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Meet residents of The John and Jill Ker Conway Residence

Hear the stories of three people who experienced homelessness in D.C. and now have a home at The John and Jill Ker Conway Residence.
  |  October 4, 2021

Opened in 2016, The John and Jill Ker Conway Residence is a 124-unit, mixed-income residence for veterans who have formerly experienced chronic homelessness and low-income residents. Read more to get to know some of the veterans who now call Conway their home.


Image of Conway Resident Ray

Ray

“I have a good apartment, good people, and my case worker and the whole management is good to me. This is the best thing that ever happened to me in a long long time… I’m just content, you know?”

Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Resident at Conway since: January 2017
Military branch served: Marine Corps
Length and location of service: Two years, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina

Hobbies and Interests: 

  • Ray enjoys and spends a lot of time walking —  covering about 5-10 miles a day.
  • Ray attends 8 a.m. mass every day at a church nearby.
  • He has a sister-in-law and nephew he is close to who don’t live too far away.
  • Watching tv is a pastime he enjoys, including BET, comedies, dramas, and movies in general.
  • Ray is also a sports fan, and particularly likes watching live sports.
    • He sometimes gets tickets to baseball games — he’s a NY Yankees fan.
    • Ray was the #1 pitcher in Washington, D.C,. in Maryland and Virginia when he was in high school.
    • He likes basketball and football too, mainly the Chicago Bulls (“when Michael Jordan was playing”), the Golden State Warriors, and the New Orleans Pelicans.
      • “Any team that Tom Brady plays for — I like them.”
  • Music is another thing he enjoys, particularly rock ‘n’ roll, rock, and soul.

What do you think about living at Conway?

“I have a good apartment, good people, and my case worker and the whole management is good to me. This is the best thing that ever happened to me in a long long time,” said Ray. “I’m just content, you know?” Ray also enjoys the size of his home. “I like the privacy, and having my own apartment. It’s just enough for me.”

Ray is also one of the residents featured on Conway’s “Neighbors and Friends” mural at the rear of the building (see featured image — he’s sixth from the right in the teal collared shirt).

“The staff here is real good to me,” he commented. “Anything I need, all I have to do is ask them. If I need help, I go to them and they help me.”


Richard at DJ booth with headphones on

Richard AKA “Rico”

“It’s right downtown, everything’s right around. It’s cool.”

Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Resident at Conway since: April 2018
Military branch served: Army
Length and location of service: Four years: 1982 – 1986, in South Korea and Japan

Hobbies and Interests: 

  • Richard recently joined the JJKC Peer Leaders, the resident-led group dedicated to identifying and providing needed programming in the building. Peer Leaders help with a variety of activities and programming for the residents. For example, they have movie nights and assemble grab bags for all the residents.
  • The Peer Leaders hosted their first cookout in May on the third-floor terrace at Conway. Before the pandemic, they used to host them more regularly.
  • Richard also likes to volunteer with kids from Gonzaga Prep, a high school down the street. The students come by and they play Texas Hold’em with them.
    • “They had us veterans talk to the kids about the military service and where we’ve been.”
  • He also enjoys taking art classes offered at Conway.
    • “I’m an artist/magician/DJ.”
    • “I’m a big comic book nerd — I had three or four thousand books and I used to draw stuff from the comic books.”
    • He still sketches now and even designs his own t-shirts which he sells online.
    • He would like to return to school for animation, as he attended an art school after regular high school when he was younger. As he explained, “I went to school in the morning, then I went to art school in the afternoon, and then I came back for football practice.”
  • A big fan of film, Richard calls himself a “horror movie nut.” He especially likes horror from the 1930s, like Frankenstein and Universal horror.
  • Richard also really likes to cook — his mother was a great cook and he has four sisters he helped take care of.
Younger "DJ Brooklyn Rico" at turntable
A younger “DJ Brooklyn Rico” spinning records.
  • “DJ Brooklyn Rico”
    • Richard started DJing in 1976 with his cousins in New York, where they had a lot of block parties with large sound-systems outside. 
    • His grandfather was a jazz drummer, and there was always music in the family. He inherited a massive record collection, to which he added equipment and turntables.
    • He considers himself a “YouTube DJ” now — “I play everything.”
      • This includes reggae, metal, punk, and disco in the 1970s
      • His DJ names include “Richy Rich” and “Brooklyn Rico.”
    • He plays “bluetooth DJ” at barbecues now, playing older to newer music. As he explained, “Depending on the crowd, you play some old stuff — I start from the ‘30s with Cab Calloway, to the ‘40s and big band, into the ‘50s with Elvis and Fats Domino, and then the ‘60s with the Beatles and the Stones, and the ‘70s with disco and KC and the Sunshine Band. You mix it up depending on the crowd.”
    • “And even with my Bluetooth speaker, when I go to the hospital appointments and we’re sitting outside, waiting for the ride, I play music and get everybody vibing — the old ladies singing and dancing.”

