A Place of Her Own

Lavone was tired of living in a public shelter. She had to share space with other women and do everything—eat, shower, sleep—when somebody told her. She had no privacy and her personal property was not respected. But she was there because she had no other choice.

Living in a shelter was a huge change for Lavone. For 25 years she had her own place in Southeast Washington. She worked as an administrative and medical assistant. When her husband died in 2007 and she couldn’t find another position in her field, she could no longer afford rent. She was soon evicted and was homeless for the first time in her life.

Erna’s House, N Street Village’s newest permanent supportive housing program for formerly homeless women, was just what Lavone needed. In April 2012, after being without her own place for more than five years, she moved into a one-bedroom apartment at Erna’s House. Now after working a full day with D.C. Public Schools in food preparation, Lavone comes home to her own place where she can relax, rest, and cook for herself.

Dave and LavoneAs a resident of N Street Village, she attends Job Keepers meetings to meet and network with other working women. She is also working with Dave Wasserman, an N Street Village volunteer, to develop a budget so that she can save more of her hard-earned paycheck.  She hopes to be able to save enough money to buy a car and house of her own.

Thanks to her hard work and the support of N Street Village, Lavone is happy and stable again. After experiencing so much adversity, she is planning for a bright future.

By Shane Yost, Manager of Individual Giving – story originally published in N Street Village’s Village Voice newsletter.

Staff Spotlight – Toni Greenwood

ToniThis month, we would like to introduce you to N Street Village staff member Toni Greenwood.  Toni has been working for N Street Village’s residential programs for over 6 years.  As a Residential Support Services (RSS) Team Leader, Toni works with the RSS team to operate N Street Village’s six residential programs and to support individual residents. On a typical day, she can be found offering encouragement and counsel to our residents, responding to client crises, and planning activities and events for the community. Toni recently shared with us more about herself and her experience at N Street Village.

NSV: What inspired you to work at N Street Village?
TG: What inspired me and what continues to inspire me is working in an environment where I can help women reach their fullest potential.

NSV: What do you do on a daily basis at N Street Village?
TG: On a daily basis you can find me leading therapeutic groups such as relapse prevention, coordinating recovery program meetings, and being available to residents in need of support.

NSV: In the last year, what has been your greatest accomplishment working at N Street Village?
TG: Becoming the Residential Support Services Team Leader has been one accomplishment. I also feel a sense of accomplishment from holding down the program while my supervisor was on maternity leave this past year.

NSV: If you could go to music concert tomorrow, what artist/group would you want to see and why?
TG: If I went to a concert tomorrow it would be to see Lady Gaga. I would love to see her different costumes.  Also, I respect that she has discussed her mental health issues openly.

NSV: What is your favorite place to visit in the Washington D.C. area?
TG: The Corcoran Gallery of Art is one of my favorite places.

NSV: What is one of your favorite N Street Village memories?
TG: My fondest memories are those moments when I receive letters from residents thanking me for my support.



Photo of the Week

LPNS kitchen

This ole kitchen is about to get Crashed!  DIY Network celebrity designer Alison Victoria of Kitchen Crashers and her team will arrive on Monday to begin the renovation process of our night shelter kitchen.  The space hasn’t been updated in over 20 years.

“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.