Voices of Shirley’s Place

Collectively, we continue to find ourselves amid extraordinary challenges. This is especially true for Everyone Home DC and the people we work alongside. We are so profoundly grateful to you for standing with us yet again this year. Your dependable support has ensured that all of Everyone Home DC’s front line and essential services have continued uninterrupted. That includes our drop-in Day Center, Shirley’s Place, which continues to keep its doors open and services accessible—although in a re-imagined way—over the last year and a half. Shirley’s Place, located near the Potomac Avenue Metro station, is named in honor of the late Shirley Smith Anderson, a long-time member of the Capitol Hill Community, and social justice activist. Everyone Home DC’s Day Center is one of only a few spaces in our city offering people experiencing homelessness a safe, healthy, and dignified place to take respite from the elements and access vital services like showers, laundry, restrooms, mail service, phones, computers, lunch, and social service referrals. This holiday season, it is your gift to Everyone Home DC that supports our critical work on the front lines, ensuring that all people living in our city have access to meaningful relationships that connect them with supportive services and networks.

As economic uncertainty continues to loom, this is more important than ever before. As we reflect on the past year, we want to lift up the voices of our community as they share what Shirley’s Place has meant to them over the last 20 months.

Because of your commitment to our mission and programs, Everyone Home DC’s Day Center has historically had a profound impact on the Capitol Hill Community by providing consistent and life-saving support to our neighbors experiencing homelessness. During this pandemic, Shirley’s Place has continued to provide these essential services and supplies without interruption. The Day Center reconfigured its physical space, acquired the appropriate PPE, and put policies and protocols in place to offer in-person services safely and with urgency and compassion. This year, Everyone Home DC is partnering with DC Central Kitchen to provide tasty, nutritious, and dignified meals, to anyone who stops by Shirley’s Place for a visit.

It is so hard to know what 2022 will bring. Due to the economic and racial injustice that has existed in our society for decades, the individuals and families we work with—who were facing crisis and instability long before this pandemic—are feeling far more exposed to the harshness of this new reality. Please make a personally meaningful year-end contribution today to support Everyone Home DC’s critical work on the front lines in the new year ahead.

In the spirit of the season, please make a personally meaningful year-end gift today to ensure that Everyone Home DC continues to provide essential services and housing supports while preparing for the pandemic’s long-term impact. With your gift today, Everyone Home DC will be here not just today but, in the weeks, and months ahead, working with our community to put the needs of people at risk of or experiencing homelessness at the center of a just recovery. We are so glad you are here. We cannot do this work without YOU. Please continue to take care of yourself and each other.

❤ 2021 Executive Director Reflection ❤

As unbelievable as it seems, we are somehow reaching the end of another year. We had hoped the pandemic would be over by now, but alas….. The ongoing pandemic continues to complicate our efforts to end homelessness, but today, I want to focus on the positive things the pandemic has taught us.

First, we learned just how much we could count on you in a crisis. You donated more generously than ever and consistently asked how our staff and clients were coping and what more you could do to help. You enabled us to continue providing essential services to those in need and to do so in ways that kept both our clients and staff safe. Thank you!

Through the Pandemic Emergency Housing for Medically Vulnerable Individuals (PEP-V) program, our city learned what service providers already knew–when we have the will and commit the resources, we can quickly move unhoused individuals indoors, including those who have eschewed shelter for years. Many people living outdoors do not want to go into a congregate shelter for a variety of legitimate reasons including, being unable to bring more than two bags of belongings, poor shelter conditions, unwillingness to live apart from an opposite-sex partner or relinquish a pet, and being overwhelmed in large group settings. When offered a room with no more than one roommate in a PEP-V shelter, however, even those written off by some as “housing resistant” happily moved inside and stayed. It is not shelter or housing that folks resist. It is shelter or housing that does not adequately support their very reasonable needs and preferences. We hope this lesson will be incorporated into the design of our standard shelter and housing programs.

Finally, we learned important lessons about making our services even more client-centered and anti-racist. The pandemic forced homeless services providers to conduct meetings by phone and video and have clients sign documents electronically. We also chose to provide electronic gift cards rather than distributing pantry and household items directly. We quickly realized that these changes made it far more accessible for people to actively participate in our programs and get the kind of support they needed. They no longer had to spend the time, energy, and expense to travel to in-person meetings, sometimes with several small children in tow. They also had the dignity of choosing the best items for them rather than making due with whatever we had on hand or chose for them. This is what it looks like to be client-centered, and we hope to continue these practices as much as possible even after the pandemic finally abates.

Similarly, we chose to provide gift cards rather than school supplies, food baskets, and presents through our Back-to-School, Thanksgiving, and Holiday Gift drives. We knew that this approach was the right one as it centered the clients’ needs and offered them the power to make their own decisions. Our clients could choose what their kids most needed and wanted for school, shop for the ingredients necessary for their particular holiday traditions, and feel the joy of selecting and wrapping gifts for their children–things most of us take for granted. Moreover, giving people cash rather than pre-selected goods intentionally disrupts a system of in-kind giving rooted in and maintained by racist and classist notions that poor people–and especially poor Black people–cannot be trusted to spend money in ways that predominantly white and wealthy donors, institutional funders, and service providers deem responsible.

