New Suitland shelter offers a home, hope to homeless women
Fort Washington woman opens first House of Help facility in Prince George's
Before arriving in mid-December at a new shelter in Suitland for homeless women and children, Rachel Hicks, 42, spent more than a year moving through a series of homeless shelters and rented rooms in the Baltimore area and later the homes of friends and family in Prince George's County.
But less than three weeks after moving into House of Help at Kingdom Village with three of her children and one grandchild, Hicks has a new job and is working toward getting her own apartment; she lost her house in Baltimore in 2009 after she was laid off and fell behind on her mortgage.
She calls the Rev. Shirley Holloway, Kingdom Village's hands-on founder and director, "an angel."
"I'm looking forward to having the keys to another house," said Hicks, who moved into House of Help at Kingdom Village with her two teenage children both of whom now attend nearby Suitland High School daughter, Rudy Hicks, 20, and Rudy Hicks' 4-month-old son, Anthony Rogers.
Kingdom Village opened in early December. Eleven families the shelter is for women and children only have moved into Kingdom Village to date, and Holloway said she is accepting applications to fill the remaining 20-odd beds. The shelter is zoned for a maximum of 44 beds.
Crediting Holloway with helping her find a job at a nearby IHOP, create a budget and regroup in a stable environment, Hicks said she hopes more women in need of a place to live with their children apply.
"We've got a set plan to get up out of here," Hicks said. "If I had found this in Baltimore, I wouldn't have lost my home."
Holloway, 48, of Fort Washington had a successful career as a manager with the U.S. Postal Service when she experienced what she calls a "burning bush" moment in 1995. A preacher since age 17, Holloway was speaking at a women's shelter when she said she suddenly realized "they don't need someone talking at them for two hours."
"I was being cordial, wearing a fur coat, clutching a purse," she said. "After, I sat in the car crying."
She started by taking into her home, then in Germantown, a family in which both parents were addicted to drugs. Soon after, she secured a 12-unit building in southeast Washington, D.C., and began running a full-service shelter. When the property owner sold that building, she moved her operation, known as House of Help City of Hope, into a motel.
Just as funding was running out in 2002 to continue paying for rooms, Washington, D.C.-based philanthropist George Kettle, who died in 2009, purchased a dilapidated building on 16th Street that was serving as a haven for drug users and prostitutes and turned it over to Holloway. Kettle and Holloway had connected through a mutual contact at another Washington, D.C.-based community assistance organization, and Holloway eventually bought the building from him.
"We just took over the area," she said. "We just prayed and showed them love."
In 2008, Holloway's nonprofit organization, Bishop Holloway Ministries, opened House of Help at Kingdom City, a treatment center for men in Waldorf. Since 1995, Holloway estimates at least 8,000 people have received shelter or treatment at a House of Help facility. Money always has been tight Holloway estimates she'll have a budget of about $600,000 this year to run the three facilities but she said she has supported House of Help throughout the years by cobbling together grant money, federal and state funding, stipends from shelter residents once they're employed, and donated time, money and resources.
Although she used to work almost exclusively with drug and alcohol abusers, Holloway has since expanded the shelter programs as the Great Recession hit to accommodate more homeless families. There is no limit on how long the women and their families can stay at Kingdom Village, Holloway said, as long as they demonstrate they're working, attending life skills classes, saving their money and not using drugs or alcohol; residents are tested weekly for substance use.
Holloway said she had no plans to expand House of Help until she received a call from a now-sober man who had gone through her program two years ago. He told her about a vacant building in Suitland and how he thought that community could use her help.
Katrina Wilson, 34, a District resident who went through the House of Help City of Hope program 11 years ago when it was based in a motel, said the program is unique because many treatment programs and shelters are unable to house children. Wilson now works at a school housed at Kingdom Village for children whose parents are going through the program.
"It's a blessing. ... You and your children can get help together," said Wilson, who has six children.
To learn more about the House of Help at Kingdom Village, visit www.hollowayministries.org or call 202-249-8511.