Calvary Women's Services: Creating Possibilities


Kris Thompson remembers the woman who told her, “I could go days at a time with no one speaking to me and no one making eye contact with me.”

Like many of the nearly 8000 homeless adults in the greater DC area, the woman was alone.  Kris, who is the executive director at Calvary Women's Services, and her colleagues are working to make sure fewer such women are struggling on their own.

“Part of empowerment comes from relationships,” she said. “Even as we struggle to find ourselves and work on the things that any of us want to work on in out own lives, knowing you have someone standing beside you, that empowerment comes when someone's got your back, when someone is standing by your side.”

First established in 1983 as an emergency shelter in a church basement, Calvary serves about 100 women each year, either in their 45-bed transitional facility (the average stay is six months), or in permanent supportive housing – one of eight subsidized apartments.

Recently, Calvary launched two new programs: Step Up DC to help homeless women develop employment and job search skills, and a program teaching the residents about nutrition and budgeting.

Calvary offers group and individual therapy, with special programs for women struggling with mental or physical illness, or substance addiction, in addition to their LEAP program for Life skills, Education and Arts. LEAP classes are volunteer-lead.

There are courses in job readiness, computer skills, yoga and stress management. There’s a knitting group, a book club, art classes. A volunteer who was part of the DC Quilting Society took some of the women on a field trip to a quilting show, and is teaching them to make beginning patterns.

“Arts for all helps us get outside ourselves,” Kris said. "In the way that you or I could choose to take a class," (we ask) "How do you stretch yourself?" 

“It’s a very accessible place to become involved,” she continued. “It is possible to have your family, including your children, make meals here. It’ possible to lead a class in LEAP. A woman leads a hula hoop class. It's possible to see the impact of your volunteerism.”