Staff Spotlight: Jessie Henry

Everyone Home DC is excited to introduce you to Jessie Henry! Jessie has been working as a Street Outreach Coordinator at Everyone Home DC for more than 2 years. Everyone Home DC’s Street Outreach team works with chronically homeless individuals living in Capitol Hill. Jessie and her team use a person-centered approach to build and maintain relationships with our chronically homeless neighbors and supports them in meeting their immediate needs and achieving their long-term goals, which include obtaining stable housing. Jessie grew up in Williamsburg, Virginia, and has lived in DC for the last seven years. Prior to joining the Everyone Home DC team, Jessie worked at a homeless services organization called Friendship Place as a Rapid Rehousing Case manager. Recently, Jessie completed a three-and-a-half-year part-time Social Work program at The Catholic University of America and plans to get her clinical license after getting her graduate license. Jessie spends most of her free time with her husband and attempting to keep their 16-month-old son, who enjoys climbing on dangerous objects, alive. She also enjoys refinishing furniture and traveling anywhere and everywhere. Jessie recently shared a bit about herself and her experience at Everyone Home DC.

Describe working at Everyone Home DC in three words or less.
JH: Supportive, engaging, motivating.  

What keeps you motivated to come to work every day?
JH: My clients keep me motivated to come to work every day. My clients constantly teach me what it means to be resilient. They have embraced me into their community and make me want to work towards lasting systemic change. 

What do you wish other people knew about Everyone Home DC?
JH: We are dedicated to advocacy and believe this is the most vital part of seeing oppressive systems changed. We are always looking for people to join us as we advocate for more PSH vouchers along with more affordable housing. 

What do you wish other people knew about people experiencing, or at risk of experiencing homelessness?
JH: We are all humans and deserve dignity. Just because someone doesn’t have a doorknob to turn doesn’t mean they deserve anything less than respect and dignity. 

What’s your favorite activity to do in your free time?
JH: Anything and everything on the water. I grew up wakeboarding and waterskiing. Although I am a bit rusty these days I still try to get on the water any chance I can. 

What would you most like to tell yourself at age 13?
JH: HA! Resist the trend to wax your entire eyebrow off. It will never grow back the same. – kidding. I would likely tell myself to breathe and give myself grace. Life is challenging and unpredictable for us all but we can get through it by leaning on one another and giving a whole lot of grace to everyone. 

What is one of the first things you would like to do post-pandemic?
JH: Hug my friends and family. I would love to have a group of friends over for dinner or go to a restaurant and laugh for hours. 

Staff Spotlight: Lakea Deans

Everyone Home DC is excited to introduce you to Lakea Deans! Lakea started working at Everyone Home DC at the beginning of 2018 and is currently the Assistant Program Manager of Family Homelessness Prevention. Everyone Home DC’s Family Homelessness Prevention is a 90-day program offering services for families at risk of becoming homeless through mediation, flexible financial assistance, and connecting them to supportive resources, with the goal of stabilizing their housing. Lakea’s first experience with Everyone Home DC  was as a Prevention Specialist, then growing into the Prevention Program Coordinator, followed by the role she is in today. Before joining the Everyone Home DC’s team, Lakea worked at the Office of Unified Communications (DC 911) in the IT department. Lakea graduated from  North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University with a BA in Psychology and LaKea is on track to graduate this year from Regent University with a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Nonprofit Management. Lakea recently shared a bit about herself and her experience at Everyone Home DC.

What inspired you to work at Everyone Home DC?
LD: In addition to supporting the mission and vision of the organization, my love for helping others is what inspired me to work here at Everyone Home DC.  I believe we were created to be vessels and to show grace to others, this work reminds me that I am walking in my purpose. I truly enjoy working for Everyone Home DC.

What story about an individual or family who has worked with Everyone Home DC has stuck with you most?
LD: Working with Ms. G will always and forever be a case I will never forget. Whenever I am having a challenging day, I still think about Ms. G, and she motivates me to continue to do great work. Ms. G was one of my first clients I worked with who had multiple barriers. This made it challenging to find stable housing for her and her teenage daughter. I built a great rapport with her daughter. While working together, Ms. G enrolled herself into a treatment program, found an income-based housing program, and successfully moved into her own apartment. I worked with the landlord and her benefits provider to have her rent payments deducted automatically to ensure Ms. G paid her monthly rent on time. To this day, Ms. G actively checks in with me to provide updates. She has recently celebrated three years of sobriety,  her daughter graduated high school, and Ms. G is still stable in her apartment. Ms. G’s success lets me know that I am doing great work and I am right where I need to be.

What do you enjoy most about the culture of Everyone Home DC?
LD: I enjoy the constant support. We do great work but sometimes it can be challenging and the organization is always there to provide additional support and they care about our well-being. 

On a Sunday morning, you will find me…
LD: On a Sunday morning you will find me on my couch sipping tea, streaming church and than watching some good football. 

If you could meet anyone who would you meet and why?
LD: If I could meet anyone, I would want to meet Beyonce, lol just kidding,  I would love to meet Michelle Obama. She is graceful,  inspirational, and fearless. She gives hope to many Americans and to future generations. I can say so much more about her, but she is truly phenomenal.

What is the last thing you watched on Netflix (and enjoyed)?
LD: I really enjoyed watching Bridgerton, I can not wait for the next season to come out. I love all Shonda Rhimes shows, especially Grey’s Anatomy.

