Lessons Learned | A Yearlong Reflection

Three times a week, I attend the breakfast program “Our Daily Bread” at Capitol Hill United Methodist Church where housed and unhoused neighbors join together to start their morning. As a part of Everyone Home DC’s Street Outreach team, my goal is to build and maintain relationships with our chronically homeless neighbors. Maybe that’s not a common thing to do for a German high school graduate. How did I get here?

My name is Max, I am 19 years old, and I am from Darmstadt, Germany. I am doing a voluntary service year with a German organization called Action Reconciliation Service for Peace (ARSP) that places volunteers in nonprofit organizations in Europe, Israel, and the United States. When founded in 1958, ARSP called upon the Germans to seek forgiveness and to practice reconciliation for the crimes Germany had committed during the reign of the National Socialists.

Many ARSP volunteers work in communities which have been persecuted by the National Socialists. Among those communities are survivors of the NS-persecution and their descendants, Jewish organizations, people with disabilities, and also people experiencing homelessness. About 10.000 people experiencing homelessness whom the Nazis called “asocial” were forcibly put in concentration camps.

Together with 23 other volunteers, I arrived in the US in September. Being here for the first time, I had a lot of new experiences: peanut butter Oreos became my favorite snack, I endured DC’s humidity for the first time, and I learned to live with American bread (which Germans love to complain about).

I work part-time for Everyone Home DC and part-time for another organization. Being on the Street Outreach team gave me the opportunity to get to know many great people and to learn a lot about homelessness. By building relationships with many friendly and welcoming people, I was taught to overcome my prejudices and to be open to everyone despite the burdens one might carry.

I learned that homelessness isn’t something that defines you as a person, but that it is a traumatic experience people are going through.

I also got to know the struggles people experiencing homelessness are going through and I saw what problems keep people from thriving in their communities. It is shocking for me that so many people are living in poverty in a city as wealthy as Washington, D.C. I was also surprised to find out how disproportionately ethnic minorities are affected by homelessness.

As I am wrapping up my service, I look back on a year full of great memories and intense experiences. I am grateful to Everyone Home DC for giving me the opportunity to work here for a year. I am sad to leave the organization, my co-workers, and the people I’ve met through my work as I am going back to Germany to start college there.


Everyone Home DC Awarded a Capacity Building Grant from Media Nonprofit Organization

Exciting news! Everyone Home DC is pleased to announce a new grant partnership with DCTV! The grant will help Everyone Home DC powerfully expand how we connect with YOU over the course of the next year. DCTV’s Nonprofit Capacity Building Grant program, which was designed with input from nonprofit leaders across the District, gives Everyone Home DC a dynamic platform and new strategies to tell the story of how we support ending homelessness in our community.

Created by and for Washington, DC residents, DCTV fosters a 24/7 community media forum to amplify local voices in the nation’s capital and the neighboring metropolitan area. Using the power of meaningful media to connect DC residents, DCTV cultivates a premier nonprofit platform to examine local issues and interests across the District’s three cable television providers and digital streaming channels.

“We are thrilled and honored to have been selected to participate in DCTV’s capacity building program alongside so many other transformative nonprofits in the region.” shared Karen Cunningham, Everyone Home DC Executive Director. “We look forward to sharing the Everyone Home DC story more personally with our longtime and loyal supporters, as well as introducing our story to people in our city for the first time through new strategies along with access to DCTV’s respectable platform. We are ready to get to work and cannot wait to share what we create!”

As part of this opportunity, Everyone Home DC will bring you quality stories and vital conversations about Everyone Home DC’s vision of a thriving and diverse Washington, DC where all people can obtain and remain in safe, affordable, and comfortable homes. Everyone Home DC will appear on DCTV’s new weekly television series, District Life, which will explore the nature of living in Washington, DC and share important and compelling stories with people all over the District. You can find that and more dynamic programming on DCTV’s three dedicated cable channels, which broadcast on Comcast, RCN, and Verizon, as well as DCTV’s streaming platforms at dctv.org/live. We will be sure to let you know when we’re on!

To see the full list of local impact makers who received the grant, please visit dctv.org/grantawards. We are excited to join them in our collective effort to uplift DC communities. Stay tuned for more information!

A Reflection After a Year of Service

*Names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals staying outside that Everyone Home DC works with.

Sue and Moe were in deep discussion when Brett and I approached the park bench. We were on an afternoon outreach walk handing out waters and snacks to people staying outside. “Can you settle something for us?” Sue said, after we had exchanged greetings, “Who sings Remember When?” Brett pulled up the song on her phone. “It’s Alan Jackson,” I told her, looking over Brett’s shoulder. Moe did a small celebration interspersed with a bit of gloating. “Okay, okay,” Sue said, “I can admit when I’m wrong.” To us, she explained, “I thought it was George Strait.” To Moe, “I guess I owe you 25 cents.”

