Old Labels and New Beginnings in Ward 4

When a person seeks acceptance, they have no choice but first to learn to accept themselves.

It’s the time of night when children are tucked away, lights are out, and D.C. residents are headed to sleep. Curtains and blinds are drawn to shut out the coldness of the night. It’s nights like these that Nicole Price launches her mission into action, passing out pamphlets and visiting transitional homes and homeless shelters to reach her target audience; the people that need her most.

Ward 4 boasts poverty rates of 11.2% that fall ¾ below the national level, according to online Census Reporter. Within this percentage is a small, untallied number of women that find themselves homeless and or in need after completion of time in prison and correctional facilities. “Many of the women I meet feel shame. [They] feel like they turn into these labels as criminals and convicts, and can’t overcome.” Price says when asked about the population she serves.

Price is the Program Coordinator for WIND (Women In New Directions), a nonprofit run out of the larger Thrive DC Mission. What started in 1979 with homeless feedings and clothes drives led to the creation of WIND in 2014, an initiative that is designed to “help women transition from prison back into our community.”

The program is operated alongside Thrive DC out of the bottom level of St. Stephens Church, Mondays through Fridays. WIND functions as a tool to help women transition into their new lives through substance abuse counseling, one-on-one mentorship, life skills education, basic needs assistance, and employment assistance. She facilitates each element that makes up the program, making sure that no woman that comes seeking help leaves without the proper support that will change their lives for the better.

“Women come to the church every day because they have nowhere else to go,” says Price. “They sit in the pews and pray for answers for hours, and it’s heartbreaking. I created WIND not because I wanted to be the answer to their prayers, but I wanted to be the hope they need to push forward. We’re located downstairs, so really, St. Thomas is a one-stop-shop.”

Price has served as Program Coordinator from the start, helping women in their post-incarceration journeys by encouraging them to join programs offered through Thrive DC, assisting them with addiction help and job searching services, and ultimately helping them “rediscover their worth,” an important task much easier said than done.

“Too often I see women begin to believe the stereotypes that society casts upon them. They believe that they’ll never be more than a convict. That’s when you start to see the shift into hopelessness that makes navigating the world that much harder and tears families apart.”

Gabriel Fabre, Morning Program Coordinator and Substance Abuse Counselor for Thrive DC, describes the WIND Program as “the second chance that these women need to make it in this cold city.” In his eyes and the eyes of many Ward 4 residents, the struggle for a woman to find work, maintain a solid income, raise a family after prison seems impossible. 

“Somehow, Price has found a way to reach these women in need of extra assistance and encouragement,” Fabre says. “She has really become the dynamic force that keeps women from going back to prison facilities and puts them on a path to success and a new life.”

Carla Davis, at 26 years old, has recently been released from a two-year sentence and has already adjusted to her new life with the help of Price’s WIND program. “Now that I’ve seen it all,” Davis says, “the only thing I’m really scared of is failure. I can’t disappoint my family anymore, and I refuse to disappoint myself.” 

Davis has at last kicked the drug habit that has had control over her life from the age of 13. She’s stronger, more independent, and she has finally found her aspiration in life. “I’m returning to school to get my GED. I never thought this path was for me, but now? I’m looking forward to being a role model for my daughter and for myself as well.”

On average, about 30 women a year receive the help they need to make it through the program successfully, a number that Price describes as her life’s “biggest joy and motivator.” The reality that the obstacles don’t stop with the completion of the program exists, but according to Price, “as long as the women know their worth, they can accomplish just about anything they put their minds to.”

The name of the game is acceptance and growth. “Acceptance,” says Linda Virgil, 30-year-old mom and WIND member, “Acceptance is all we need once we’re [out]. Nobody said that life has to end after prison and it can’t. Not with all these babies to raise. No, life goes on, and as soon as we accept the mistakes we made in the past and move on in a positive way, others will accept our growth too, and life will find a way to get better. Price taught me that.”