We can’t say thank you enough. 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 and in the delicate months ahead. Your dependable support makes stories like Ernest’s possible.
Seven years ago, Ernest married the love of his life and best friend. They were filled with optimism for their future. Just two years into their marriage, however, his wife became ill. Over a short period, she had five surgeries and could no longer access their third-floor home without an elevator. They decided it would be best for her to move into a facility with round the clock support. Ernest was left with limited options and began to consider sleeping outside.
Ernest found a spot outdoors near the aquatic center in Eastern Market, where he felt comfortable sleeping. He learned how to live unhoused—things like the best clothing and bedding materials to endure all of nature’s elements, how to ward off unwanted pests, and tricks like not eating anything after 7 p.m. because there were no public restrooms available. Ernest and his wife spent their days together, grateful for each other’s company. Ernest would help vendors at the market and became connected with Everyone Home DC’s Street Outreach Team.
Because of your commitment to our mission and programs, Everyone Home DC’s Street Outreach Team has deployed throughout the Eastern Market neighborhood for the last decade, working with chronically homeless individuals who live outdoors. Using a person-centered approach, our Street Outreach Team builds and maintains relationships and supports neighbors experiencing homelessness in meeting their immediate needs and achieving their long-term goals, including obtaining stable housing.
Ernest’s number one goal was to find a home to move back into with his wife. A place where she could comfortably rest, heal, and recover. Ernest felt an immediate connection with the Street Outreach Team and regularly connected to set manageable goals to secure stable housing. With our Team’s help, Ernest applied for one of the District’s scarce and highly coveted Permanent Supportive Housing resources. At times, the process felt lonely and confusing, and required a great deal of determination and patience. Yet, Ernest never lost hope.
It is your gift this holiday season to Everyone Home DC that ensures all people living in the District have access to meaningful relationships that connect them with supportive networks. This is even more important during the ongoing global health emergency. For Ernest, support meant being linked to available community resources like warm meals, a place to collect mail, assistance completing important paperwork, and reminders about upcoming deadlines.
In March, when DC declared a Public Health Emergency due to the novel coronavirus, everything came screeching to an unfamiliar halt. The meal program Ernest enjoyed visiting at Capitol Hill United Methodist Church was temporarily paused. Access to bathrooms and running water disappeared. And Ernest’s wife could no longer leave the facility she was staying in, which was devastating for them both. The harshness of this new reality left Ernest feeling even more anxious, vulnerable, and concerned. Having our Street Outreach Team stay in touch, sharing critical public health updates, providing access to essential resources including PPE and hygiene kits, and offering updates on his housing application kept him physically well and his spirit strong.
People experiencing homelessness are at high risk of COVID-19 exposure. Our unhoused neighbors are particularly vulnerable to exposure and complications, due to lack of a safe place to quarantine and receive healthcare. Everyone Home DC’s Street Outreach Team has continued to support unhoused neighbors during these very uncertain and dangerous times through face-to-face engagements, distributing COVID supply bags, and supporting newly housed neighbors’ transitions into their homes.
One of those newly housed neighbors’ is Ernest! A couple of months into the global health pandemic, Ernest received the news that his housing request was approved, a home was ready for him and his wife to move into. Filled with excitement, he called to share the news with her only to be sent to voicemail, which was not expected. Ernest soon learned that his beloved wife had passed away. Ernest strongly believes that she would still be alive today if they had been together and with housing. This global health crisis has exposed now more than ever that housing truly is healthcare.
Today, Ernest is proud to have a place to call home. He appreciates having a door to walk through each day and close behind him, providing him safety, comfort, and privacy to grieve. Ernest loves to cook his own food and is most happy to have a fried egg sandwich whenever he wants one. He enjoys reading his Bible each day and never having to worry about it getting wet. His knees don’t hurt as badly as they did when sleeping outside. He is grateful to have water whenever he needs it to wash his hands, keep his home clean, and take warm baths.
You are a part of Ernest’s story. Your steadfast commitment to Everyone Home DC helps make housing stability possible for Ernest and people in our city experiencing similar circumstances. 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. If there is any time to be there for people in our city who are most impacted by gaps in our social safety net—it is now.
In the spirit of the season, please make a personally meaningful year-end contribution today to ensure Everyone Home DC can respond efficiently during this significant time of need. With your gift today, Everyone Home DC will be prepared to be here not just today but, in the weeks, and months ahead, working as a community to put the needs of people like Ernest at the center of a just recovery. Thank you in advance for your support. We cannot do this without YOU.