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A Transformative & Empowering Community with Calvary Women’s Services

By Daniela Jungova, Development Associate, Calvary Women’s Services


Calvary Women’s Services offers housing, health, employment and education programs that empower homeless women in Washington, DC to change their lives.

As the state of homelessness in DC continues to be critical, Calvary reaches women who are most likely to be trapped in cycles of poverty and homelessness, women who have experienced domestic violence, are struggling with substance addiction and are living with mental illness.

Calvary’s programs address the root causes of homelessness, so women can take control of their lives and plan for their future. In addition to meeting women’s basic needs by providing safe housing, meals and other amenities, all women in our programs have access to services that empower them to regain their health, build new life skills, and achieve financial independence.

Our comprehensive services for women include personalized case management, life skills, education and arts classes (LEAP), health services, addiction recovery meetings, and job placement services (Step Up DC). Women who obtain jobs through Step Up DC have an average hourly wage of $13, and 90% of those who secure employment with Step Up DC’s support transition into stable housing.

“Calvary is a great place to live if you’re serious about making a change. I’m working on changing my life from the inside out. Nothing will stop me from doing what I need to do to turn my life around,” says Calvary resident Adrienne.

Now that summer is in full swing, women love to spend time on Calvary’s back patio. Just a couple of weeks ago, the patio got a major makeover thanks to the generous support of the U.S. Green Building Council – National Capital Area.


The patio has undergone improvement projects that include the planting of new vegetable plants (such as peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes), herbs and three beautiful peach trees, as well as the installment of a “green wall” with climbing vines.

The patio quickly became a welcome respite from women’s busy days. Women now enjoy their education classes outside at the tables, and take ownership over maintaining and watering the garden. Every day, they check on the growing vegetables and find joy in tasting the results of their work.

CFP4But the new garden is not the only place where women’s hard work is paying off. Calvary’s safe, respectful community as a whole is a truly amazing place of transformation – a place where it is possible for women to heal from histories of trauma, build supportive relationships, and gain the skills and confidence to live independently.

We believe that every woman has the strengths and gifts that allow her to make these positive changes. Thanks to Calvary’s small, intimate environment, we are able to meet each woman as an individual and give her the support she deserves as she works to overcome her challenges. Our model works – every five days, a woman moves from Calvary into her own home.

CFP1I invite you to learn more about Calvary at We are currently looking for volunteers who can lead various life skills, education and arts classes, assist women with job applications, prepare nutritious, home-cooked meals, and staff the front desk. We have opportunities for groups and individuals alike – check out all of our volunteer opportunities here. You can also sign up for our monthly newsletter and follow us on social media to stay up-to-date with all of Calvary’s happenings.

We hope you will join our transformative, empowering community!

Respecting the Dignity of Others with Georgetown Ministry Center

By Gunther Stern, Executive Director Georgetown Ministry CenterDSC_9082

After 30 years, I will be passing the reins early next year to someone with new ideas and energy, but with a commitment to our current mission and goals.

Georgetown Ministry Center started in 1987 with just one social worker, and a mandate to provide service and shelter.

I was working in a soup kitchen in Silver Spring when I saw the position originally announced. In a previous life I had spent time with homeless people in Georgetown. I became fascinated by the mental illnesses and the lifestyle. I couldn’t resist applying. As it turned out, I ended up helping some of the people I had gotten to know years before in Georgetown.


I have become acutely aware that while housing is important to the solution of homelessness, we need to fix our broken mental health system, too. This nation’s commitment to people with mental illness is absent, both because of misunderstanding the problem and a lack of will. We are allowing people with no insight, who are completely incapacitated by mental illness, to choose to live on the street. We need to change that and we are expanding our advocacy in this vein.

Currently, we are working with local leaders to create a dialogue about the need for more aggressive interventions for people who are homeless because of severe mental illness. There needs to be a better policy than allowing people with little or no insight and judgement to choose to live on the street in squalor.


We have grown over the years into a year-round drop-in center, providing psychiatric and medical outreach, social and mental health services, case management, shelter and housing support, handicapped-accessible bathrooms, and laundry facilities. We have been working on plan with a foundation to use our space more effectively. We now have plans which will add some space but also better utilize the space we have. We are hoping to begin a capital campaign soon.

As the only homeless service provider in the immediate neighborhood, we serves one of the very neediest populations. Many are resistant to services and treatment, so we create a welcoming environment that fosters friendly relationships and, ultimately, trust.

Gunther Outreach Bench

I am inspired by Bill and Melinda Gates. After building a fortune at a very young age, they turned their lives and genius to helping others, full-time. That inspires me to constantly review our mission. I am always assessing our Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT). I think about the risks of any action, plan, or for that matter, inaction and lack of plan.


