Deborah Shore

Deborah Shore has nurtured Sasha Bruce Youthwork since she founded the nonprofit agency in 1974.

Through her leadership, Sasha Bruce has developed innovative housing and counseling resources to help unhoused youths resolve issues with their families, get back to school, find employment, and reconnect with their community.

In this interview, Debby shares the early challenges of procuring houses on Capitol Hill to serve as locations for providing social services and a safe environment for youths to learn life skills and deal with trauma in their lives. Today Sasha Bruce has 11 sites across the city to house young people up to age 24, and its wide variety of programs touch about 5,000 youths every year.    

Mark Weinheimer interviewed Debby at Bruce House, which remains the District’s only emergency shelter for youths under age 18. They discuss the evolution of Sasha Bruce, including the origins of its name, as well as the enduring relationships with board members, friends, and neighbors that have sustained its growth over 50 years. Debby also delves into colorful stories of the buildings themselves, rich in history and architectural features.  

Read Transcript
Interview Date
September 8, 2023
Mark Weinheimer
Betsy Barnett
Barbara Wells

Full Directory

[NOTE: The first two paragraphs were forwarded by the interviewer and the third paragraph was forwarded by the interviewee for inclusion with the transcript of the interview because the beginning of the interview was not recorded. There is nothing on the recording before the interviewee is heard in the middle of a sentence, 1 minute, 59 seconds into the recording.]
WEINHEIMER: “This is Mark Weinheimer, and the date is Friday, September 8, 2023. I am interviewing Deborah Shore today for the Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project. Debby is the founder and executive director of Sasha Bruce Youthwork, a nonprofit organization that implements a variety of programs to help troubled youth in the DC area. We are sitting in the headquarters of Sasha Bruce Youthwork at 745 Eighth Street SE on Barracks Row.
“I want to start by asking Debby about the organization and then talk about its presence on Capitol Hill and how that started and how it has gone. I met Debby while doing a site visit for the Capitol Hill Community Foundation at the Bruce House, located at 11th and Maryland Avenue NE—an historic property we will try to talk about later in the interview. Bruce House is used as an overnight shelter for youths below the age of 18 who, in many cases, had to leave their families.”
SHORE: “The organization started in 1974, when there were hundreds of youth leaving home because of conflicts with families over values and/or politics. These youth were mostly from suburban communities. This was during a time when the media spoke about the generation gap with parents and youth differing over values. DC was a place where many young people ran to, and there were a lot of places to stay. DC was also a place with an early Runaway House shelter, which is where I was a volunteer before joining the staff as a live-in counselor. But that organization fell apart, and there were still so many young people on the street. I asked around, and Christ Church Georgetown agreed to allow me to start a drop-in center in their parish hall.”    

SHORE: … more, for instance, are about values. There was lots of discussion of the generation gap, and we were seeing a lot of those young people. [MOU1]And it became clear to me how important it was to make sure that, even though they were leaving home, this didn’t become the way in which they trailed away from their more productive lives. But you know, to kind of help them get back to resolving the issues with their family, getting back to school, getting back to their communities.
And it also became clear that there were enough young people who were not ready to do that instantly that we needed a shelter. We needed an interim respite where things [in their lives] could be sorted out—[and] we could work with families, if at all possible. And, at that time, there was a trickle [of youths coming from the city itself]. Most of the young people in the early days were coming from the suburbs and were coming up and down the Eastern Seaboard. But as things changed and, importantly, suburban communities all over the country began developing youth services, we began seeing a trickle of young people from the city itself. And so …
WEINHEIMER: They were attracted to Georgetown or …
SHORE: They were attracted to the youth community [that was in Georgetown and Dupont Circle].
WEINHEIMER: Yeah, yeah.
SHORE: So there was a lot that was going on. I mean, in truth, sometimes it wasn’t such a positive attraction because, you know, down on the wharf in Georgetown at that time, there were a number of large, vacant buildings.
WEINHEIMER: Right. I remember.
SHORE: And a lot of the [young vets] coming back from Vietnam who had PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder] issues, which we didn’t even call that the same thing then, were doing a lot of drugs [and making them accessible to the younger people, too]. [They were] living in a warren of [rooms] in those buildings, which were very available and welcoming to these young people. So it wasn’t altogether a safe and wonderful environment.
WEINHEIMER: Yes, right.
SHORE: So when we began looking [for a place for a shelter], we had a wonderful friend in Barbara Held Reich [a Capitol Hill realtor, see her interview on this website]. And Barbara was a resident of Georgetown but also very actively involved in Christ Church Georgetown. And when we started there, she came onto the board. So she became a very active member of the board. And when we were looking for a [location for a shelter], I said to her, “I really feel like we should move into the city, [so that] we can still be available to young people who are coming from longer distances. But there are a lot of young people [from the city itself] who would come if we were closer at hand to their communities.” She found us 701 Maryland Avenue NE.
SHORE: Which was empty at the time and had been empty for a couple of years. And, in fact, I remember vividly that we got a plumber, and Barbara and I [both laugh] [went with him when he] turned on the water [in the building]. And he would run around [interviewer laughs] and fix the leaks that were—you know, because the house had been empty. And [Barbara] was at least warning me that it’s possible that all the plaster would be coming off the walls. But it didn’t.
WEINHEIMER: And when was this then?
SHORE: ’74.
WEINHEIMER: ’74. Okay.
SHORE: Yeah, yeah. So … Barbara was such a wonderful and important person to introduce us also to Capitol Hill, to the community of Capitol Hill, which she was also very much a part of.