We played that song for them, then another and another. As Moe danced with the music, Sue started talking about her life, growing up in Florida, the family she had there, her mother’s health, her constant fight with addiction and the toll it has taken on her life. She looked sometimes at me, sometimes off down the street as she told me about her missteps and mistakes and all the effort she has put in to get back to where she wants to be. Her eyes filled with tears at some parts, at others, she chuckled with the memory. I was acutely aware in that moment that the relationship we fostered in the easy times was the foundation for assistance and support in the harder times. 

I don’t think I could have imagined earning such trust and camaraderie when I accepted a position on Everyone Home DC’s street outreach team. I have worked at Everyone Home DC for the past year through the Avodah Jewish Service Corps. Avodah offers young Jewish adults the opportunity to learn and grow as Jewish social justice leaders through living in an intentional community, learning with social justice experts, and engaging in direct service work at a local anti-poverty organization.

Every day, I work with people who are experiencing homelessness to help with food, clothing, applying for IDs or Medicaid or food stamps, discussing employment opportunities, and generally supporting them in removing barriers to obtaining housing. In the evening, I go home to my housemates, who have spent their days renewing DACA applications, delivering food to people with chronic illnesses, advocating for Medicaid patients, organizing local Jewish institutions around social justice issues, teaching tech skills to low-income residents. We share successes and hardships, offering emotional support and resources our organizations can provide for each other’s clients. A couple times a week, we have programs where we discuss foundational issues of racism, privilege, and the Jewish connection to social justice that directly impact our work and relationships with clients. For me, the weekly learning and discussion combined with the daily confrontation of the real-world consequences developed a profound understanding of issues of homelessness and housing insecurity.

I wanted to work at Everyone Home DC because I thought homelessness was, at its core, an easy problem with an easy solution. Since I believe there is enough physical space for everyone to have a place to live, I thought it was just a matter of organizing a system to put people in that space. As I learned from attending advocacy events with The Way Home Campaign, housing is the solution. Housing ends homelessness. But homelessness is not just about whether or not you have a place to stay. I have learned about the barriers of mental health and addiction and employment and systemic oppression that makes it harder for some to achieve their goals than others. So many times this year, I have heard clients imagine how job interviews would be different if they could get a full night’s sleep, take a shower, and put on clean clothes before meeting with a potential employer. Doctors, nurses, and clients have all told me how hard it is to maintain a rigid schedule of taking medicine when they have nowhere secure to store their meds, they don’t know if they will be able to get a meal beforehand, or they have no way of setting a daily timer to remind them.

I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from and be inspired by my clients, my coworkers, my housemates, and the larger DC community. Everyone should, at some point in their life, engage in direct service. It fosters such a deep sense of empathy. It is a reminder that everyone has a story that goes beyond their current circumstances, a past, a family (biological or chosen), skills and expertise, motivations and desires, and obstacles they have overcome or are still working to overcome. As a resident of my neighborhood, my city, my country, the world, I am a part of the community. The whole community. And as a community member, I have a responsibility to treat my neighbors well and stand up for their rights. Thank you for this opportunity and this experience to be part of your community.

By Orli Hendler – Orli participated in  AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps 2018-2019 and worked with Everyone Home DC’s Street Outreach program during her Avodah year. Orli Hendler grew up in Atlanta, Georgia and graduated from Emory University. In college, Orli witnessed diversity and inequality in her community and in the world at large, through her experiences as a Resident Advisor as well as an Emory delegate to the UN climate change conference. After studying linguistics and environmental science, she decided to dedicate her year to directly address inequalities by serving others. Avodah not only offered this opportunity but provided a wonderful Jewish community with which to live. In her free time, Orli enjoys playing soccer, practicing circus arts, and road tripping around the country.

DC Summers are Hot. Here is How You can Help.

The heat is on! Everyone Home DC’s Street Outreach Team and Day Center, Shirley’s Place, have kicked into high gear to support our neighbors living outside in vulnerable situations. We often think of winter as the most dangerous time for people experiencing homelessness, AND the summer months can also be deadly for those who live outside. 

Every year, the District creates a Heat Emergency Plan to help keep everyone in our city safe during the hottest summer days. When the temperature or heat index reaches 95 degrees Fahrenheit, the city activates a Heat Emergency which triggers the opening of cooling centers. In addition, shelter transport vans will circulate to conduct safety checks, distribute water, and provide transportation to the cooling centers. 

