The concept of Peace Corps House began during Hebert’s mid-October 2015 discussion with Peace Corps’ leadership about the possibility to move Peace Corps headquarters out of downtown Washington DC, into so an appropriate neighborhood so that it could “walk its talk.” This by bringing new resources into the neighborhood. But it quickly became apparent that the General Services Administration (GSA), which handles most federal office space, wouldn’t go along with the concept of moving an agency headquarters for the social good.
Already talking about another kind of Peace Corps presence in the city, Hebert remembered he had Jane Addams’ 1910 book, “Twenty Years At Hull House” on a bookshelf. Thus was born the notion of Peace Corps House, a settlement house in the same tradition as noted on the book’s jacket by Frances Perkins, U.S. Secretary of Labor, 1933-1945: “Addams discerned and revealed the beauty of the cultural life and spiritual value of the immigrant at the time when nothing was so despised and unconsidered an American life as the foreigner.”
Hebert went to work on a Concept Paper to the Peace Corps which went to Carrie Hessler-Radelet on January 20. [See Concept Paper] From the cover letter:
“As an alternative to relocating the Agency, the Peace Corps could help create a settlement house in Washington’s Ward 8 across the Anacostia River. As a former resident of Washington and as an RPCV I deeply believe that Peace Corps House, as an NGO, would implant the Peace Corps Community deep in Washington for decades to come while contributing to both the redevelopment and culture of our home city — something long overdue.”
As noted elsewhere, after serious negotiations with Peace Corps’ Office of Strategic Partnership, it became clear that both for Peace Corps and the proposed Peace Corps House, that it should be an independent non-profit, that a comprehensive relationship both wasn’t going to happen and wasn’t needed.
In early January discussions with Glenn Blumhorst, NPCA president it was thought that Peace Corps House would be established and operated by the NPCA. As Glenn wrote in his formal January 6 letter of support, “Please be assured that the National Peace Corps Association stands ready to assume a leadership role on this initiative in partnership with the Peace Corps agency and local government officials and professionals.”
However, competing resources and linked strategic issues meant that in March the NPCA had to reluctantly back-burner Peace Corps House. Ironically, disappointment in that decision eventually turned to the positive, an independent House made much more sense. It needs it’s own fundraising and its own board of directors. But Glenn’s above reference to partnerships must hold true. No partnerships like those means no Peace Corps House.
At this remove, it seems that the vitally important partner would be the large organization, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington, D.C. [See their Letter of Support.]