Charlene Davis stands in front of a colorful mural at New Endeavors by Women that was painted by local artist Jordan Powell.
Dorothy Hastings

New Endeavors by Women (NEW), located in Northwest D.C., has helped more than 3,000 area women and 500 children since the program began in 1988.  NEW manages two transitional and five permanent supportive housing programs. Originally only for single women, NEW has added services for homeless mothers and children in recent years. 

Charlene Davis (pictured above) came to NEW in November of 2016 as a transitional resident. She is one of 29 women who have spacious single rooms in the New Endeavors building. 

Since Davis arrived at NEW, staff has worked with her one-on-one to help her return to school and pursue her high school diploma. NEW helps her assess career and personal development goals and provides job training.  After the 24-month transitional period she will be ready to move into her own apartment.  

“New Endeavors taught me that there is a new way of life, a new way for women to learn,” Davis said. “It gave me hope that I can still do some of the things I wanted to do in life.”                 

Executive Director Wanda Steptoe told Street Sense that ending homelessness requires fighting generational homelessness. This is the goal of NEW’s Youth Enrichment Program, which started 6 years ago.  

Photo of Wanda Steptoe smiling while she stands inside a green and white living room area at one of New Endeavors by Women's

Wanda Steptoe, founder of New Endeavors by Women, at the nonprofit’s N St. NW location. NEW also operates programs in Southeast and Northeast D.C. Photo by Dorothy Hastings

NEW partners with D.C. Public Schools, Early Stages, Family First, and Hillcrest Children and Family Center to offer wraparound services to children of women in the organization’s two family housing programs. Children receive tutoring and go on academic field trips during the school year, when YEP operates three times a week and every other weekend.  YEP uses a tested curriculum to teach kids skills in reading and math and skills for emotional and social development.  

“Our goal is to embrace the children of the women we serve,” Steptoe said. “We want our kids to be successful in school because that is how you can make a dent in homelessness.” Steptoe’s vision is that the children become “successful, self-sustaining adults.”  

The organization has two family housing programs that offer services to single mothers and their children. A transitional program serves mothers and children for 24 months while the permanent supportive housing program does not have a built-in end date.  

The transitional program specifically reunites mothers and children who have been separated. The program is currently serving 15 single mothers that have been referred by child and family services, court agencies, doctors, schools, and nonprofits. In some cases, caseworkers collaborated with parole and probation officers. The participating mothers have been provided with information on budgeting and financial resources.  NEW has also partnered with PNC Financial Services to help residents learn to open bank accounts, write checks, and fulfill money orders, according to Naisha Price, who manages both family housing programs.  

Photo of a room with black leather seats, a book case and four blue doors.

A common living space at New Endeavors by Women with doors to 4 single bedrooms. Photo by Dorothy Hastings

However, on October 1, the family transitional housing program will end. Instead, the resources will be used to serve single seniors by assisting with permanent housing. Price told Street Sense that this decision was made by NEW’s funders, the Department of Human Services and The Community Partnership.  

NEW will continue to manage its other housing-centered programs, including the transitional housing program for single women that Charlene Davis is a part of. NEW’s other housing programs encompass permanent supportive housing for women 55 years or older, permanent supportive housing for homeless women living with HIV/AIDS, and specialized services for those suffering from domestic abuse, addiction, chronic homelessness, disability, and chronic illness.  

In addition to housing, NEW offers educational guidance, employment counseling, life and parenting skills training, advocacy and case management. This is made possible, in part, due to partnerships with church groups and nonprofits such as Bread for the City, Dress for Success, the Junior League, Jubilee Jobs, and Martha’s Table. The organization also refers clients to outside mental health agencies, trauma support groups, and schools. NEW staff also helps women interested in continuing education to apply for grants and loans.  

For at least six months after graduation from NEW, women can continue to use NEW’s transportation assistance, access information on employment or education opportunities, and attend parenting classes. In 2016, 93 percent of NEW’s transitional residents moved on to permanent housing, and 80 percent of those eligible secured jobs or enrolled in school.  

Andrea Ried was referred to NEW by her case manager at the women’s shelter she had been staying in for seven months. After a 2-month waiting period, she moved to NEW in February of 2017. The staff helped her get a job at Chipotle which she’ll keep while she works toward her goal of getting a job at the U.S. Post Office. The staff organized mock interviews and worked one-on-one with her to write a resume and a cover letter. She used resources open to all residents in the computer lab to foster learning and job training. Most important, NEW provided her with three full meals a day and a place to live and shower.  

Photo of a women using a computer in a lab with other machines and orange walls.

Andrea Reid uses the computer lab at NEW. Photo by Dorothy Hastings

The goal of the program is not only to help women into housing and sustainable income, but also to help them live a healthy lifestyle so they can maintain housing, employment, and family life after graduation. In this spirit, NEW offers services for women struggling with addiction, including a relapse prevention program and AA/NA meetings twice a week. 

Raquel Smith lost her apartment in 2016 and came to New Endeavors a few months later. She says she was shy when she entered the program and never thought she would be able to go back to school. Yet with preparation and motivation from a caseworker, she now attends Washington Literacy Center in Northwest D.C. 

“I am welcome here,” Smith said. “[The NEW staff] care about us. They eat with us, that’s what I love. They mingle with us. We have holiday parties, fall cookouts, they have things that make us happy because this is our home.”