Our Mission

In 1997 a visionary group of volunteers and service providers specializing in mental health and homelessness recognized a profound gap in supportive housing for the most vulnerable women of our city. As a response Open Arms Housing was incorporated in Washington DC to serve women experiencing chronic homelessness and affected by serious mental illness.

Providers saw a need for a facility and program that would offer low-barrier access to women who lived on the streets or in emergency shelters and were unable to comply with traditional mental health or substance use treatment settings. This low-demand approach has been called "Housing First". By Housing First, we mean that, while supportive services will be available on-site and off-site, acceptance of those services will not be a condition for receiving permanent housing.

Open Arms Housing’s overall goals are to create safe, stable housing, with support tailored to meet individual needs and promote housing stability using a Housing First and Harms Reduction approach.

"Homeless No More", the District's strategy for ending homelessness, firmly established Housing First as the keystone to ending homelessness in this city: "This plan moved the District toward the day when it can offer 'housing first' options to homeless people, even to those who face the most serious challenges to obtaining and keeping housing."

We envision the eradication of long-term homelessness for women in Washington, D.C. At OAH, every effort is made to produce a housing environment in which formerly homeless women will want to stay and thrive.

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Housing is a Basic Right

“It is hard to argue that housing is not a fundamental human need. Decent, affordable housing should be a basic right for everybody in this country. The reason is simple: without stable shelter, everything else falls apart.”

Matthew Desmond, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

 

The Numbers

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On any given day there are approximately 3700 homeless persons in Washington, DC. This number includes those on the streets, living in emergency and transitional shelters, and in precarious housing situations awaiting shelter.

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The D.C. Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness (TCP) identifies 391 single women who are chronically homeless and in need of housing of whom 132 are also affected by serious mental illness.

 
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Open Arms Housing prioritizes single adult women who are on the D.C. government's Department of Mental Health (DMH) and Department of Human Services (DHS) homeless "vulnerability" lists.

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OAH clients are early middle-aged to elderly and have various disabilities such as mental illness, substance abuse disorders, debilitating physical conditions, and post-traumatic stress disorders.