March 17, 2012; Source: Washington Post

Just last fall, N Street Village, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit that provides services to homeless and low-income women, was in the news for incorporating Miriam’s House, a nonprofit serving women living with HIV and AIDS. Now the organization is back in the news, this time for developing a response to longer term homelessness among women in collaboration with a city agency. The result is Erna’s House, a service provider near downtown D.C. for women who have been homeless for at least a year. According to the Washington Post, the opening of Erna’s House was the result of a few years of planning and a close partnership between N Street Village and the D.C. Department of Human Services.

At an annual cost of about $750,000, the Human Services Department will lease the formerly foreclosed building from a partnership group and then contract with N Street Village to provide wraparound health and wellness services. The Washington Business Journal notes that N Street Village expects operating costs for the new facility to be $400,000; N Street will cover $100,000 and the city will cover the rest. As is the case in many parts of the country, homelessness in D.C. has increased with the recession. According to the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, D.C. homelessness now stands at a rate of 9.3 percent.

Local service providers had also been noticing a growing trend of longer shelter stays by community members over the past few years. “The long-stayers just kept coming back, and it was a cycle that needed to be broken,” Fred Swan, family services administrator for the city, told the Post. As a solution, Erna’s House offers women fully furnished homes, following the Housing First model, for as long as they need them—along with an enhanced sense of community. “When there’s a community, there is a sense of support you can’t get elsewhere,” N Street Village Executive Director Schroeder Stribling told the Post. She added, “It’s a direction we’ve been hoping the District would move in.” –Anne Eigeman