Brianna Howard is the Lead Prevention Specialist at Everyone Home DC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the holistic needs of individuals and families at risk of or are experiencing homelessness.
“The goal is to keep people out of shelters because we know that going into a shelter can have some long-term consequences that are not great,” Brianna, who also goes by Brii, shares.
When she was in high school, Brii’s uncle became homeless and tragically died by suicide.
“It was the first time that I realized just how quick and impactful certain decisions can be,” she shares.
Brii started to understand herself and the world around her in a different way after losing her uncle. She also was very tuned into the Ferguson uprisings which contributed to her budding interest in police reform.
“It was a really impactful time,” she explains.
Once she entered university, Brii connected with a community of engaged individuals who continued to help her see things in different ways. One of Brii’s ex-girlfriends helped her realize that the “bootstrap mentality” she grew up believing isn’t realistic for everyone.
“Poor people, people that make bad decisions still deserve nice things. No one is perfect,” she says. “Everyone deserves respect and pride.”
Brii considered going into politics and took an internship on Capitol Hill. Although she decided this wasn’t the right avenue for her, Brii says she met some amazing, well-informed people through the experience.
“So many of the issues that we face are systemic,” she shares.
Inspired by conversations with her friends, Brii spent the last few years of college researching housing policy and gentrification. After graduating she worked with an international development company before moving into her role with Everyone Home DC.
“I’m really happy about what I’m able to do for the people that I am able to help,” she adds.
Build and Sustain Community
Brii relies on her community for inspiration and support, especially when her work feels overwhelming. She encourages up-and-coming leaders to focus on building and sustaining their own communities.
“I think it’s so important to have a support system around you for your own mental health,” she explains.
A strong community also allows you to consider different perspectives, which can be crucial for both professional and personal growth.
“Our individual impact is so multiplied and compounded when we’re able to share what we know with other people and other people are able to share what they know with us,” Brii says.
Moments Worth Celebrating
When Brii feels like she’s not doing enough to help those in need, she reminds herself that every victory counts.
“It is so easy to fall into despair over all of the things that are going wrong in the world and all of the issues that the people that I’m working with are facing. But it’s just important to remember that every small moment counts,” she shares.
These small moments include helping people move into an apartment. Since Brii is in the work day after day, these meaningful steps can sometimes feel smaller than they actually are.
“I have to remind myself that it is important because it has such a lasting impact on the lives of the people that I work with and their children more importantly,” she adds.
Brii still wants to offer more care where she can. She was recently accepted into Columbia University’s Master of Social Work program – another moment worth celebrating – and plans to eventually work as a therapist part-time.
“I feel a responsibility to it in a sense,” Brii explains. “There are so few people who have had the experiences that I’ve had. The personal experiences and also the professional experiences in regard to diversity and inclusion and also my experience with homelessness. If I can provide support for someone with that in a way that other people couldn’t, why wouldn’t I?”