How ‘My Sister’s Place’ is working to aid domestic violence survivors in DC

A check presented to My Sister’s Place in D.C. on Oct. 3, 2023. (WTOP/Scott Gelman)
The new building includes stainless-steel appliances. (WTOP/Scott Gelman)
Mercedes Lemp with My Sister’s Place.

My Sister’s Place has cut the ribbon on its new D.C. office space below its newest shelter, which it says will be able to host up to six families who are fleeing domestic violence situations.

The living space opened in September 2022. The building will always be filled, Executive Director Mercedes Lemp said, “because there’s never a shortage of folks seeking shelter.”

The goal, according to Lemp, is to make the facility the first stop when people flee and to help them gain a sense of safety and stability. Then, they’ll be connected to resources and traditional housing, usually in the form of their own apartment that they’d live in for a year or two.

That helps with providing them with time to find a job and have some sense of financial stability, Lemp said.

“Dealing with that trauma, you’ve been told that you’re no good, that you’re worthless,” Lemp said. “This is just a way to tell them that they are valued and that they have worth.”

My Sister’s Place, which provides domestic violence survivors with shelter and other supportive services, is preparing to celebrate its 45th anniversary next year. Lemp said many clients are appreciative of small gestures, such as offering money for food, rent or a car repair.

The new building features exposed brick, stainless steel appliances, full kitchens, a TV that’s connected to cable; the group pays the utilities.

Lemp described it as apartment-style, whereas the group’s other shelter is dorm style.

“A lot of people when they come in here, the first thing they say is ‘Wow, I would love to live here.’ And my philosophy has always been when a client enters our shelter, I want them to relax and feel welcomed and feel like they’re in a space that honors them, and doesn’t feel like a shelter,” Lemp said. “I want people to feel like they would feel if they were a guest in my home.”

The organization’s work is particularly vital, Lemp said, because between the pandemic and inflation, “Housing is such a tough and hard thing for everybody, and our clients face a lot of barriers.”

At the ribbon-cutting, Amerigroup DC presented a $55,000 check to My Sister’s Place.

“Knowing that your community is prepared to support you in your time of need is so essential and vitally important,” said Jasmin Saville, Amerigroup DC’s whole health director. “So having organizations like My Sister’s Place being able to do what they do best is just really key to the work that we do.”

More can be found on the My Sister’s Place website.

(CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that the new building has hosted clients since September 2022.)

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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