WEINHEIMER: Right. She was a realtor here on the Hill.
SHORE: She was a realtor, Barbara Held Realty, right on Seventh Street. And so that was a tremendous decision, and it’s a great location for us.
SHORE: You know, it was right on the bus lines, and young people coming from different communities —sometimes if there were communities that were having trouble with each other, this was a very neutral place and still is. So we were there for many numbers of years. And one of the funny stories I’ll tell you about 701 [Maryland Avenue] is that [it used to be Grubb’s Pharmacy, at least on the bottom floor] …
WEINHEIMER: Ha. Before Grubb’s moved to East Capitol [Street].
SHORE: Exactly, but way before we were there. But Barbara knew that and told us that, and then the rest of it, I think, must have been like a rooming house.
WEINHEIMER: Yeah. There’s a lot of Capitol Hill property like that, that used to be rooming houses.
SHORE: Yeah, because it didn’t look like it was [ever one] home, you know, the way that it’s laid out, anyway. Anyway, beneath the house is a vault.  [It was accessed through the basement but also had a metal opening on the sidewalk above. It was on city property, and we paid rent for it.]
And unbeknownst to me, the vault—when you’re next to a vault, you’re responsible for the upkeep of the vault. But I didn’t know that. [Both laugh.] So I called the city and said, “[This is a danger.] You need to fix this,” because you could see that the beam that was holding up the vault as you walked into it was corroded. And they were, like, “Yes, we’re going to close the house, and you need to fix this immediately.” [Both laugh.]
WEINHEIMER: So they just put it back on you.
SHORE: Yes, absolutely. So, actually, at the time, Nadine Winter was the …
WEINHEIMER: The councilman, councilperson. Right.
SHORE: … councilperson, and she was very helpful to us. And it took $30,000. I remember that because it was so much more than we could possibly, you know …
WEINHEIMER: Yeah. It was a lot of money back then.
SHORE: It was a lot of money. And so they fixed the vault. But at the time, I guess, Grubb’s, as I understood it, used it because there was no refrigeration. There was no easy way to keep everything refrigerated. It was where the drugs were kept.
Anyway, so not three, four years later, one of the things about that wonderful house at 701 Maryland [Avenue] is that it’s very limited in its space. It’s a great house in many ways—you know, it has a round room; you could see right to the Capitol. It’s fabulous. But we were [looking to expand], and I had my eye on the building down the street, which was also empty, at 1022 Maryland Avenue, because it had space around it, and it just looked like it would be a wonderful location for us. And [it gave us] the opportunity to do some other programming for young people [both in the shelter and in the offices that were in the basement]. So …
WEINHEIMER: Because you had more space.
SHORE: If we had more space.
WEINHEIMER: More space, yeah. Right.
SHORE: So what we did was to move in a [new] program that we started—it was the first program in the city really to work with young families—into 701 Maryland [Avenue]. And we were able to get the building down the way, again with Barbara’s help.
SHORE: And that’s a really interesting story, too, because at the time the building—there it was, this beautiful old beauty. And the Baptist church, Rehoboth Baptist Church, which is a big church on Alabama Avenue, owned it. And they rented it to someone who began painting it orange— like Halloween orange.
WEINHEIMER: The outside?
SHORE: The outside. And they painted it as far up as a roller would go on somebody’s arm. [Interviewer laughs.] And it was pretty horrible.
SHORE: And the price dropped, and we were able to buy it as a result. [Both laugh.]
WEINHEIMER: But getting the orange paint off must have cost some money.
SHORE: Well, it was sort of part of the deal, [interviewer laughs] that we would paint it. And we also got help, I think, from Nadine Winter again, to get some paint [and get it painted].
WEINHEIMER: Got it, got it.
SHORE: And we painted it the color to which it had originally been [light yellow brick]. And I don’t think you can even see it now that it’s different. But it was amazing.
WEINHEIMER: [Laughs.] Eye-catching.
SHORE: Yeah. So I can tell about the incredible history that we now understand [of 1022 Maryland Avenue], but maybe I should tell about the other programs [first]. …
WEINHEIMER: Yeah. I do want to get to that property, but let’s talk a little bit more about the programs and what you do.
SHORE: Oh, okay. Yeah, okay.
WEINHEIMER: And how large the organization is. How many young people do you work with?
SHORE: So, Sasha Bruce started in those early days focusing on young people who were disconnecting from family and trying to make the difference in helping them to get stabilized. And we do still, at the Sasha Bruce House, have the only shelter for under 18-year-olds in the city. And the work is really to help them and their families reunite and work together and figure out what’s going on and communicate. But we learned early that that doesn’t always happen [easily], and it can’t always happen [or occur in a safe environment]. You know, there are some times when it’s impossible or undesirable. It’s too toxic. So very early we began developing programs that were longer-term living circumstances for young people. And now we have 11 of those programs.
SHORE: We have 11 sites around the city where young people live. And some of them are for eight young people, some of them are scattered site, and we have ten or 12 young people living in apartments. And we’re going up to age 24 now. So the vast majority of young people who are under 18 are not going into the long-term living situations immediately, but it’s more the 18- to 24-year-olds who we are housing in a variety of these programs. All of which, however, have a lot of supports for them—for learning life skills; for dealing with the trauma in their lives. We have mental health services that are available, that are very easily available, to young people. Doing workforce development, linking them, where we can, with training, always working on getting them back to school if they haven’t finished high school, and trying to get them to go to college. We have a special program that is helping young people go to college. And even though it’s a trickle of the young people that we see, we are continuing to push that, to work on that. So …
WEINHEIMER: Teaching independence to the kids.
