Love Protection New beginnings Security
by Katheryn Perry
I came to N Street in August 1997. Undiagnosed Clinical Depression was the root cause. N Street Village was the foundation of the cure. Not just for me but for hundreds of women whose lives were interrupted by physical or mental illness, abuse, circumstances leading to self-medication and addiction: the only pain-killers available to those without health care, alcohol and/or drugs that are not sold in pharmacies. The streets and shelters that provided a place to lie down protected from the weather and not much more were “home” to many women whose names will never be known. Women who sold themselves to buy what peace of mind they could obtain. Women who found that sleeping in the streets was safer than going to shelters were men were present.
I left my house which had a foreclosure notice on the door. I stashed clothing and shoes in the garage that came with the house, then walked up the Pennsylvania and Alabama Avenues where I encountered my first angel: a compassionate taxi driver who took me to the trailers. I spent my first night wondering what I would or could do. In the morning, one of the women in my trailer asked me where I was going to spend the day. I told her I had no idea. She asked me if religious people bothered me. I said “no”. She smiled and said, “You should go to Bethany’s. They serve breakfast, lunch, and a snack. It’s on N Street.” She was my second angel. I never saw her again.
Evelyn Green, a saint molded in the no-nonsense wisdom of Dorothy Day, with the strength and persistence of Harriet Tubman, processed my intake for a bed in the Luther Place Night Shelter that became available the next night. I was astonished. It was clean. It smelled clean. The staff were respectful, gentle, and genuine. I had a comfortable bed. A locker where I could store my things and a view of the soon-to-be one-year-old N Street Village flagship. A dining room where breakfast cereals and coffee were provided for those who could not take their morning prescriptions on an empty stomach. In the evening, dinner was provided thanks to the N Street volunteer support teams or prepared by staff from food donated by hundreds of generous people.
That first evening, a Thursday, I encountered a band of angels. The open windows made it possible to hear singing from the floor below: beautiful singing. It was the Luther Place Choir. If this was how they sounded in rehearsal, the music on Sunday was sure to be superlative.
Deanna McDaniels, the spirit of warm hospitality, welcomed me with a gracious smile, a genuine handshake, and a bulletin. My first Sunday included another angel who made it a certainty that I would be coming back.
From August 31, 1997 to 2018, Luther Place Night Shelter has welcomed, sheltered, fed, and supported women in search of new beginnings. Now, as this space will provide new guests a nurturing environment to see how much we all are needed to carry on the mission if homelessness, poverty, and prejudice are to be erased from our communities.
Foreclosure, homelessness . . . things that most people believe are the worst that could happen to anyone; were blessings to me. They led me and other women to this church, to membership, to a beloved community, to a renewed or brand new belief in the Divine Seamstress who inspired the makers of the quilts on our beds. A new trust in redemption offered by a man whose life included poverty, flight from political genocide, and an understanding of what it meant to be truly human. I like to think that the woman who sent me to Bethany was the Sneaky Wench: a former LP member’s affectionate name for Sister Spirit who shows up when She is least expected and in places that are the most unlikely to be deemed beautiful, inspiring, wellsprings of new beginnings. If you are a beneficiary of the support and services provided by N Street and are now members of this congregation or frequently attend services, please stand to be recognized.