“Inequity and poverty have not paused in the face of a global pandemic,” Wanda Steptoe, executive director of New Endeavors by Women (NEW), wrote in a blog post this fall. “But neither have we. We are still here, providing safe housing to 152 women and children.”

New Endeavors by Women, a 2019 Many Hands Partner Grantee, strives to break the cycle of homelessness by providing women and children with transitional and permanent housing and helping them develop life, education, and employment skills. NEW creates new futures for their clients by providing a nurturing environment where women can recognize their worth and achieve independent living. In 2019, NEW provided housing to 121 women and 32 children; 88% of NEW residents graduated to permanent housing; and two residents graduated from high school and received college scholarships.

Once the pandemic struck, NEW had to adapt many of its basic operations. Case managers moved to check-ins by phone and socially distanced meetings. Masks replaced hugs, and volunteers were asked to write letters to residents or plan virtual workshops instead of in-person events. Fortunately, however, residents have still been able to travel to essential appointments in the van NEW purchased in 2019 with the support of its $58,500 Partner Grant. Designed to carry 15 people, the handicap-accessible van has been safely transporting up to five people at a time throughout the pandemic.

Previously, the van allowed senior residents (55 and older) in the New Journeys II permanent housing program to participate in group social activities, as well as take care of basic errands like grocery shopping. Pre-pandemic trips included visits to the Baltimore Aquarium and a Spirit of Washington cruise, which gave some participants their first chance to see the city from the water. According to NEW, “While these experiences may seem small, they can provide a beacon of happiness that leaves a lasting impression, especially for women whose lives have been marked by trauma.” In addition, these experiences help residents broaden their horizons, deepen relationships, and stay motivated as they build brighter futures.