SHORE: Teaching independent living, life skills, [and providing homes for them]. And, also, these are homes for people. So we try to make sure that we’re doing recreational things—that we’re helping them to relax, and to be with one another, and to have staff people [they can trust] who are relating to them in a very safe environment.
WEINHEIMER: Positive way.
SHORE: Positive way. We take them to activities and games and things like that. … You know, each of the programs has a little bit of a difference because they’re different ages. We have young families, in some cases.
SHORE: We’re doing a lot of supports for parenting and also helping them to find the resources that they need so that they can proceed and have childcare available. So, yeah, we have a whole array of services; [we believe all of our programs need to be] service-enriched. We’re really recognizing that [with] young people who become homeless and who become disconnected from their families, often their age doesn’t really reflect their developmental stage, and we need to be as supportive as we can with all of the kinds of resources that any young person needs and usually gets from their family and their community. And these are young people that often hadn’t gotten as much as they needed.
WEINHEIMER: Yeah, the support, yeah.
SHORE: So, we’re mitigating that.
SHORE: Additionally, we early on recognized the importance of getting into the communities where young people lived to try to do preventive work and to keep them in school and to keep them in their communities. To help them sort through the barriers that are in their way or they feel are in their way from proceeding in a more positive trajectory. So we have a number of different programs that we provide. We’re in Clay Terrace; we have a big Family Success Center there. We have programs that are in 11 schools that are doing curricula that have to do with civic engagement. It’s kind [using] civic engagement as a youth development tool. So [we get] them involved in projects where they’re doing work to improve their own community—and, you know, it’s been shown to be something that [has great outcomes and] really helps them to stay in school themselves.
WEINHEIMER: Sure, sure.
SHORE: To stay on the positive track. So we do a lot of that sort of thing. We have family support services that families can invoke through our hotline, where we go and really provide [good family counseling to reduce conflict and improve communication].
WEINHEIMER: Where there’s youth involved. Yeah.
SHORE: Yes. It’s parents who call, or sometimes youths call, and [say], you know, “We’re in trouble.”
WEINHEIMER: Crisis mode.
SHORE: “We feel like we’re going to kill each other,” you know. “Is there anything that you can do to help?” And we go into the homes, and we work with them.
WEINHEIMER: And that’s all over the city?
SHORE: All over the city, yeah. But the vast majority of the work that we do is in Wards 5, 6, 7, and 8.
WEINHEIMER: Okay. Yeah, makes sense.
SHORE: Yeah. It’s where the greatest need is. And so we’re very familiar with—we’ve done numerous different kinds of programs in different communities [so] we’re very familiar with a lot of the public housing projects because we’ve been drawn to those communities substantially.
WEINHEIMER: In the neighborhood here, we’ve got Potomac Gardens and Hopkins Court.
SHORE: Mm-hmm.
WEINHEIMER: Public housing.
SHORE: Mm-hmm. We know them well. And there have been times when we’ve had funding to be able to actually house someone there. We don’t have that at the moment, but I really believe that that makes so much sense—for us to just load and surround the young people that are at the greatest risk with as much good youth development work as possible.
WEINHEIMER: Right, right. About how many youths do you serve in a year?
SHORE: Well, in the course of a year, we touch about 5,000 young people.
SHORE: And we identify 1,500 young people that we are working with. But in our residential programs, we have just over 200 spots. So we have two—Bruce House and another program—that are shelters. And so you’re seeing 150, 175 youths a year in the course of that. And then, most of the others are longer-term: 15 months, 18 months. And then we have a few programs that young people could stay in for up to six years. And that’s because the city, which we were very much a part of and supported, has developed [what] they call the vulnerability index [used in matching with all of the youth housing providers in the city]. So each young person who comes to our drop-in center, which is right above here—this drop-in center served 750 young people last year.
SHORE: So each of the young people [is screened and] gets this vulnerability [score] [using a] set of questions, and then they get a number that is supposed to reflect the acuity of their needs. So the ones with the highest [number] are young people who have the most mental health issues—the most trauma in their background. So these are young people that we get an opportunity to work with more intensively over a longer period of time, because the chances of their being able to—a year and a half later—become independent are so limited. [The runway for them to become independent needs to be longer.]

So there’s been a tremendous amount of growth in the youth development system, and particularly for homeless young people, in the last number of years. It’s been really great. I feel like we’ve been very much a part of it. Part of the work that we have done at Sasha Bruce is to advocate for the young people. And one of the great things that we’re doing these days is that we have a group of young people who are our youth advisory group. They call themselves CURB.. They have been very actively involved in a couple of ways. One is that they have helped us to develop a way of evaluating how young people look at our services [through surveys they do with current clients]. We’ve just rolled out this client satisfaction survey that they’ve been very much a part of.
SHORE: And we got great feedback back, mostly very positive. You know, they want better, more workforce development.
WEINHEIMER: Got it. Sure.
SHORE: More mental health services. Really impressive to me how much young people understand their own needs in this way, because it used to be true that you would never want to ask for mental health services.
WEINHEIMER: Sure. That’s the stigma that was involved. Yeah.
SHORE: Yeah. More help with getting better jobs, you know. You can always get a job but, they’re at the bottom of the barrel often. So it reflects very well what we also see, thankfully, of what the needs are. But the young people [in CURB] also just are advocates, and they have been testifying at the City Council. They have been meeting with various and sundry people. Brian Schwalb, when he was running [for District of Columbia Attorney General], came and saw them. And who’s the most recent person that we had? We had [Liz Ryan], the person who’s the head of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention—the federal office—who came and talked to them about [their perspectives on the juvenile justice system].  In addition to them, we got a bunch of young people who are involved in the system. What could be better?