Want to help? Here are a few ways to support our neighbors experiencing homelessness during the extreme heat: 

  1. Be aware of signs and symptoms of heat related illness like goosebumps, dizziness, heavy sweating, vomiting, faintness, loss of consciousness, or inappropriate dress for hot weather.
  2. When in doubt, call 911. If you are concerned that a person is experiencing symptoms of heat stroke (e.g. loss of consciousness, lack of sweat), call 911 and take direction from the dispatcher. 
  3. Save the number to the Shelter Hotline (202-320-7702) in your phone and call and ask for a safety check if you are concerned about someone on the street. 
  4. Purchase a bottle of water or a sports drink for a person experiencing homelessness. Staying hydrated helps prevent heat-related illness. 
  5. Sign up to receive alerts from AlertDC so you know when a Heat Emergency is activated. 
  6. Support Everyone Home DC by purchasing items off of our Amazon Wish List. We can never have enough undershirts, socks and underwear during summer. 
  7. Sign up to volunteer with Everyone Home DC’s Homeless Assistance Response Team. 

Please share this information with your friends, family, colleagues, and social networks as an easy way to make a difference in the lives of individuals who find themselves in extremely vulnerable situations. Thank you!

Image of Maya pulling green HART wagon with text "Make This Wish Come True"

Make a Birthday Wish Come True!

Support a birthday wish—to raise critical funds for individuals staying outside—in coming true!

Kate and Maya are new friends to Everyone Home DC. And within the last year, they have been so touched and inspired by Everyone Home DC’s vision of our city as a thriving and diverse community where all people can obtain and remain in safe, affordable, and comfortable homes that they decided to dedicate their shared June birthday month to raising critical funds for Everyone Home DC.


Kate started working for Everyone Home DC last August as our Director of Strategic Initiatives, bringing more than 10 years of nonprofit leadership and experience to our organization. Alongside Everyone Home DC’s dedicated staff, she is responsible for building the organization’s visibility, impact, and financial resources. Her oldest child, Maya, is nearing completion of the third grade and is Kate’s loudest cheerleader and a committed Everyone Home DC ambassador. Additionally, Maya is a concerned DC citizen when it comes to homelessness, affordable housing, and food insecurity. Maya most recently wrote her 3rd grade opinion piece writing project on homelessness and deployed with Everyone Home DC’s volunteer outreach program, HART. She is anxious to deploy again. 

Kate & Maya Ask YOU to Support Their Birthday Wish!

Their birthday wish fundraising goal is small, yet meaningful. Combining their ages (Kate turned 40 on June 1 and Maya is turning 9 on June 29) and adding a zero, they are hoping to raise $490 in support of Everyone Home DC’s Street Outreach program. A program that provides critical and life-saving support to individuals staying outside AND is entirely funded by the generosity of donors like YOU. 

We encourage you to visit their fundraising page, read their story, watch their videos, and help make their birthday wish come true by making a donation today!

INTERESTED IN STARTING YOUR OWN BIRTHDAY FUNDRAISER? You can easily get started by visiting Everyone Home DC’s Mightycause page and selecting the “Fundraise” button right under our logo and name. Then follow the prompts and within minutes, you can share your Everyone Home DC story and goal with your friends and family. If you have any questions or need any support, email Kate at akalonu@everyonehomedc.org.

Everyone Home DC Needs Backpacks & School Supplies!

As summer break is approaching for many of our city’s young scholars, it is hard to think about heading back to school–AND that is exactly what Everyone Home DC is doing. Every year, at this time, we begin planning for the next school year and we need your help.

Please join Everyone Home DC and make this year’s Back-to-School Backpack Drive the most successful, yet. Last year, thanks to generous community support Everyone Home DC provided nearly 450 children with backpacks filled with age appropriate school supplies to support them in starting the new school year with the materials they need to be successful. We have a similar goal for this year. Consider running a drive to collect backpacks and school supplies at your work, place of worship, exercise studio, book club OR you can sponsor a child or two individually. Every little bit helps. Below is more information on how to get started, what the needs are, along with when and where to drop backpacks off. Thank you for helping us bring backpacks to children in our community for the upcoming school year!

Contact Shelah Wilcox at 202-544-3150 or wilcox@everyonehomedc.org to share the number of backpacks you plan to donate and find out if there is an age group you should focus on.

Purchase new backpacks and school supplies, referring to the DC Public Schools 2019/20 supply list.


  • Place the school supplies inside the backpack.
  • Attach the grade of the student being sponsored to each backpack handle.
  • On the side or front of each backpack include receipts and donor information in an envelope to receive a tax acknowledgement letter for your records.
  • Please keep copies of your receipts for your records.

August 12 – August 17
Shirley’s Place DayCenter | 1338 G Street SE
Monday-Friday: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

If you prefer to support Everyone Home DC by making a monetary donation, you can make a gift on Everyone Home DC’s website.

