- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 11, 2021

A group of 35 volunteers is making 10,000 comfort kits of household goods at the Capital Area Food Bank for women who have survived domestic abuse and sexual violence living in D.C. homeless shelters.

Kimberly Harris, a domestic violence survivor who organized the drive, said the volunteers on Saturday assembled the first 3,000 kits of cosmetics, jewelry, supportive messages, toiletries and blankets to support survivors’ “dignity as women.”

“The comfort kits are designed to give these women everything they had to leave behind when they fled their abusers,” Ms. Harris told The Washington Times, adding that the kits will be completed by “early December.”

Representatives from 11 domestic violence shelters in the D.C. area began picking up kits from the Northern Virginia warehouse of the Capital Area Food Bank on Saturday and will do so again in December.

Ms. Harris and rape survivor Elizabeth Blackney co-founded the nonprofit Women’s HQ in March 2020 to empower women of color in local domestic violence shelters.

The organization receives funding from the Players Philanthropy Fund in Baltimore and from small donations, she said. It also received $500,000 worth of products from the Alexandria-based charity Good360 to assemble the kits.

Jim Alvey, Good360’s vice president of disaster recovery and philanthropy, said the kits are part of a new push that the international charity is making to confront homelessness in the D.C. area.

“There’s a huge need for more attention to the issue of homelessness right here at home,” Mr. Alvey told The Times. “There’s not enough space, not enough shelters, not enough financial support.”

The distribution comes as the nation’s capital struggles with rampant public homelessness.

Mayor Muriel Bowser has been criticized for using bulldozers to remove homeless encampments in the city.

Ms. Harris, who has lived in the District for 35 years, said the city does not have enough shelter capacity to care for the current number of homeless survivors of abuse and sex trafficking.

“A lot of the community doesn’t want shelters or homeless people in their neighborhoods, but they’re going to be there whether you house them or not,” she said.

“There are so many women in these shelters who are fighting to get back. COVID was devastating enough to society, but especially to these women,” added Ms. Harris, 56.

Originally from Pennsylvania, Ms. Harris said she “experienced violence at an early age” and fled to a domestic violence homeless shelter, where she lived for three years.

“The trauma got bad, but I had to come to grips with the idea of someone close to you trying to destroy your life. I couldn’t get my head around it,” she said.

• Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@washingtontimes.com.

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