SHORE: So, anyway, they [the Sasha Bruce Youth Advisory Council] call themselves  the CURB [for Curious, Urban, Resilient, Brilliant]. [They are starting a podcast about things they think young people need to know.]
WEINHEIMER: Reflecting sort of current DC-area trends or problems, we hear a lot these days about kids carjacking and …
SHORE: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm, mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
WEINHEIMER: … getting in trouble with the law in various ways.
SHORE: I know. It’s horrible. It’s horrible. I mean, I feel that …
WEINHEIMER: Yeah. How do your kids, your youths, potentially play a role in helping alleviate that situation?
SHORE: Yeah, yeah. Well, I know that they want to, you know. And I think that there are a lot of us who are really concerned and, you know, kind of trying to figure out what would make the greatest difference. One of the things that I feel would make a great difference, and I’ve talked to our CURB group about it, is more family work. Because I feel that there are families who are overloaded; they’re overwhelmed. And, you know, I don’t know how closely you read these things, but there was a really good article, a couple of them, where parents are saying, “My kids sneak out at night, and I’m asleep. And what am I to do? And where’s the help to me?” So that’s one of the things that I feel like is the—now we have this curfew, you know. So I’m hoping that there is a real offer of services. I’m not sure whether there is or not, but that’s what I believe would be something that we are not doing. We are not supporting families where these kids are coming from in the way that they need.
And granted, when you look at it from a distance, and it looks like, “Oh, my God, these families. How could this happen?” You know, “They must be really not able, you know, they’re not capable.” But the truth is that none of us knows what it’s going to be like when our kids become teenagers. You know, you didn’t always buy in to understanding what you were going to get. And, importantly, they’re overloaded with hardly any supports.
WEINHEIMER: Sure, sure. They’re working …
SHORE: Especially those that are working two jobs.
WEINHEIMER: Yeah, right. And with strange hours, and hard to get transportation.
SHORE: Yeah. And, of course, you know, how we are awash in guns is just scary as can be, because anyone can get a gun.
SHORE: Anyone can get ten guns, you know. So of course it’s very concerning, and it’s something that we talk about all the time. And we see some of those kids. So we have some programming specifically for kids that are in the justice system. We know how impulsive [and traumatized they can be].
WEINHEIMER: Right. Because they’re kids.
SHORE: Because they’re kids, and because they’re kids who feel like the world is passing them by.
WEINHEIMER: Yep. Lack of hope.
SHORE: Who feel like nobody cares about them. Yeah. And they’re often kids who—you know, there’s such a strong relationship between kids that get in the justice system and kids who have trouble in school. So being in the schools, I think, is another piece of it, and to identify those kids and to not let them trail away. I mean, that’s the other thing, the schools—I mean, I’m not blaming them, truly—but the schools get evaluated based on how well kids are doing. So if kids are doing poorly and they trail away and kind of drop out, that’s okay with them on some level.
WEINHEIMER: Yeah, because that helps their scores.
SHORE: Right. It helps their scores. That’s really bad and, you know, we’re not doing all that we can with those young people. There’s a way in which we still are a system that really is like the medical system. When something bad happens, we react, and we load up with all kinds of things, but there’s very little prevention. There’s very little looking at it from the point of view of a public health [issue]. If we have a public health problem, then how do we get into the communities and really identify who needs more support—the kids, the parents, the community?
WEINHEIMER: Stepping back a little: You weren’t always Sasha Bruce Youthwork. Am I correct? There’s a story in there.
SHORE: [Laughs.] I’m not sure of the question.
WEINHEIMER: Well, the name.
SHORE: The name. No, we weren’t. So, we were originally Zocalo.
SHORE: [Laughs.] I had never been to Mexico at the time, but I learned this word that seemed so lovely about—that in the center of towns, in many towns in Mexico, there’s a zocalo [meeting place].
WEINHEIMER: Oh, right, right. Got it.
SHORE: It’s a meeting place. So that was the name that we used initially when we got into the Christ Church Georgetown basement of the parish hall. It was Zocalo. So Zocalo remained the name of the outreach program for many, many, many years.
WEINHEIMER: Right, okay.
SHORE: But then, it sort of didn’t have a meaning, and we changed the name fairly early on of the organization to the Washington Streetwork Project. That’s what it was for a number of years. And then I was introduced to the Bruce family about a year after Sasha died.
WEINHEIMER: Okay. And the Bruce family are?
SHORE: The Bruce family [is a prominent family in Washington]. David Bruce was ambassador to Germany, France …
SHORE: Great Britain. And then opened the [legation], not an embassy, in China.
SHORE: And he had an early marriage and had a child from that marriage, but in this case, he and Evangeline had three children, the oldest of whom was Sasha. And she was [possibly murdered] [MOU4]by her husband of a few months.
WEINHEIMER: She married young.
SHORE: She didn’t marry young, [she was in her 20s], but she didn’t marry well, because she married a man who was a Greek national [who fled to Greece after her death]. And there’s just a lot—it was originally ruled a suicide, but it was very clear from the evidence that it was not. And he was ultimately charged in Greece. He fled to Greece with a lot of things. And he was ultimately charged, but we don’t have an extradition law with Greece, and even David Bruce couldn’t get that to happen. So he got off. So it was absolutely tragic, and the family was, of course, reeling. And a friend of mine [had known] Sasha and knew [the family] and introduced them [to me].