What do you think about living at Conway?

“You know, the door locks, the water runs, the lights come on — I’m good,” he said. Richard secured one of the last spots in Conway and has been there since April 2018.

He particularly likes the location of the building: “It’s right downtown, everything’s right around. It’s cool.”

Headshot of a younger Richard in Army uniform in front of American flag
Photo from Richard’s service in the Army.
Paul

Paul

“I like it here… As long as I have someplace to kick my feet up and out of the weather, I’m happy.”

Hometown: Erie, Pennsylvania
Resident at Conway since: January 2017
Military branch served: Marines
Length and location of service: Paul joined the Marines in 1974 as an M.O.S. Embarkation Man and served at numerous locations while deployed aboard ships, including the Caribbean, Mediterranean, and the West Pacific.

Hobbies and Interests: 

  • “I do quite a bit of reading — historical novels, science fiction, history.”
  • Paul also has an extensive music collection, and he has converted his variety of physical albums to digital MP3s, compiling around 30,000 songs. “I listened to everything from 50s music to blues to classic rock to Motown. I’m not stuck in one genre,” he said.
  • “I’m on my own, I’m in pretty good shape, and I’m in what I consider walking distance to all of the Smithsonian Museums along the mall. So I’ll just, you know, get bored reading or watching TV and if it’s a nice day, I’ll just take a walk or ride my bike down. I’ve been to all the major ones, at least four or five times.”
    • His favorite museums are the Air and Space Museum or the National Museum of American History. “I’ll always find something new to see.”
Polaroid photo hanging on Christmas tree featuring Paul and friend
Paul and friend during the holidays.

What do you think about living at Conway?

Paul moved into Conway in January 2017. “I’m one of the old-timers. I came in during one of the first years it was open,” he explained.

“I like it here. The apartment isn’t real big — it’s a studio. But being single, I don’t need a lot of space. As long as I have someplace to kick my feet up and out of the weather, I’m happy.”

Since May of 2019, he’s also served in a leadership role as a JJKC Peer Leader, a role which helps identify community needs and respond through social programming and events. As a Peer Leader, Paul helped spearhead a field trip to the National Air & Space Museum in January of 2020, packed goody bags (with toiletries, PPE, and snacks) for residents as a response to the COVID pandemic and is always willing to lend a hand.

He explained that they are able to fund resident activities and projects through dollars they receive from grants from organizations like The Home Depot Foundation. “I’m the one pushing for taking trips, like with all of the Smithsonian museums around,” he said.

They recently took a trip out to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, which Paul noted is difficult to get to unless you have a car. The Peer Leaders organized Ubers to transport the group out using the grant money.

They’ve also visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture and plan to organize a trip to the Spy Museum and the National Museum of the United States Army in Ft. Belvoir. “With most of us all veterans here, we’re all interested in military stuff,” Paul said. “So I try to usually push things like that to people who are interested in them.”

During the pandemic when everything was shut down, the Peer Leaders organized box lunches from places like Subway to be passed out to residents. “We just really tried to do that toward the end of the month, because most of us here are on social security or some sort of pension and money gets a little tight toward the end,” Paul explained. “So it’s nice to have a little meal.”

The Peer Leaders at Conway have also created a community garden on a spare patio at the residence, with supplies provided by The Home Depot Foundation. “Next spring, I plan on putting up some tomato plants because I dislike tomatoes out of the stores,” Paul commented. “They just don’t taste as good as tomatoes you grow yourself.”

Paul and other Conway residents on a field trip.

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