In a continuous effort to unite shelters across the nation, NWSN has taken to the road. Our first road trip started off in Miami and Alabama, where our community grew to just a handful of shelters; since then, we have driven nearly 8,000 miles, traveling through the Southeast, East Coast, Midwest, and West Coast and expanding our network to nearly 60 shelters united and counting. It has been incredibly gratifying to see shelters of all sizes, regions, and stages of development welcome us with open arms as we persist on our mission.
On our first trip we visited Mackemie Place, the only emergency shelter for unaccompanied women in Southwest Alabama. Serving around 450 women on a yearly basis, Mackemie Place motivates their guests towards self sufficiency and helps them regain their independence. Next on our trip we met with LoveLady Center, established in 2002, when Brenda Lovelady Spahn began the LoveLady ministry by inviting inmates from Tutwiler Prison into her home. Today, her center is one of the largest women’s shelters in the country, teaching women how to overcome barriers to success by providing vital services as well as life skills and spiritual guidance. We continued our driving until we arrived at Solomon and Atlanta Mission, where their services cater to guests’ needs for safety, privacy, self-esteem, community, and empowerment. We then made a quick stop in Tennessee for a tour at Nashville Rescue Mission, a Christ-centered community committed to helping the hungry and homeless by providing a holistic approach in programs and services which take physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, and social domains into consideration. We were very impressed by N Street Village, the largest provider of housing and supportive services for women experiencing homelessness in D.C. Their amazing team serves nearly 2,000 women on a yearly basis, offering a dignified haven for women and families in the community.
Our journey took us all the way to Norma Herr Women’s Center in Cleveland, a safe haven for displaced women and children since 2004 which serves an average of 170 guests nightly. Then we drove through The City Rescue Mission and Kalamazoo Gospel Ministries, both in Michigan, completing our week in Illinois at Primo Center, the largest provider of services to homeless families in Chicago.
The second trip began with Malta House in Norwalk. This beautiful shelter is both a safe haven and a source of hope for expectant mothers; it is also the only maternity home for women above 18 in Fairfield County. Crossroads in Rhode Island was next, and what a mighty force for good this place is! With exciting plans to expand their work to end homelessness, Crossroads is the leading provider of housing and services to those most in need in Rhode Island. Next, we visited Women’s Lunch in Boston, which offers sanctuary from the streets with a wide range of resources and homemade meals. Here, we were not only given the opportunity to tour their wonderful center, but we also had the pleasure of meeting with other leaders in the community from St. Mary’s Center, Woods Mullen Shelter, Rosie’s Place and Abby’s House and tour their respective shelters. We were in awe of the tight community in the Boston area serving the most vulnerable in our communities.
Back on the road again, our third trip started with a team of some of the most welcoming women we’ve met on the road at the Apostle’s House in New Jersey. Then we met with Real House in Montclair, arriving the next day at the YWCA in the Greater Harrisburg area of Pennsylvania. Our following stop was at the Ministry of Caring in Wilmington, Delaware, serving from four emergency shelters and caring for nearly 100 women and children. Our last stop was in Maryland with the wonderful ladies from Baltimore Outreach Services, one of only three emergency shelter programs in the city that serves this particular population.
Finally, for our latest trip, we embarked on the West Coast, starting in Seattle where we visited two shelters: the Salvation Army Women’s Shelter, which provides temporary sanctuary for women while assisting them in the search for permanent housing, and Jan & Peter’s Place, which provides beds from female-identifying people aged 18 and older. We were very impressed and touched by the loving commitment transpiring in both of these places. The phenomenal Rose Haven was next, a day shelter and community center in Portland serving women, children and gender nonconforming folks experiencing the trauma of abuse, loss of home, and other disruptive life challenges. For our next stop, we visited Grace Maternity Home in Oregon and then we drove down to San Francisco to visit our good friends in Community Forward SF, a network of vital programs that ensures our neighbors experiencing homelessness have effective services designed for their unique needs. Last but not least, we took a quick tour of Women’s Daytime Drop-In Center, which offers hot meals, support with basic needs, counseling for both moms and kids, and assistance with locating stable housing.
After two days of driving down route 1, only to be graced by the stunning views, we arrived in Los Angeles. First we visited WISEPlace in Santa Ana, which has served as a safe and trusting environment for unaccompanied women experiencing homelessness in the greater Orange County region for nearly a century. Our next stop in Santa Ana was Grandma’s House of Hope, a sanctuary empowering the invisible population in the community. We also visited Thomas House Family Shelter in Garden Grove providing shelter, meals supplies, and support to families experiencing homelessness for over thirty years.
The following morning we were welcomed by the Downtown Women’s Center, the only organization in Los Angeles focused exclusively on serving and empowering women experiencing homelessness and formerly homeless women. Founded in 1978, the Downtown Women’s Center is one of the first permanent supporting housing programs for women operating under the Housing First model, stating that housing is a human right. Right after, we visited the Midnight Mission, the longest-running human services organization in the Los Angeles area. Their emergency shelter and service center offers a beacon of hope for individuals experiencing homelessness, and their comprehensive services are designed to provide a meaningful bridge to self-sufficiency. That same afternoon, we visited the Weingart Center, a unique agency committed to providing the most vulnerable community members of Los Angeles with the basic tools for stabilizing their lives, securing an income, and finding permanent housing; these comprehensive, wraparound services are tailored to each individual’s needs, designed to break the cycle of homelessness.
A few more hours on the road took us to our last stop in San Diego at Rachel’s Night Shelter, one of the women’s shelters established under the umbrella of the Catholic Charities and what incredible work they are doing day and night.
Stay tuned as we continue our journey across the nation, elevating the voices of women and coming together as a powerful network of women’s homeless shelters and programs. Together we are stronger!