Sasha had been very animated and involved in some early work [with young people in institutional settings] that was going on when she was at Radcliffe in Boston. With young people who were being incarcerated when they ran away from home. And that was a big advocacy effort that I came into, too. I was very involved in that work, because there was a big change that happened in 1971 or ’72—something like that—that was supposed to mean that young people who were running away from home, and therefore were having social problems, would not be treated as delinquents. [So I think there was resonance between what Sasha cared so much about and what I was doing with Zocalo. We were working to develop services outside of the juvenile justice system to support runaway youths with care that did not diagnose them as having pathology or as evidencing criminal behavior.]
WEINHEIMER: As a criminal. Right.
SHORE: So she was very involved in that. The family really immediately—Mrs. Bruce immediately—kind of loved what was going on [at Zocalo].
WEINHEIMER: Good, good.
SHORE: And [she] kind of said, “This is something Sasha would have really appreciated, and we want to help you.” So they helped us to buy the first house. I mean, she helped in a million ways. You know, she came onto the board, but she and Barbara [Reich] actually co-signed for the first house [at 701 Maryland Avenue NE]. They wouldn’t possibly have sold it to us. [Laughs.] We were too unknown.
WEINHEIMER: Right. Unstable. That’s a …
SHORE: Maybe unstable. It could have been, it could have been.
WEINHEIMER: As a nonprofit organization.
SHORE: Yeah. And David Bruce also was very generous. He died about a year and a half after we got to know them, so it was really [sad].
WEINHEIMER: I’m sorry.
SHORE: Yeah. It was really sad. She, however, Evangeline, remained on the board for the rest of her life, which was about 20 more years. So she and Barbara and a number of her friends came onto the board [Irina Kirkland, Susan Mary Alsop, Lily Guest, and then her daughter Liz Stevens, Vernon and Anne Jordan, Mary Ridder, Judy Kovler].. I’m forgetting everybody’s names. Anyway, Mrs. Bruce was incredibly important at bringing stability and visibility to our mission and really was incredibly important to the organization. She wasn’t on the ground, you know, working with us.
WEINHEIMER: Right. Working with the kids.
SHORE: She was doing …
WEINHEIMER: Making the connections for you?
SHORE: Making the connections. Fantastic. We had a very early party/gala. Our first gala was at the Kennedy Center [interviewer laughs] and the French Embassy.
WEINHEIMER: Oh. Things that you could do on your own, I’m sure.
SHORE: [Laughs.] Right. Exactly, exactly. And we had a very long and strong association when she was alive with the British Embassy, because of their connections there. So we had many, many of our parties and things there.
WEINHEIMER: Excellent.
SHORE: Yeah. So, you know, in every way—the beautiful thing really was that she was very interested in what we were doing. I mean, she wanted to understand; she wanted to know. [She was a brilliant woman herself, so she did grow to understand the approach we were taking, and I was learning too how to do the work well. So we talked a lot about what was going on.]
WEINHEIMER: Right. So it wasn’t just the funding or the money.
SHORE: Right. No, no, no. Absolutely not.
WEINHEIMER: Or the parties.
SHORE: Right. No.
WEINHEIMER: It was the hard work.
SHORE: She wanted to understand it. She questioned, you know, “Why this, not that?” And Barbara, too, was very actively involved as a board member in really understanding what we were trying to do and doing and was just so wonderful. They were just really remarkable people [who were committed to the mission].
WEINHEIMER: Wonderful.
SHORE: Each of them.
WEINHEIMER: Wonderful.
SHORE: Yeah. And Mary Ridder was an early person on our board. Liz Stevens was the person I was also trying to think of. But Mary Ridder is [96] years old, and I just saw her last week. And she is still a supporter, and she’s wonderful and helpful. [Liz Stevens remains a helper too, as is Ann Jordan’s family. Judy Kovler, a psychologist, came on the board at an early time as a very young woman. She still supports and helps us.]
SHORE: [Laughs.] Yes. And [Mary Ridder] knew Evangeline Bruce when they were young. She’s younger than Evangeline Bruce would have been. But their families knew each other and so, you know, there’s this …
WEINHEIMER: Wonderful connections.
SHORE: … a wonderful foundation for this. This organization was very fortunate to have the foundation that it did. And …
WEINHEIMER: That’s great.
SHORE: … you know, as a result of all of that, I suppose, or because of who I am, I’ve been here forever, too. You know, 49 years this organization has been in existence.
WEINHEIMER: Wow, wow. Next year is 50.
SHORE: We’re coming up on 50.
SHORE: Next year. Yeah. Yeah.
WEINHEIMER: Let’s get back to something that you—because I want to honor your time here and get the most that I can out of this interview. But you started talking about some of the properties and …
SHORE: The properties. Yeah.
WEINHEIMER: One of the properties that you were fortunate to get, as you described it, was on Maryland Avenue. Ten …
SHORE: Twenty-two.
WEINHEIMER: Ten twenty-two at 11th and Maryland. It’s got an interesting history.
SHORE: It certainly does—a great deal more interesting than we realized until rather recently.
WEINHEIMER: Not just the orange paint.
SHORE: Not just the orange paint at all. So this is what we understand to be the history of 1022 Maryland Avenue: It was built by the doctor who was the medical director of the District at the time of the Spanish flu.
WEINHEIMER: So that would be around 1918.
SHORE: Right. The building was built after the Spanish flu, but he was still a doctor —and we think a pathologist, because the building has this wonderful home and the grounds. But then below there was an office, and it had tiling where the tile drained into the center of the room. [Laughs.]
