posted by Brian Keenan '12 and Michael Byrne '12
After unloading our luggage and the garbage bags that were filled with the clothes for the DC outfitters, we crossed the street to N Street Village. The N Street Village encourages low income and homeless women to have an opportunity at a better life. It was founded in 1973 by a Luther Place Memorial Church. Due to the increase in the homeless and the de-institutionalization of mentally ill patients, the N Street Village was created. The idea of hospitality and welcoming in strangers is the founding principle of the N Street Village. It started out welcoming men and women by providing sleeping mats on the floor for them, but after a few years it only focused on women. Men had many more opportunities than women in DC. It is now a women's shelter, but also has low income housing for families. By the mid 1970s, the church and other religious organizations turned over an entire blocks worth of housing to the organization. The housing provided services such as medical clinics and food and clothing distribution centers. By the 1980s, it became apparent that more housing was needed for the women. The church stepped in and lead a community based effort to build affordable housing.
This organization has been a community based and will continue to be. It has thousands of volunteers a year aiding the two dozen staff members. The staff takes pride in supporting their clients' dignity, responsibility and ability. The clients are offered passionate relationships with their staff in order to promote good habits needed to get themselves back on their feet.
We were given a tour of the place by Kyle Anderson, a political science major in the Gettysburg College class of 2006. He wasn't sure what to do right out of college, so he got a volunteer job at the N Street Village. After a year of volunteering, he thought he was ready to find a job elsewhere. He tried out a job at another place, but was unhappy. He decided to come back to N Street Village as a full time staff member, and loves every minute of his work. When he gave us the tour, he told us about all the services that N Street offers to the women in its program. Everything from free massages given by volunteer masseuses to free chiropractic services for women with aches and pains are given at the shelter's health center. Kyle also told us about the day shelter for women, and took us down to the common area of this shelter. He explained that through this program, the women, provided they adhered to the rules, they were given a place to stay during the day and a good nutritious lunch as well. The N Street Village is one of the most unique shelters and successful non profits in the DC area, and it was a great experience to see its inner workings thanks to Kyle.
posted by Martha Barber '12
On Friday night Liz, Mike, BK, Rob, and I were in charge of running Bingo for the women's shelter that is on the floor above where we are staying. Before heading upstairs I think we were all pretty nervous, not really knowing what the ladies were going to be like and how they were going to act around us. One of the things I was really scared about was whether or not these women actually wanted to participate in Bingo. I didn't know whether or not we were going to have to be really energetic and encourage them if they really didn't want to be there. But this was immediately erased from my mind when a woman came up to us when we first arrived to tell us how excited she was that we were there.
Earlier this week Courtney took a couple of us to pick out fun things from the dollar store the winners of Bingo. When all the ladies saw what we brought with us they were that much more excited to play. This one woman came up to us and was so excited about all the pink, she told us everything she was going to win, it was hilarious. We placed all the prizes out on the table so that they could all get all excited about winning, and they definitely were.
At first it was a little awkward because it was pretty much completely silent except for BK shouting out the numbers. But once some of the ladies started getting close to winning they all started to bicker about who was going to get BINGO first. It was so funny, some of them started building barriers around their boards so that the others couldn't see how close they were, and others were like shaking with the possibility of winning. The first prizes to go were the mini radios and the perfume; which we were told were already in use the next morning.
We only stopped when all the prizes were gone because they all just wanted to keep going. It was good to know that they had a good time, and of course we had a great time as well.
posted by Gianina Galatro '12
The first night I went to the N Street shelter with Kirsty for an overnight supervision. An overnight supervision is when volunteers come to the shelter to help the ladies with the night. The shelter allows the women to stay as long as they like, though they typically stay for six months to a year. The shelter is located on the floor above where we are staying in the hostel. At 9:00pm on Friday night we went upstairs where the manager of the night shift greeted us and took us into the office. She let us know about the rules and procedures and our responsibilities for the night. She then oriented us with the shelter and we met some of the ladies in the dining room. We chatted and watched part of a movie with them until about 10:00pm. At this time the manager locked the outside doors gave us the keys and left. For another hour we got things for the ladies as they needed them and spent some more time with them in the kitchen and dining area. At 11:00 we turned off the lights in the dining room and made sure the area was all clean and locked up. We then had to wait for two other ladies who were coming in late from work. We had to buzz and let them in since it was already locked for the night. In the morning, we had woke up the ladies at 7:00. Throughout the morning we made small talk with the ladies and got their medication for them as they needed it. By 9:00 they all needed to be out of the building so we could turn off the lights and lock everything up.
This was a great opportunity. All of the women were very friendly and in high spirits. As soon as we got there they started joking with us. We talked to different women about their crocheting, school days, what we came to Washington for, and the bracelet Kirsty wore. One of the women enjoyed dancing despite her broken foot and blasted music in the morning. Some of the women told us a little about their personal lives. One of the older ladies explained to us how she had to deal with inflated prices for her medication. Another lady told us how she tried to keep positive despite a stressful job at the airport. Another woman had come from an event where she was recognized for her poetry. All the women were interesting and so friendly to us. It was a comfortable and peaceful night and I thoroughly enjoyed it.