Deloitte Impact Day Visits Everyone Home DC

On Friday, June 7, Deloitte partnered with Everyone Home DC through its annual day of service–Impact Day. 15 volunteers arrived first thing in the morning, kicking off their service by learning about Everyone Home DC’s programs and community impact, followed by their impact project of beautifying four conference rooms at Everyone Home DC’s headquarters. These rooms are most frequently used to welcome families working with Everyone Home DC’s Family Homelessness Prevention Program. Deloitte provided the materials for the project, including four different paint colors that aligned with our new color palette to create stunning accent walls in each room.

Enjoy photos from the productive day on Everyone Home DC’s Facebook page.

Fox 5 Zip Trip Arrives at Eastern Market

On the morning of Friday, June 7, Everyone Home DC was honored to be a part of the Fox 5’s Zip Trip as a kick off event for Rediscover Eastern Market: A Celebration Marking 10 Years After Restoration.

Everyone Home DC had a table near the broadcast set and had the opportunity over the four hour event to engage with community members in attendance. We also unveiled our new (and very pretty AND popular) instagram frame and latest Everyone Home DC swag. Individuals who visited our table were also eligible to enter a raffle with a few stellar prizes.

It was an honor to be a part of this moment in time with Eastern Market. Visit Everyone Home DC’s Facebook page to see more photos from the morning. Thank you to everyone who stopped by to say, “hi.”

Everyone Home DC Responds to the Release of the 2019 Point-in-Time Count

Everyone Home DC’s Executive Director Karen Cunningham released the following statement in response to the 2019 Point-in-Time (PIT) Count of Persons Experiencing Homelessness.

“Every person has the right to a safe, affordable, and comfortable home. We are happy to see that family homelessness decreased by 11.8 percent and individuals experiencing chronic homelessness* decreased by 13.3 percent in Washington DC in 2018–reflecting the impact of the District’s prioritization of individuals and families living in the most vulnerable of living situations.

The 2019 Point-in-Time report confirms that more individuals and families are being afforded the right to a safe, affordable, and comfortable home through the coordinated actions of service providers, advocates, and policy makers.

At Everyone Home DC, we are proud of our contribution to this trend.

  • Last year, we provided homelessness prevention services to nearly 800 families.
  • And, through our Street Outreach program we helped 11 chronically homeless individuals move into their own homes.

But as the report concludes, there is more we must do to ensure no individual experiences the trauma of homelessness. There is a critical need for an increased supply of affordable housing, greater support for the delivery of wrap-around services, and dedicated efforts to decrease the disparity between income and housing costs in the District.  

To accomplish this, we call for the DC Council to act with urgency and fully fund the asks of The Way Home Campaign so more individuals can move from our city’s streets and shelters into safe, affordable, and comfortable homes.”

The PIT report notes homelessness prevention programs and permanent housing solutions as key drivers in the reduction of homelessness. Everyone Home DC is one of four organizations selected to run a family homelessness prevention program with the goal of helping families avoid a shelter stay, when possible, by stabilizing their housing in the community. In 2018, 94 percent of the families working with Everyone Home DC’s homelessness prevention program were diverted from a shelter stay.

The annual PIT report provides a one-night “snapshot” of the number of individuals and families staying either in shelter, temporary housing, or on the street within nine metropolitan area jurisdictions, which is essential information for policymakers and funder.  The complete report is available at mwcog.org/documents/homelessnessreport/.

*People who are chronically homeless have experienced homelessness for at least a year – or repeatedly – while struggling with a disabling condition such as a serious mental illness, substance use disorder, or physical disability.

Everyone Home DC Annual Spring Social Success!

On Tuesday, April 30,  Everyone Home DC celebrated its Annual Spring Social at the historic Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital. Gathering with around 100 friends—old and new—those in attendance reflected on and shared stories of the organization’s vibrant history, celebrated this exciting moment in time, AND recommitted themselves to the work that must done every day to achieve Everyone Home DC’s vision of the District of Columbia as a thriving and diverse community where ALL people can obtain and remain in safe affordable, and comfortable homes.

The evening also went on to honor Nicky Cymrot with the Ruth Rappaport Wisdom Award. The annual award recognizes an individual who has displayed remarkable warmth, wisdom, and service to Everyone Home DC and the Capitol Hill neighborhood and who inspires us with their leadership and spirited joy of life and community. As Councilmember Charles Allen so perfectly said in his introductory remarks for the award ceremony, “Nicky is the best of us and an inspiration to all.”

It is the responsibility of each of us to end homelessness is Washington, D.C. and to build the welcoming and inclusive community our founders believed is possible. Executive Director Karen Cunningham shared, “Under our new name, we promise to communicate with you more regularly so you know what we are doing to end homelessness and create a more equitable city, how you can get involved, and the difference we make together. Thank you again for your support as we step into our future as Everyone Home DC!”

View photos from the evening on Everyone Home DC’s Facebook page. If you have any questions or want to discuss was to grow your partnership with Everyone Home DC, contact Kate Akalonu at akalonu@everyonehomedc.org.