with her husband, Pastor John Steinbruck. Each resident has her own apartment, and the Village provides on-site case management and health support services. Residents can also take advantage of the education, employment, and wellness services at the Village’s flagship site just a few blocks away.

Even before moving into Erna’s House, Mary was a part of the N Street Village community. She would regularly visit Bethany Women’s Center to eat breakfast and lunch, get her mail, take showers, do laundry, and visit nurses. Now that she has her own place, Mary still regularly comes by to visit friends, participate in activities, and have a nutritious meal when she is unable to cook. Her favorite activity is the anger management class, in which she has an opportunity to get things off her chest and learn to better handle her emotions. She also enjoys participating in Wellness Center activities, including massage therapy and meditation.

Most importantly, getting connected to N Street Village has enabled Mary to focus on her chronic health issues. Within just a few weeks of moving into Erna’s House, she has had gallbladder and hernia surgery, started treatment for diabetes, and received dentures — and soon she will be treated for her chronic back and knee pain. Once she has her health issues under control, Mary hopes to get her GED and re-enter the workforce part-time.

Mary has nothing but praise for the staff of N Street Village, “As long as you want to help yourself, the staff will guide you in the right direction.” Looking back on her time living in emergency shelters and on the streets, Mary notes, “If it wasn’t for N Street Village, I don’t know where I’d be.“ On the streets, she witnessed robberies and random violence and was always afraid.  When she stayed at emergency shelters, she couldn’t keep too many possessions with her. Now at her new home at Erna’s House, she feels safe and secure – and has a closet filled with clothes and shoes.

With the opening of Erna’s House, N Street Village is responding to the 9 percent increase in homelessness since 2008 in Washington, D.C. Erna’s House is funded largely by the D.C. Department of Human Services with N Street Village responsible for raising the difference. This partnership seeks to help chronically homeless women like Mary have a place their own and receive the supportive services they need to be lead healthier, happier lives.