We had contemplated making this change for some time but feared that our in-kind donors might not participate without the feel-good element of shopping for their sponsored families. The pandemic forced our hand, and I am proud to share that our fears were largely unfounded. Several of you even wrote to us saying how much you appreciated our more client-centered and anti-racist approach. It has been so fulfilling for our team to see that when we lead with our values, our community will not just follow but will enthusiastically cheer us on.

We look forward to a new year where we will continue to look and listen for what this pandemic, our clients, and our community have to teach us. Thank you for taking this journey with us!

With warm wishes for a joyful holiday season,

Karen Cunningham
Everyone Home DC
Executive Director

❤ 2020 Executive Director Reflection ❤

2020. What an unbelievable and unexpected year it has been! When we sat down at the end of last year to reflect and plan for the year ahead, a global health crisis was not on the vision board. Nor was a national reckoning with police violence against Black Americans that sent millions of people into the streets to declare Black Lives Matter.

This year, we have all been tested personally and professionally in ways we could never have imagined. As I look back, I am overwhelmed with appreciation for our smart, skilled, compassionate, and dedicated staff and Board of Directors. They have worked tirelessly and continuously reimagined how Everyone Home DC provides critical services and resources for individuals and families at risk of or experiencing homelessness during this unprecedented and constantly evolving time. And my heart is full as I remember how we lifted each other up as we experienced anxiety, isolation, grief, and rage as we witnessed so much loss and the disproportionate toll the pandemic and police violence took on Black people and those who had already been struggling.

All of us at Everyone Home DC are filled with extreme gratitude for the love we have felt from our amazing champions (YOU!). You have reached out to ask how to help, shared words of encouragement, and made donations that enabled us to respond with flexibility and efficiency over these last nine months. Thank you!

2020 introduced new situations never before experienced in Everyone Home DC’s 50 years of existence. Thanks to your support, we continue to provide urgent and critical resources to the individuals and families we work with who are feeling far more exposed to the harshness of our new reality. In 2020:

  • Our Street Outreach team did COVID health checks and distributed undergarments, body wipes, hand sanitizer, and other items essential to the health and safety of those with no place to shower or wash their hands, and ensured that everyone had enough to eat.
  • Our family housing and prevention programs pivoted seamlessness to remote and limited in-person case management to safely support families, ensuring housing stability and access to much-needed resources and support. As Everyone Home DC families are at high risk for COVID-19, attending to their physical and mental wellbeing has been a critical part of the care we’ve provided this year.
  • After a brief pause in service to establish safety protocols and secure necessary supplies, our drop-in day center, Shirley’s Place, reopened to provide laundry, showers, mail pickup, grab and go snacks and toiletry bags, and emergency clothing.
  • Our first-ever digital campaign—September Challenge, in the Spirit of Sip and Savor—far exceeded our expectations and raised more than $70,000, with close to 400 donations made throughout the month.
  • The traditional in-kind donation drive for back to school, Thanksgiving, and holiday gift-giving shifted from distributing goods and items to giving gift cards, which have offered families the flexible support they need during this time. We collected nearly $40,000 from more than 200 donors, which we quickly distributed to our housing program families.
  • We advocated strenuously to preserve DC funding for homeless services, housing, and social safety net programs in the face of enormous revenue shortfalls.

None of this would be possible without you. In a year when everything has felt so incredibly different, your support has remained constant, offering Everyone Home DC much needed stability and inspiration. Thank you for standing with us during this historic year. With your support, Everyone Home DC plans to be here not just today but in the months and years ahead, working as a community to ensure that the needs of our most vulnerable residents are at the center of a just recovery. Thank YOU for helping Everyone Home DC make it through 2020. As we look towards 2021, we are confident we will get through the challenges ahead together.

With warm wishes for a joyful holiday season,

Karen Cunningham
Everyone Home DC
Executive Director

COVID-19: Our New Normal

Dear Friend,

Deep breath in. Deep breath out. How are you doing right now? These past couple of weeks have been moving so fast, with new information coming at us all day long. We are all going through a collective traumatic experience right now, which requires each of us to be extra gentle with ourselves as well as others. 

As we settle into what is our new normal, all of us at Everyone Home DC are filled with extreme gratitude for the love we have felt from our amazing champions (YOU!) who have reached out to ask how to help, shared words of encouragement, and made donations to ensure we remain agile during this unprecedented time. Thank you!

We are all feeling vulnerable, anxious, and concerned. And, due to the economic injustice that we know has existed in our society for decades, the individuals and families we work with—who were facing crisis and instability long before this pandemic—are feeling far more exposed to the harshness of this new reality. 