SHORE: And it was said, and I think it’s true, that there was actually a spot underground where there were burials. So, anyway, certainly the young people …
WEINHEIMER: So at least perhaps a lab or something.
SHORE: Yes. Perhaps a lab or something, and maybe the idea that there was a crypt there isn’t true, but it could be. And we often have had young people who believe that it has some haunters. [Laughs.]
WEINHEIMER: Some ghosts. Mmm.
SHORE: You know, who are kindly. It’s not …
SHORE: Yeah, exactly. Anyway, so, that’s what I knew from …
WEINHEIMER:  So probably from the 1920s then?
SHORE: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Or maybe even 19[29] or something like that. Yeah. No, no, no. Because the Spanish flu was 1918.
SHORE: So I think it was the mid-20s that the building was built. And I know that they had one daughter. There was a woman who lived, grew up, down the street on F Street, who came—and she must have been, you know, in her 80s when she came—to see us. She was a friend of the young girl.
WEINHEIMER: Of the daughter?
SHORE:  [Yes] and she remembers the house. And we took her on a tour.
WEINHEIMER: Oh, great.
SHORE: Yeah, yeah. And she was in the Foreign Service and she, you know, hadn’t lived there for years.
WEINHEIMER: Right, right.
SHORE: So that was sweet and wonderful.
SHORE: But what we didn’t know was that the building then was bought by the Baptist Progressive Convention. I think is what it’s called. It’s an offshoot of one of the Baptist groups. Urged on and facilitated by Nannie Helen Burroughs, who wanted to create and did create a home for missionaries who were coming back and forth from Africa and other locations, and who needed a place [for missionaries who were coming back and forth from Africa and other locations] to reflect and to settle and rest and …
SHORE: … think and relax.
WEINHEIMER: Yeah, right, right.
SHORE: So it feels so amazing that there would be this place that was early conceived of for her purposes and similarly for us. Incredible. Then we came to understand, because there are these beautiful murals in the front hall, that she actually asked Lois Mailou Jones …
WEINHEIMER: These are murals that go up the stairs on either side of the main stairwell.
SHORE: Exactly.
WEINHEIMER: As I remember.
SHORE: Exactly true. She knew and asked Lois Mailou Jones—who later, she was part of the Harlem Renaissance, she was someone who became the head of the art department at Howard University for many years, a very well-known artist in her own right—to do these murals. And they were done—they bought the building, we think, in 1951, and the murals were done in ’56 and ’57.
WEINHEIMER: Oh, so that was toward the end of her career.
SHORE: [Nannie Helen Burroughs] died in 1961. So the family, we assume, had it for a long, long time. But I don’t know—I’m not sure that we have all of the history yet. But we bought it from Rehoboth Baptist Church. So that kind of makes sense because it was, you know, a Baptist-related …
WEINHEIMER: Oh, yes. Baptist.
SHORE: … organization.
WEINHEIMER: Right, organization. Yeah.
SHORE: Anyway, we have a wonderful pamphlet that Nannie Helen Burroughs wrote about this place [1022 Maryland Avenue], about her retreat center. And she talked about inviting Lois Mailou Jones to do these murals. And the mural—since people aren’t going to see it—one of them is Kwame Nkrumah, who was the first democratically elected leader of an African country, in Ghana, in 1957. So it kind of honors him. And the other side is this history lesson in African history. It shows the continent of Africa. It shows a lot of details about what was going on at the time, like the Mau Mau [rebellion], you know.
WEINHEIMER: Right. The revolution. Right, mm-hmm.
SHORE: Yeah, and, you know, uranium discovered in thus and so. And the countries, you know, in 1958, [have]very different [names and configurations] …
WEINHEIMER: Different than they are today.
SHORE: … than the names they are today. But it’s really—I am very devoted to preserving these, and they are degrading at a very high rate. We’ve had them for many, many years …
WEINHEIMER: Because they’d be, you know, 70 years old almost.
SHORE: So we learned, because of doing repairs there, that someone who came in said that the materials used for this house were of the highest grade, and the plaster in particular is much, much, much thicker than it would be now. And it was as thick as it could have been. And I think that’s what saved these [works of art].
SHORE: But now we’ve got to do some work there. And I, you know—it’s amazing. We had somebody come because we knew that the murals were incredible, and I had heard of Lois Mailou Jones. So actually, when we moved in, I wrote a letter to her. She had just retired. I wrote it to Howard University, and she never got it.
SHORE: Isn’t that sad?
SHORE: But we had someone come once who was doing a Ph.D. thesis on Lois Mailou Jones and had no idea about this mural. You know, it’s not listed anywhere in her stuff, I guess because it was a gift.
WEINHEIMER: And was this person able to verify that it was …
SHORE: Yes, yes, absolutely. Yeah.
SHORE: I feel like we are entrusted with trying to make sure that this is a place that is well-preserved to its original beauty. We have structural problems that we’re trying to get fixed, and then we’re going to really do a great, you know—making it beautiful on the outside and also the inside. It’s a very old building. It leaks. We have various problems that we’ve tried to mitigate, and so we’re going to really try to invest in it in this next couple of years, because it’s worth it.
WEINHEIMER: Make that part of the 50th anniversary celebration.
SHORE: We are doing that. We are doing that. [Interviewer laughs.] We are doing that. Yeah.
WEINHEIMER: That’s great. Capitol Hill has, of course, the Capitol Hill Restoration Society and other groups that are interested in history. Our Capitol Hill History Project, for example—I’m glad you’re participating in that.
SHORE: Yeah, yeah.
WEINHEIMER: Have you been able to talk with anyone at the Restoration Society about the building?
