Paula Buggage’s life changed drastically two years ago when she lost her home and the people she trusted, scrambling around the District trying to find a place to live.
“Three bags — that is what my life was reduced to in July of 2016,” Ms. Buggage told a luncheon Wednesday at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Northwest.
Feeling physically, mentally and spiritually drained, she entered N Street Village, which turned her life around completely. She is now employed and can support herself financially again.
People filled the hotel’s ballroom Wednesday to hear women like Ms. Buggage share their stories of overcoming adversity and reclaiming their lives through N Street Village, a nonprofit shelter and services organization for women.
“Every woman needs a place to just stop, take a breath, breathe,” Ms. Buggage told the group’s 12th annual Empowerment Luncheon. “The seed for me was sowed the day I walked into N Street Village. Today, I am employed. I am working on my dreams and I am ambitious.”
She said she felt at ease when she turned to N Street Village for help: “They didn’t probe into my personal business. All they wanted to do was share a meal, and I believe they knew eventually I would open up when I was ready.”
N Street Village, which has helped about 2,000 women yearly since 1972, provides assistance for housing, income, employment, mental and physical health, as well as addiction recovery.
More than 350 donors, sponsors and volunteers gathered for Wednesday’s luncheon, raising money to support homeless and low-income women of the D.C. area. Past residents of N Street Village and directors from the N Street Village offered their empowering testimonies.
The Village is open all year and serves more than 90 women each day, offering them emergency and long-term needs. The staff joined Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Homeward DC program, which includes strategies to end homelessness in the District and provide short-term housing.
“Homelessness in general is a simple economics issue,” N Street Village CEO Schroeder Stribling said. “Homelessness has a simple solution. Housing cures homelessness.”
Debbie Jarvis, vice president of corporate relations of Pepco Holdings, was given the Village Leadership Award during the luncheon.
“I fell in love with N Street Village nearly a decade ago,” said Ms. Jarvis, who served on the N Street Village Honorary Board for almost a decade. “The collective impact we can have with our time, talent and treasures will be transformative as we hear time and time again. That is why I love this luncheon.”
D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans presented N Street Village with a proclamation that was passed unanimously by the council to celebrate N Street Village’s 45 years of service to the community.
Clinical Director Bryce Moffett, who started her social work career at N Street Village after graduate school, said she enjoys the sense of community that brings the staff and clients together at the village.
“Anyone can walk through our doors and feel welcomed and be greeted by name,” Ms. Moffett said. “For me, that is sort of the core that really brings me back to work every day. I think that is how we help people heal is through community, relationships, and connections.”
Emily Miller, a former N Street resident and employee, shared her journey of recovery from 30 years of alcohol and cocaine addiction after coming back to the Village three times before she finally decided to end her addiction.
“I came to N Street Village several years ago broken in all areas of my life,” said Ms. Miller, who now is working toward her bachelor’s degree in human relation relations at Trinity University. “I was greeted with such compassion. I was greeted with dignity and respect. My self worth had just diminished.”
“I finally realized that recovery was about my life. I listened to that phrase over and over again through the years, but I never really heard it. This time I heard it with my heart and my life was on the line because I was associating with people who did not have best interest,” said Ms. Miller, who has been sober for 12 years.