Last year, we reached 1,000 homeless individuals, including 60-70 “regulars,” providing 5,391 showers and 9,879 sandwiches. An on-staff psychiatrist served 100, while a general practitioner provided care to 350. Moving from the streets to housing is profoundly challenging for this population, but a few achieve it each year and we support them at every step.

I consider Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager shot in the head by the Taliban for her outspoken advocacy for education for girls, a personal hero. Even after the devastating injury, she returned to speaking out. She would not be silenced. It reminds me to respect the dignity of our constituents, and never talk down to them.

We seek lasting solutions for homelessness, one person at a time. For more information about us, or to volunteer, email us at or call us 202-388-8301.

7 Questions with Miriam Gandell, Executive Director of The Dwelling Place

Today we give a warm welcome to Miriam Gandell of The Dwelling Place, who will be answering 7 Questions. Miriam is a self-proclaimed generalist in a world of specialized fundraisers. She has worked as a Development Secretary, Parents Fund Coordinator, Deferred Giving Assistant and Board Liaison at Harvey Mudd and Scripps Colleges in Claremont, California followed by Special Events Coordinator and Prospect Research Director for the Olive Crest Treatment Centers for Abused Children. She then served as Executive Director for the Foothill Family Shelter in Upland, California, as well as the Director of Development for Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery County and for the last 5+ years, as Director of The Dwelling Place.

1. What motivated you to begin working with this organization and what need does it fulfill?

I have worked for over 20 years with children who are victims of abuse and neglect as well as children who are affected by family homelessness. The consequences of the chaos and pain felt by these young ones is my reason for working with families in crisis. Homeless families served by The Dwelling Place are in need of more than just housing to move forward and improve their lives. They are primarily made up of young, single mothers with minimal family support, education, or training, and they need the time and structure and role modeling to move forward both for themselves and their children.

2. What was your most interesting recent development, update, project, event, or partnership?

We have found a champion in Brian Holloway, former New England Patriot, through one of our Board members. Since retiring from football, he makes his mark on the world as an inspiring motivational speaker. After learning about our program, he “adopted” our organization and in only a few short months has made the community more aware of our work. He is passionate about helping those in need and we look forward to having him as a partner for years to come.

3. What other projects are you up to?

With the changing economic climate and demographics in our community, we are focusing on education and training as a way to achieve future stability for our families, in addition to finding affordable housing. Our Education Fund can pay for tuition, fees, tutors, books, and more, and we now require our clients to works towards their GED, attend classes for career certifications, or be involved in on-the-job training. A minimum-wage job with fluctuating hours is not going to establish a future leading to upward mobility. Without education, opportunities for future “careers” are extremely limited and we want to support the efforts of our clients to have hope for change.

One of our past (and most successful) families (a mom and her son) were murdered two years ago as a consequence of re-involvement with a past abuser. Their success stands as a shining example of how lives can change. They were an amazing family who overcame so much. She had made incredible progress but still tragically allowed this person back into her life. In memory of mom and son, we started a sport scholarship fund for kids in our program to participate in football, baseball, piano, karate, ballet, and more which they would otherwise not be able to afford. Spending time together and sharing experiences is a wonderful way for mother and child to bond, and we know Mom and son would be pleased to know that they are making this possible for others.

4. Who inspires you (in the philanthropy world or otherwise)? Do you have a hero?

I had a mentor in Southern California who modeled being an Executive Director and inspired me to continue working in the philanthropic arena. Everything I have learned has been through hands-on experience, starting as a secretary and working my way up over the past 30 years; as a woman raised in the 50′s and 60′s, I struggled with being both a friend and a supervisor, and with how I could best help whatever organization I supported.?My mentor helped me with this. He was straightforward, brilliant, and successful at running both large and small nonprofits. He still inspires me today.

5. What is the single greatest challenge that your organization faces and how are you working towards combating this issue?

Our single greatest challenge is developing a sense of self-responsibility in families who have grown accustomed to government assistance and can’t envision a life of financial stability without it. We can help our families find subsidized housing but that’s not enough in the long run. Establishing new and healthy habits, like regular budgeting, saving, and paying off debt is a daunting task and one which requires a significant amount of time and energy. But without it, changing the future and giving our children a healthy, positive role model and maintaining stable housing is not possible.

6.What advice do you have for other people in your position? What’s your biggest take-away lesson you would tell others that you have gleaned from your experiences?