Please consider making a donation today in support of the individuals and families we work with each day during this uncertain time

The fast-paced spread of COVID-19 brings new situations that we have never experienced as an organization in our 50 years of existence. Everyone Home DC is dedicated during this time to reimagining how we provide supportive services as well as timely and critical resources to individuals and families at risk of or experiencing homelessness in our city. 

  • We continue  to provide case management support for families in our housing and prevention programs by phone and email, ensuring housing stability and access to much needed resources and support.
  • Our drop-in day center, Shirley’s Place, is currently closed and continues to assist clients with mail pick up throughout the week and responding to emergency situations remotely.
  • Our Street Outreach team is working closely with local partners to ensure individuals who sleep outside are receiving health and welfare checks and access to basic needs resources.
  • We are advocating for safe housing alternatives and practices in shelters and making hand-washing stations, bathrooms, and food available to those who live outside.
  • We are sharing up-to-date announcements and resources on Everyone Home DC’s website. 

Help Everyone Home DC respond quickly and efficiently during this great time of need. If there is any time to be there for the individuals and families in our city who are most impacted by gaps in our social safety net—it is now. With your gift today to Everyone Home DC, we will be prepared to move with speed and agility as we stand beside the people we work with and confront, together, the challenges that most certainly lie ahead.

Thank you in advance for your support. We cannot do this without you. If you need anything, please do not hesitate to reach out. We are here for you during this time, in the same way that you continue to always be here for us.

In the cause,
Karen Cunningham
Executive Director

Important Resources:

Black History Month: What We are Reading

One way Everyone Home DC is choosing to honor Black history (this month and every month) is to intentionally and continuously grow our knowledge of racists policies and practices that impact the creation of equitable systems and structures. Check out some of the articles, podcasts, and books that we are following below and if there is anything we are missing our should have on our radar, we are always looking to grow our library. Shoot us an email at info@everyonehomedc.org and share with us what you are reading.

Updated on February 16, 2020

Final Thought: Sip and Savor 2019

On Saturday, September 14, Everyone Home DC’s 4th Annual Sip and Savor welcomed more than 400 foodies, friends, and supporters to experience three hours of unlimited tastings from 25 local restaurants, breweries, and beverage vendors while enjoying music and friendship. The signature fundraiser raised nearly $90,000 in support of Everyone Home DC’s homelessness prevention, housing, street outreach, drop-in day center, and supportive services for Washington D.C.’s individuals and families at risk of or experiencing homelessness. WUSA9 Get Up DC host, Reese Waters, stopped by in support of the festivities and shared this “Final Thought” with those in attendance before he departed.

For my final thought this evening I would like to talk a little bit about the hashtag #HousingEndHomelessness. It seems obvious doesn’t It? Just as food ends hunger, Housing ends homelessness, and yet tonight, in this city, the capitol of our nation, over 6000 souls, adult and child, will be going to bed without a home to call their own.

How did we get here? How does a city, how does a nation, as wealthy as ours, end up in this place?

The first impulse of most is victim blaming.“It’s their own fault.” “They don’t work hard enough.” “They shouldn’t abuse themselves with drugs.”

They need to pull themselves up by the what? Bootstraps.

“If they would just work harder, get better educated, have both parents in the home, then everything would be fine.”

What they always conveniently leave out is the greed that has put affordable housing out of the reach of working people and families, predominately Black, in DC. In order to live in a one-bedroom apartment, one bedroom, a minimum waged person would need to work 80 hours in a single week, to meet the price of the average DC rent. 80 hours! Got a family? Want to live in a two bedroom? Well get ready, because you need to make about 32 dollars an hour, if you want to live any kind of life. That’s 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, every year. The denied generational wealth due to the legacies of racist policies as well as a lack of resources to turn to forces me to ask,

How does one pull their bootstraps up, when one’s boots are being yanked off their feet at the same time?

There is a solution, and it’s right here in this room……it’s community.

This community has already demonstrated that it can do great things. Since the launch of the Districts strategic plan to end homelessness, over 5,000 people have moved off the streets, out of shelters and into housing. Over 90% of folks who go into permanent supportive housing with wrap around services, do not return to homelessness within 1 year.

These numbers are fantastic, but we mustn’t allow them to make us complacent. If we want to end this problem, if we want to end homelessness in the district then we must keep working, keep striving. We must keep pressure on our elected officials, making sure that they are as invested, monetarily and spiritual, into programs like this one and others, as we are. And we must make sure that they are working to level playing fields put in place by age old systemic policies.

Most importantly, we must learn that they, are us. We must see the homeless for who they are; our neighbors, our family, our people, and we must treat them with the dignity that they deserve.

Let’s Continue this Conversation Online. Tell me what personal commitment you will make to support our shared goal of ending homelessness, and let’s get the hashtag housing ends homelessness popping……Get Up Everyone Home DC!

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.