Shelter offers new home, new hope

By Zoe Tillman
The Gazette
Thursday, January 13, 2011

Before arriving in mid-December at a new shelter in Suitland for homeless women and children, Rachel Hicks, 42, spent more than a year moving through a series of homeless shelters and rented rooms in the Baltimore area - and later the homes of friends and family in Prince George's County.

But less than three weeks after moving into House of Help at Kingdom Village with three of her children and one grandchild, Hicks has a new job and is working toward getting her own apartment; she lost her house in Baltimore in 2009 after she was laid off and fell behind on her mortgage payments.

She calls the Rev. Shirley Holloway, Kingdom Village's hands-on founder and director, "an angel."

"I'm looking forward to having the keys to another house," said Hicks, who moved into House of Help at Kingdom Village with her two teenage children - both of whom now attend nearby Suitland High School - her daughter Rudy Hicks, 20, and Rudy Hicks's 4-month-old son, Anthony Rogers.

Kingdom Village opened in early December. Eleven families - the shelter is for women and children only - have moved into Kingdom Village, and Holloway said she is accepting applications to fill the remaining 20-odd beds. The shelter is zoned for a maximum of 44 beds.

Crediting Holloway with helping her find a job at a nearby IHOP, create a budget and regroup in a stable environment, Rachel Hicks said she hopes more women in need of a place to live with their children apply.

"We've got a set plan to get up out of here," she said. "If I had found this in Baltimore, I wouldn't have lost my home."

Holloway, 48, of Fort Washington had a successful career as a manager with the U.S. Postal Service when she experienced what she calls a "burning bush" moment in 1995. A preacher since age 17, Holloway was speaking at a women's shelter when she suddenly realized, "They don't need someone talking at them for two hours," she said.

"I was being cordial, wearing a fur coat, clutching a purse," Holloway said. "After, I sat in the car crying."

She started by taking into her home, which then was in Germantown, a family in which both parents were addicted to drugs. Soon after, she secured a 12-unit building in Southeast Washington and began running a full-service shelter. When the property owner sold that building, she moved her operation, known as House of Help City of Hope, into a motel.

Just as funding to pay for the rooms was running out in 2002, Washington-based philanthropist George Kettle, who died in 2009, purchased a dilapidated building on 16th Street that was a haven for drug users and prostitutes and turned it over to Holloway, who moved House of Help City of Hope to that location, Holloway said. Kettle and Holloway had connected through a mutual contact at another D.C. community-assistance organization, and Holloway eventually bought the building from him.

"We just took over the area," she said. "We just prayed and showed them love."

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