Who is one of your favorite musicians?
LD: My favorite musician is BEYONCE! BEYONCE! BEYONCE!

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? Or anything other tidbits you would like to share…
LD: I enjoy working out. Traveling is one of my favorite things to do. I love to explore and learn about other cultures.  I’ve done a mission trip in Botswana, Africa and I’ve traveled to many other places.   My favorite place I’ve traveled to thus far would have to be JAMACIA.  I enjoy hanging out with my family and friends. I am a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. I am a wine connoisseur and I love going to vineyards to try out different wines. Fun Fact: I was born with six fingers on my left hand.           

 

 

Staff Spotlight: Abby Maraya

Everyone Home DC is excited to introduce you to Abby Maraya! Abby has been working as a Development and Operations Specialist at Everyone Home DC for the last 2 years. Abby plays an important role in raising friends, funds, and awareness for Everyone Home DC’s critical programs and services. She balances this with also ensuring the organization’s day-to-day operations run smoothly–from fixing tech issues to ordering supplies to checking in on Everyone Home DC’s headquarters location throughout the pandemic. Abby’s first experience with Everyone Home DC  was as a Service Never Sleeps Fellow, where she worked closely with the Street Outreach program while at the same time working as a business manager for an IT company, and before that, she was a program manager at Little Lights. Abby graduated from the University of Virginia and majored in Psychology with a minor in Asian Pacific American Studies.  Abby recently shared a bit about herself and her experience at Everyone Home DC.

What inspired you to work at Everyone Home DC?
AM: As a former Service Never Sleeps fellow, I got to see the awesome work Everyone Home DC does. I was really curious about development because all I’ve known was the program side from my time at Little Lights. I’m glad the timing and opportunity aligned. I am learning and am continuing to learn a great deal under Kate (Akalonu, Director of Strategic Initiatives) due to her breadth of experience and knowledge!

What is one of your favorite Everyone Home DC memories?
AM: One of my favorite memories is the feeling of accomplishment after Everyone Home DC’s signature event in 2019, Sip and Savor. I felt proud of the work we had done and the amazing support from fellow staff and attendees. The hug from Kate at the end of the night was the best and a mark of a successful evening.

What do you wish other people knew about Everyone Home DC?
AM: I’d like people to know that we are here for our entire community and we all thrive when everyone has access to safe, affordable, and comfortable homes. We cannot accomplish our goals without our dedicated supporters! We are always looking for ways to grow and deepen relationships to thrive in DC together!

Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in the DC area?
AM: My hometown is Springfield, VA. Heritage wise, I am a proud Filipino-American! I’ve lived in VA since I was 9. DC resident since 2019!

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
AM: Normal times – I love to travel and eat where I’m traveling. Bucket list destinations are France, Japan, Singapore, and wherever I can see the Northern Lights. COVID times – Spending time with my nieces and playing the Nintendo Switch.  Abby Sypek (Community Engagement Manager) got me into Animal Crossing. Just Dance 2021 is how I get my fitness on (Ice Cream by Blackpink feat Selena Gomez on repeat).

If you could go to a concert tomorrow, what artist/group would you want to see and why?
AM: TBH (to be honest) if the Spice Girls had a reunion concert with all the five members, I would pay to go in a heartbeat. For a more realistic answer, I’d like to go to a charity concert featuring Dua Lipa, Adele, Sam Smith, Lady Gaga, Lizzo, Pitbull, Enrique Iglesias and of course, Janet Jackson.

What is your favorite thing about working in Washington, DC?
AM: I love being surrounded by passionate, community-minded people. The energy of the city helps too. It’s really great to see people come together for a meaningful cause to make a difference!

What is something people reading this may not know about you?
AM: I was part of a group in college called the Hot Fudge Hunnies and we won an ice-cream eating contest called the Vermonster, twice.

Everyone Home DC Participates in Annual Point in Time Count

On the cold evening of January 22 and into the early morning hour of January 23, more than 300 volunteers joined members of homeless services organizations from all over the city to perform DC’s annual Point in Time Count (PIT Count).  The Point-in-Time count provides critical data and insights to service providers and policy makers concerning where to focus city and federal dollars in the on-going struggle to prevent and end homelessness.

The rules for how and when the PIT Count is conducted are dictated by HUD. The count is a snapshot of the homeless population that takes place, nationwide, in the last week of January every year. To streamline the process, this year was the first year the PIT Count was conducted by an app instead of paper and pen. To get the evening started, a kickoff event was held at the Columbia Heights Educational Campus, where Mayor Murial Bowser and Councilmember Brianne Nadeau shared remarks of gratitude and encouragement before the teams spread out over the city to begin the count and survey, which is not required. The survey provides the city with valuable demographic information and includes questions about episodes of homelessness, age, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, and experience with domestic violence.  

From 10 pm to 2am, Everyone Home DC lead a team of 12 people, canvassing Capitol Hill streets, sidewalks, buildings, bridges, and back alleyways looking for our homeless neighbors, many of whom have no choice but to live in our public spaces. With the city’s hypothermia alert activated, our PIT team counted a handful of people sleeping outside. View photos from the evening on Everyone Home DC’s Facebook page.

Everyone Home DC is grateful to our staff, our industry colleagues, and everyone who shared their time in this important moment to ensure the count’s success. We look forward to reviewing and sharing the regional analysis, that typically comes out in May, by the Metropolitan Council of Governments

Additional Articles and Resources:

 

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.