As we are all aware, the holidays are once again hurtling toward us. First upon us is Veterans Day, followed by the season of thanks, and then of giving. In the back of all of our minds are those rising grocery store prices as we shop for turkeys, mashed potatoes, green beans, and the elusive perfectly ripe orange to mix with our great-grandmother’s blue-ribbon, ever-popular cranberry sauce.
For many in our community, another concern is the high cost of housing and the very tight housing market. Affordable housing in the DC Metro Area is scarce and getting scarcer. With incomes at or below the poverty level, the women who are accepted to the Aged Woman’s Home find a reprieve from this harsh reality. Women live in the Home at no charge, with utilities and amenities provided. The Home’s community is a safe and stable environment.
It is a bit, some of our Guests say (and their case workers would agree,) “like winning the lottery” to be accepted at the Home. One of our Guests, JB, who came to the Home in 2018, describes her feeling this way: “Moving to the Home allowed me the comfort and stability to take a mental break from 7 years of homelessness. I was able, with God’s help and the support I received from staff and the Home’s community, to regain my health, my dignity, and stability and to reconnect with my family.
Prior to coming to the Home, JB describes herself as having limited support systems. “After many years assisting my family and raising my two grandchildren, the children left—many family members had passed—and, I did not have those family gatherings, birthday celebrations, and holidays that were so special to me. It was difficult maintaining permanent employment. I lost my housing because of rising rents, increased physical demands at work, and decreased pay. Moving to the Home gave me all of that back and more. At the Home, I had an opportunity to find camaraderie with other women, and participate in gatherings, cooking, serving others, and doing special events with guests and staff.”
After 4 years at the Home, JB advocated tirelessly for herself and worked hard to find a senior housing placement with a little more space than the Home’s dormitory-sized room. Even though the housing waiting lists can be years long—and most are closed—she pounded the pavement calling DC Council Members, and even the Mayor’s office, for help. She asked them, “Where is the senior housing in this town?” JB gathered, she says, “every possible list the DC Department of Aging and Community Living, Housing Coordinator, had to offer.” She applied for housing in DC’s Inclusionary Zone (IZ) program which places DC residents in affordable housing. Every time JB saw an opening she might qualify for, she applied. She applied and applied and applied. “Thank goodness, I am computer savvy,” she said, “because every application is online.”
Finally, after more than a year, her dedication and perseverance paid off, and she created another housing miracle for herself. JB will now be moving to her own senior apartment much closer to her beloved church, where she is an anointed Pastor and ministers to others in need. Her new apartment will, she exclaims, “have its own bath, its own kitchen, and more space. My time living at the Home was a gift to me and allowed me to get back on my feet. I met some special people here. I am tired from moving, but so happy. I can’t wait to tune my television on to some Baltimore Ravens and Baltimore Orioles baseball games in my own apartment!”
We will miss JB, but she says, “Don’t worry, I will be around” and we say, “thank goodness for that!”
JB’s journey from homelessness to her own senior apartment is a testament to the value of the Home’s friends, whose donations to the Home have made our mission, to provide housing and a sense of community to senior women in need, possible for nearly 156 years.
This year the Home will be participating for the fourth time in GivingTuesday, November 29, 2022. Your support means the world to us, especially to the women whose lives it transforms.