SHORE: We haven’t, actually, and we probably should. I mean, maybe they would be very helpful.
WEINHEIMER: Maybe, maybe.
SHORE: Because finding someone to do this structural work has not been simple.
WEINHEIMER: I would believe it.
SHORE: Yeah.
WEINHEIMER: It’s a barn of a structure. [Both laugh.]
SHORE: Yeah, yeah.
WEINHEIMER: It’s very big and …
SHORE: Right, and we did get one person, and we just weren’t sure that they knew what they were doing. So you have to also make sure to get the right people.
WEINHEIMER: Oh, absolutely.
SHORE: [We do have a great helper in Scott Kilbourne, who is a neighbor and a great architect. He’s helping us to evaluate what we need to do and in what phases.] And [the Restoration Society] probably would know—yeah, that’s a great idea. We should be in touch with them.
WEINHEIMER: I’ll make it happen. [Laughs.]
SHORE: Okay, that sounds great. That sounds great. You know, we do—we also have this place where we are, 745 8th Street SE on Capitol Hill, and we love having this spot. And this was—you know, each of these buildings has a story unto themselves.
SHORE: So this building had a thrift shop downstairs, and I don’t know what was upstairs. But this was another situation in which on the very upstairs, which is now where our drop-in center is, at the time, we started off with a small program for young mothers who were homeless—five young mothers, because it’s a small space. And, once again, we called in somebody—this wasn’t the city though, it was some company—to say, you know, “We really think that we need to do some work on the building to make sure that everything is okay.”
WEINHEIMER: Right, sure, sure. But you’re housing people here.
SHORE: But they said, “Close immediately! Close immediately!” The people who owned it before had opened up the upstairs a space and had taken out a [load-]bearing wall. I assume the idea was that they were going to put it back in, but they didn’t.
WEINHEIMER: Put some support in.
SHORE: Yeah.
WEINHEIMER: Yeah, yeah.
SHORE: So we had that. [Laughs.] But it’s been a great building. And once we stabilized it … [it has been our main office with many other programs there too]. And then the other building that we have on Capitol Hill is 1312 East Capitol Street NE, and … also, around the corner—well, this is an interesting building—we have 712 to 714 “Eye” Street.
WEINHEIMER: Southeast.
SHORE: Southeast.
SHORE: And that’s one of our programs that’s for young people that are in the justice system. But it is a really old building, and apparently, you know, it’s like one of the old—this is one of the oldest areas in the city. So the structure of that building—we had a lot of work that needed to be done on that to just make sure it was okay. [Laughs.]
WEINHEIMER: Right. You wouldn’t get a bunch of kids in and the building collapsed.
SHORE: Yeah. Something like that. Thirteen twelve East Capitol Street is a beautiful, beautiful building. I don’t know what it was originally, except probably it was built as an upscale apartment building. But when we moved in there, there was a very large concern in the community because, just prior to us, the city had created a plan to have an auxiliary jail that was going to be over on 10th Street. And this is not exactly the same neighborhood, but the neighbors in that community had gotten very activated about this.
So we bought the building, and like two days later there was a community meeting that we were not invited to [laughs] in our front yard. But we did hear about it, in part because there were some people who were, like, “We know this organization. This is not [the same thing as a jail]…,” you know. So we had a little bit of a thing there. And that was really interesting, because there were people in that neighborhood, East Capitol Street and going down to the [DC] Armory, that were very old, longstanding …
WEINHEIMER:  Yep. That’s right, that’s right.
SHORE: … Black neighbors, and then there were a number of new neighbors. And there was a lot of …
WEINHEIMER:  There was conflict.
SHORE: … tension between them. And we were kind of in the middle of that.
Thankfully, our next-door neighbor was wonderful, and one of the families that lived right behind us was really helpful in terms of, you know, “Let’s not focus here on … These are young people who are going to be neighbors. They’re not bringing trouble to you.” And, in fact, I’m very proud of this: A couple of years later someone knocked on the door and said, “I wasn’t sure if you were still here because, you know …”
WEINHEIMER: Everything’s so quiet. [Laughs.] That’s funny.
SHORE: So I’d like to think that that was the last word on that. Yeah, yeah.
SHORE: We’ve had a wonderful time being neighbors on Capitol Hill and have seen so much change occur. [Capitol Hill has many] very active and wonderful people.
WEINHEIMER: You’ve been here about, well, you know, almost 50 years.
SHORE: Yeah.
WEINHEIMER: Been a lot of change in the neighborhood.
SHORE: Sure has. For sure.
WEINHEIMER: And, as far as your clientele, the youths, the kids: Has there been change over the last 50 years or 49 years?
SHORE: Oh, yeah. I mean, yes and no. You know, yes and no. Certainly, when I think of the period of time during crack, I mean, that was so horrendous. And so, you know—the suffering and the problems in the communities that were really being impacted, we felt enormously. You know, I think that Sasha Bruce, because of who we serve, really feels very much the issues that are bubbling up in the poorest communities in the city. So we feel all of that because that’s who we’re …
WEINHEIMER:  You’re serving.
SHORE: … serving so substantially. So yes, it’s changed because, I think, there’s been a lot of demographic changes, and there’s been opportunities for people, so there isn’t as much overwhelming communities of poverty. And yet, it’s so persistent. Those that are at that place, [in the poorest neighborhoods,] there’s so many people who are just living lives where, you know, they’re not getting out. The course for them is, unfortunately, so similar to what it was for their parents.
WEINHEIMER: Yeah. It becomes multigenerational. Right.
