DC cuts the ribbon on new emergency shelter for domestic violence victims

As part of its recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the District and its nonprofit partner My Sister’s Place cut the ribbon Thursday on a new emergency shelter for domestic violence victims — one of two new buildings DC’s Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants purchased this year, and the second emergency shelter operated by My Sister’s Place.

“Unfortunately, like many other public health and public safety issues, the impacts of domestic violence have been even more pronounced since COVID,” said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. “We’ve invested over $36 million since 2021 to support 700 housing units as well as wrapround services for victims of domestic violence.”

The new shelter has six apartment units of varying size to accommodate big and small families escaping abusive situations, offering them a place to live until they can start to get back on their feet.

“The most dangerous time for a survivor is when they’re leaving,” said Toshira Monroe, the deputy director of My Sister’s Place. “This is why we’re so careful here right now. Why we don’t advertise, why we don’t take pictures of this space. In order to protect them, because the people are hurting them are going to be looking for them.”

That’s why the location of this new shelter, with over a year’s worth of renovations, is not being publicly disclosed.

“We have lots of security you can’t see, using the spaces to fit as many families as possible,” said Mercedes Lemp, the executive director of My Sister’s Place. “This facility is on top of another, bigger shelter operated by the nonprofit, which also helps families around the city pay rent in units scattered around the city too.”

“We serve about 75 families in transitional housing that we pay the rent,” said Lemp. They shelter another 50-60 families every year. One of those families just moved into this new facility, leaving a physically and emotionally abusive situation to do so.

“They’re working on making sure I can get the child care that I need so that I can still work and be able to take care of the kids,” the mother told WTOP on the condition of anonymity. “We’re trying to work on getting a permanent place. Everything is going to come soon.”

Flanked by her kids, she admitted she was breathing easier over the last week. She said she stayed in her relationship for too long, but eventually realized the abuse was hurting her kids as well as her. “They were seeing the things that were happening,” she said. Now, her kids are also starting to feel more comfortable.

“I feel like they’re happy,” she said, talking about her kids. “They feel safe that they’re here. They like the park down the street. They’re still adjusting to the new environment; they’re still asking questions [like] ‘Where are we?,’ and I just let them know that this is our new castle and make them feel safe.”

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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