Nkechi Feaster Turns Frustration into Action, Advocating for Shelter Reform

Nkechi Feaster loves D.C. Born in the city, she, her brother and mother moved to South Carolina—but Nkechi always knew she’d return. When she did, though, life in her beloved city wasn’t what she envisioned. 

“When I came back to D.C. I found myself in a shelter,” Nkechi says. “Between college, having my son, leaving an abusive relationship and other traumas in my life, I’d reached a point where I wasn’t taking care of myself or my child.”

But even that didn’t keep Nkechi down. Utilizing support services available through the shelter system, Nkechi worked hard and earned her paralegal certification and landed a job in D.C. From there, she enrolled her son into a D.C. public school, began therapy and, ultimately, moved into a great apartment. Then the recession hit and everything changed—again. 

“I lost my job and we wound up back in the shelter system in 2011,” Nkechi says. “But I’d done it once and I knew I could do it again.” Unfortunately, unlike her last shelter experience, the resources she’d leaned on to support her family were gone. “It should have been easy to cross me off the list. All I needed was stable employment and a two-bedroom apartment. That was it.” 

Finding her footing and helping others find theirs 

Despite the lack of resources, Nkechi continued to push ahead, looking to chart her own path out of the shelter system and back on her feet. At the same time, though, she couldn’t help but recognize the cracks in the D.C. shelter system. “They didn’t have the resources to truly help—it was like they wanted to keep us bound, and in this perpetual cycle of poverty,” Nkechi says. “They were saying, ‘We’re not going to help you out of this situation. We’re going to keep you a recipient of our services as long as we can,’ even though their services weren’t helping us rise up.” 

This realization inspired Nkechi to not just help herself, but to help others struggling with these same frustrations. She began advocating with the Fair Budget Coalition as part of the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. This led to a host of new opportunities to share her story with outlets like The Washington Post, NPR and more. 

Today, Nkechi continues to fight for families who are housing insecure, while doing her part to strengthen services in and around D.C. She is now on the Board of Directors for the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless and works tirelessly with a number of nonprofits and support groups in the community. Nkechi is also co-owner of Service To Justice, where she and her partners train organizations and businesses how to become anti-racist. 

“I am still healing from all of these experiences,” she says. “It’s a constant process—I don’t know if it will ever stop. Even so, I see the strength I gain as I grow in my own healing. I become firmer in being Nkechi.”