SHORE: Yeah. Yeah. So I certainly feel that [and we know that’s what we’re working against]. But, you know, we are trying to surround every young person we see. They each have their own course and story and journey, and there’re so many young people who are doing wonderfully and doing wonderful things and, you know, making their way. And we get a chance to see that, too.
SHORE: Yeah.
WEINHEIMER: How big is the staff?
SHORE: Well, altogether we have about 210 staff.
SHORE: Yeah. We’re an organization that has a budget this year of $15 million.
WEINHEIMER: Wow. And that comes mostly from?
SHORE: [Local and federal] governments and then private [foundations and] individuals. And we’re very much trying to change the balance—[to have more] foundations, individuals, corporations, [because it allows for more innovation]. When we started, all of our money was coming privately, you know, it was private individuals and private foundations, mostly. And it meant that we could be so creative, you know. We could try something [new ideas for ways to help].
WEINHEIMER: More flexible money.
SHORE: Flexible. And willing to try [new approaches]. And I feel very much that the nonprofit community in social services is the innovative place. It’s where innovation …
WEINHEIMER:  Yes, correct.
SHORE … needs to happen. So as the governments have been more a part of our budgets—you know, I love our programs. We always have to raise money for any of the government programs anyway. But, still, you know, these are ideas that have been tried and true.
WEINHEIMER: Yeah. They’ve been tested.
SHORE: Yeah. And in some ways are a little bit staid.
WEINHEIMER: Yeah, right.
SHORE: We do this, you don’t do that. Or we do this, and if you can manage that, that’s fine, you know. But it’s not saying, “What do we do to really elevate or accelerate the progress that a young person could make toward getting into college and staying there?” or something like that. You know, just the stuff that we want to do, we have to find the way to do. So we’re really working on trying to find ways to bring in more flexible dollars.
WEINHEIMER: [Laughs] Right. Good.
SHORE: Yeah.
SHORE: Yeah.
WEINHEIMER: We’re getting close to the hour that I promised. But you’re on Capitol Hill, you mentioned on East Capitol [Street]—the 1300 block of East Capitol—the neighbors are used to you now.
SHORE: Yeah, yeah. I think so. [Both laugh.] Haven’t heard otherwise.
WEINHEIMER: And we’re wondering if you’re still there because you’re so quiet. Same relationship all over? You know, do you …
SHORE: Well, we care …
WEINHEIMER: How do you feel about being on Capitol Hill …
SHORE: I feel very positively about being on Capitol Hill, and it’s a great location for us, for the young people. As I say, it’s neutral for a lot of them. Coming here, they don’t have to worry about somebody from their other, warring neighborhood.
WEINHEIMER: Someone else’s turf.
SHORE: I think that, you know, we have had some issues with the drop-in center—young people bothering neighbors. So one of the things that we did a number of years ago was develop a [staff] position specifically for somebody to be outside—to be hyper-locally involved. And that’s really helped a lot. So, what I would say is that we have tried very hard to be good neighbors, because we know that people want to live in a neighborhood where they feel safe, and they feel happy and don’t have to worry about walking down the street—or whatever it is that people feel. I mean, sometimes, of course, you know, you see a group of young people and simply by not knowing who they are …
WEINHEIMER: That’s right.
SHORE: … you can feel uncomfortable. And that’s not something we can do everything about except to say the vast majority of young people are just trying to make their way in this world. But you know, we—and I—care about it, and so we have tried to be outreaching enough that we understand if we’re bothering someone or someone is concerned about something. The neighbors right around us [on Maryland Avenue] really want us to make the building more beautiful [and well-tended] on the outside. And I understand that [and we are working to gather the resources to do that].
WEINHEIMER: Yeah. That’s right, that’s right.
SHORE: We have an advisory committee there that’s working with us on a regular basis [to ensure that we’re communicating on all matters with our neighbors], and it’s [so nice to meet the] lovely people, you know, lovely people.
WEINHEIMER: Good, good.
SHORE: So, if there is any issue, I hope we’re hearing about it.
WEINHEIMER: Right. I have not heard of issues.
SHORE: Good, good. Yes.
WEINHEIMER: Just asking.
SHORE: Yeah. I mean, we have our place over here on “Eye” Street, and there’s a woman who lives next door. So sometimes, if there’s some issue there, the beautiful thing is she’ll call me. And she’ll say, “This happened. It’s not cool.” You know. And we take care of it, and it’s a wonderful relationship.
SHORE: She’s a wonderful person. You know, we’re so fortunate to have her. [But then all of our locations on Capitol Hill have wonderful neighbors—people who care about community and including Sasha Bruce.]
SHORE: Yeah. Yeah. And the Bruce House is in this beautiful location. You know, it used to be true that sometimes there would be people who would be bothered by the kids being outside yelling when they’re playing basketball or something like that. That’s not happened in a long time. [Because there’s so much space around the house,] it’s very removed from most of the rest of the neighborhood. So that, I think, is a blessing.
WEINHEIMER: Yeah, yeah. You’ve got a lot of land around it.
SHORE: We’ve got a lot of land around it. Yeah.
WEINHEIMER: Good. Well, thank you.
SHORE: Thank you. I appreciate this.
WEINHEIMER: It’s a lot of fun and, you know, we could talk for another hour, but I promised an hour.
SHORE: Okay. That’s great.

Delete for continuity with her new intro?
Debby would like to delete this
Delete this since she provided the word?
Debby wants to change this to “a victim of domestic violence”
OK to delete?
Debby wants to delete this and I think that’s wrong
Ruth Ann Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project
Deborah Shore Interview, September 8, 2023

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