As with the rest of the country, our attention at N Street Village has been focused on the COVID-19 pandemic. Managing through this time has been extremely difficult but there are bright spots of inspiration and courage which deserve to be uplifted.
The difficulties are obvious and are most observable in the work of our frontline staff. The inspiration can be harder to perceive, but it is also most evident in the work of those same staff. As we have profiled in our “Frontline Fridays” series on social media, our staff are working with three distinct priorities: meeting the immediate and urgent needs of the women we serve, implementing critical health and safety measures through the use of PPE, social distancing and health screening, and safeguarding their own health and that of our colleagues and families. The inspiration comes from the relentless compassion and resilience with which our frontline staff approaches these priorities. We have been able to maintain the quantity, the quality, and the “heart” of our services because of their tireless efforts.
We are particularly appreciative during this time of the close collaboration that we have with our city government partners who have been speedy and effective in managing the risk of COVID-19 contagion. We have been able to do immediate contact tracing for any positive cases and adequate amounts of remote shelter and housing have been provided for Isolation, Quarantine, and Medically Vulnerable Individuals. These efforts have minimized the community spread of the virus and kept individuals safe to the best of our ability. As publicly reported and updated daily, there have been slightly over 350 cases of Coronavirus amongst persons in DC’s homeless services system and over 20 fatalities. Any illness or death grieves us but we are grateful that of the thousands of people in the homeless services system, we have thus far managed to keep these numbers as low as they are.
It is too early to know what effect the pandemic will ultimately have on human welfare and housing in the District. The eviction moratorium is still in place and will be until 60 days after the Public Health Emergency ends. As of several months ago, Brookings Institute reported that there were already 51,000 unstably housed residents in DC – 51,000 persons or households who are uncertain of their ability to maintain their rent and back-rent payments. In October, the Capital Area Food Bank projected a potential 60% increase in food insecurity due to the pandemic.
This early data reveals an obvious truth: economic and housing insecurity is on the rise and it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which we do not see an increase in homelessness over the coming year.
Here at the Village, we are doing our best to address the immediate needs at our front door while also preparing for the future: we have opened two new permanent supportive housing locations which together will house close to 60 individuals. Our Patricia Handy Place emergency shelter in downtown DC continues to keep its doors open and we have recently added a temporary shelter location that will serve up to 30 women.
As we enter a new year, we are all looking for good news, and here at the Village that is you. Without the interest, engagement, and commitment of our allies, stakeholders, donors, and partners we would not be able to continue to meet our mission imperatives. We thank you.