Q&A with the founder of The h3 Project
During my time being homeless during this pandemic, I witnessed one organization that was always hard at work to help people while COVID-19 raged on. Everywhere I went, The h3 Project was there helping people on the street with their basic needs. I’ve seen Founder and CEO Ami Angell giving out socks and hand warmers when it was cold. I’ve seen her take the time to really get to know people like me, enough so that we can trust each other and work together on more serious things. I’ve even seen her help some people with petty cash for transportation.
She gets it. In an old Street Sense article, she said “It’s about listening to the needs of the people instead of assuming we’ve already got the answers. Every person is different. One size doesn’t fit all.” And when the city was preparing to evict everyone from the K Street underpass, she volunteered The h3 Project to conduct housing assessments for anyone interested.
Why should readers care about what Ami Angell has to say? Because she is out here in D.C. connecting people with mental health services and housing. I’ve been matched with a housing voucher after being homeless for 11 years. So, please read!
This interview was conducted via text message. It has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Street Sense Media: During this pandemic, I witnessed you helping the homeless with hand warmers, sweaters, socks, and more. Can you tell me more about h3?
Ami Angell: The h3 Project works daily in the NoMa Business Improvement District and Union Station area of Washington, D.C., to mobilize people to end homelessness and human trafficking. We aims to create a future in which all individuals — regardless of gender, age, race, religion, or sexual orientation — experiencing homelessness and/or human trafficking are given opportunities to transform themselves by living meaningful and self-directed lives, in a home of their choice, with support and services they need for success. The h3 Project will embrace the spirit of recovery and an attitude of self-directed hope, partnering with each individual to help shape their personal journey and realize their potential.
Since the pandemic, The h3 Project has worked tirelessly to continue services to those experiencing homelessness. Services provided include obtaining vital documents, applying for SNAP/Medicaid Benefits, referrals for medical and mental assessments, referrals for detox treatment centers, providing basic needs (such as hand warmers, Emergen-C immunity boosting packets, socks, gloves, hats, blankets, long johns, etc), Employment application assistance, and many others — all with the intended goal of getting each individual experiencing homelessness off the streets and into housing. We customize our approach to each individual in hopes of empowering him/her on their own journey to get where they will benefit the most.
Street Sense Media: How did The h3 project get started?
Ami Angell: I have wanted to start a 501(c)3 non-profit for years. And, after working for a couple other service providers working to end homelessness in D.C., I recognized a need for a more creative approach to the problem.
Obviously, what has been done for years is not working. There are still too many people living on the streets and in shelters. We need to do something different, if we want a different outcome. That’s why I started The h3 Project, an organization to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions in helping to design individual roadmaps for success.
Street Sense Media: Does The h3 Project offer health counseling?
Ami Angell: The h3 Project is equipped with staff who understand the fragility of mental and physical well being. While we are well versed in helping empower individuals on the path of good physical health (this includes good diet and exercise), we understand that mental health is also just as important.
We work with other specialized counterpart organizations in addressing more intensive mental health counseling. The h3 Project believes that wrap around services tailored to meet each individual’s unique needs — often from a couple different organizations — is the most effective way to help an individual achieve his/her goals.
The three H’s our name refers to are home, health, and happiness.