Although people will tell you that your work must be very rewarding, some days it just isn’t. But keep all you do in perspective and take joy in each and every positive step forward your clients take. It’s not the day-to-day progress that counts but the overall journey that tells the story. And don’t feel guilty that you aren’t always “fulfilled.”

7.What’s next for your organization, both in the short term and long term?

Maintaining financial stability is our number one goal. We are working to enhance our fundraising efforts through major gifts and increased community awareness. Long-term we would like to be able to open a facility for young mothers where they would be in a communal setting and not in a scattered-site apartment, on their own, and without supervision. There is a great need for a program like this in Montgomery County.

7 Questions with Lissette Bishins, Executive Director of Carpenter's Shelter

A warm welcome to Lissette Bishins, Executive Director of Carpenter’s Shelter, who will be answering 7 Questions today! Bishins is the immediate past Executive Director of the Alexandria Chapter of the American Red Cross of the National Capital Area. Previously, she was the Deputy Executive Director of the YWCA of Greater Miami and Dade County and the Regional Director of the YWCAs of the Southeast Region. Bishins is currently the Vice Chair of the Partnership to Prevent and End Homelessness in the City of Alexandria. She holds a B.S. in Mass Communications from Emerson College. Bishins was recently recognized by the for her exceptional nonprofit leadership. Continue reading

In The News…

This week’s news brief looks at a group of stories that hit the media this week about homelessness in the Greater Washington region. A special thanks to all Catalogue nonprofits that support those experiencing homelessness in the DC region, especially during the winter months.

Finding homes for the homeless in Fairfax County (Washington Post) “Although building the database is foremost about getting chronically homeless people into housing, the information also will help guide the county and nonprofit groups as they expand and improve their services, says Amanda Andere, the executive director of Facets. Part of the reason they must prioritize people is that the county lacks the resources to house everyone. The aim is to get at least 150 chronically homeless people into permanent housing within three years.”

D.C. Homeless Families Face Difficult Obstacles When Seeking Shelter (HuffPost: DC Impact) “The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, which provides legal representation for low- and no-income clients, compiled numerous complaints from clients and other relevant data to present major inefficiencies and inadequacies in the District’s current handling of homeless shelter accessibility. Focusing primarily on homeless families, the report identifies specific errors, including: altering the homeless of upcoming hypothermic conditions too late, failing to place qualifying families in shelters on nights where temperatures did not drop below freezing, wrongfully denying eligible families shelter placement and wrongfully threatening to expel families from shelters.”

D.C.’s main shelter crowded with large families (Washington Post) “A shortage of affordable housing for larger families with four or more children is a big factor behind crowded conditions at the District’s main family homeless shelter in Southeast Washington. The shelter has been filled to capacity this winter, with more than 900 people, including a record 600 children some nights. Rising poverty, unemployment and a lack of housing options among single parents who are heads of households are driving the city’s problem, experts say. The vast majority of parents living in D.C. General are single and female, according to the Department of Human Services.”

In The News …

DC, advocates at odds over homeless families; 900 people still in shelter (Washington Post): “This winter, the District’s shelter for homeless families at DC General Hospital is crammed full — 372 adults and nearly 600 children [...] City officials say that hard times and the lack of affordable housing in poor neighborhoods are to blame for the continuing crisis of family homelessnes.” Last year, the number of homeless families in the District jumped by 18 percent and advocates argue that DC “is not doing nearly enough to help the neediest residents find permanent housing at a time of budget surplus.” Learn more about Catalogue’s homelessness and housing nonprofits right here.

Class-Divided Cities: Washington, DC Edition (The Atlantic): “More than any other metro we’ve covered, greater Washington, DC is a creative class region [...] These are high-skilled, highly-educated, and high-paying positions where workers average $90,442 in wages and salaries, fourth highest in the nation [...] Still, the class divide in the region is pronounced. The creative class is concentrated in the center of the metro, as the map shows.” A map charting the geography of class in the region shows a concentration of the creative class to the west and service to the east, yet almost no clusters of working class residents, implying that “Greater Washington is a fully post-industrial region.” Explore the interactive maps right here.

Tech’s new entrepreneurial approach to philanthropy (USA Today): “The intersection of technology and philanthropy is creating “philanthrocapitalism,” borrowing ideas from venture capitalism to fund non-profits.” For example, “NFS , a model of Omidyars’ brand of philanthropy, is based loosely on a venture-capital firm’s approach. And it is quickly becoming a powerful agent for social change, as eBay was for commerce.” Says Suzanne DiBianca, the co-founder and president of the Foundation, “Companies are beginning to understand their power in leveraging their assets to non-profits [...] It’s not just throwing a check over a wall.”