Blog For The City

It may seem like a small favor…

Did you know that $25 can be the difference between staying housed and experiencing homelessness? For many of our clients, a minor issue with rent or other basics can snowball into a huge problem.

Can I count on you to make a gift today to Bread for the City’s Small Favors Fund? We use this fund when the solution to a client’s problem is simple: a one-time grant to cover rent, utilities, or paying for an ID. But we’ve helped so many families this year that we’re having trouble meeting the demand, especially as children head bacsmall-favors-with-textk to school.

Will you help us grow this fund so we can help more people this fall and winter? PLUS, thanks to the generosity of a longtime donor, any gifts we receive for the Small Favors Fund will be matched up to $5,000!

By standing with us now, you will ensure that families don’t slide from stable to homeless just because of $25. It may seem like just a small favor, but to the recipient, it’s so much more.

Testimony of community organizer, Terri Acker at DCHA

The following is the testimony of community organizer, Terri Acker at a District of Columbia Housing Authority Commissioners meeting on September 14, 2016.

Hello, my name is Terri Acker and I have been a resident of subsidized housing for the majority of my adult life and I have raised 5 daughters here in the city. I am here to testify today and be the bearer of news to the residents from my experience and facts.

Being issued a Section 8 voucher in order to seek housing is in fact not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that it is packaged to look like. In fact, it will be very difficult because the help that District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA) says that they will be giving you does not exist. You will have to do most if not all of the searching on your own, and if you find a place you would like to live, you will most likely have to jump through hurdles such as rental & credit history, security deposits, and amenities fees, that the landlords will use against you, so as not to have you rent their places. And those are the nice, decent places that you will want to live.

However, the slumlords will be glad to take your voucher and not do repairs and have you live in their units until you get a notice that the house is under foreclosure and you are told you have to move. This has happened to me at least three times.

The units that are being offered now also are very small and if you have a large family, they are not suitable to live in. There is no dining room or living room at all.  I had one house that looked great, only to find rats running through the living room at night. In the end, I had to have an exterminator come out and exterminate because my landlord would not and DCHA did not force them to.

Community Organizer, Terri Acker

Community Organizer, Terri Acker

The burden of moving from house to house and moving your children from neighborhood to neighborhood causes you to lose a lot of expensive furniture and have to buy it all over again. Not to mention, changing schools for your kids and the fights they may get into being the new kids. It also causes mental instability for the children. Also, the city has a limit on the amount the vouchers can pay and that won’t allow you to get the unit you need.

This money is being issued for a contractor that DCHA will not monitor to ensure that they do the things they are supposed to do like help you to find decent housing.

It’s not as easy.  I recently had a fire at my apartment and DCHA isn’t even making my landlord fix my apartment even after 5 months, and the fire was just in the living room. So I am looking for a place right now also and the help I have received from DCHA is that I was sent to a slumlord. We deserve to live in decent housing just like the people that are supposed to be helping us.

In fact, there are many residents at DC General who have been given vouchers and have been unable to find places for over six months. DCHA’s employees…do you care, for real? I told someone here at housing that I had a fire in my unit and she said she knows who I am and that I always have some drama! Does that make me any less of a person than you? Should I be homeless because of life’s twists and turns? NO! And you as a resident of public housing should not be either.

So in conclusion, being able to stay on the property while they build and move into the new units is what would be best if you really think about it. What I am saying is, do your research, ask someone, other voucher holders, think hard and long about your decision to take a voucher, it’s not as easy as it looks. In fact, it is very hard and you will receive little help from the contractors of DCHA.

And board members; please be fair to the residents. You know our city is not accepting the vouchers in the good neighborhoods and making it as hard as possible to use them to rent. Do what is right for a change! Please and thank you!

HAPPY NEW YEAR! (2 months late!)

On June 30th, Bread for the City wrapped up another exciting fiscal year. Because we were just too busy fighting poverty, working to end racism, growing apples, and cleaning teeth all summer, we’re just getting around to reflecting on our successes now. And since we couldn’t do any of this without your help, we decided to share! Read on to see how your support helped us accomplish so much last year.

So just how great was fiscal year 2016?

Food Program:

In FY16, we saw 15,679 unique food program clients through 75,692 food program visits. This is an increase of nearly 5% in unique clients and over 6% in visits over FY15!

Bread for the City 2015

Leonard and Donald taste some greens at our City Orchard retreat in October 2015

Additional successes in FY16 include:

  • Thanks to our supporters, we were able to start distributing five days of groceries instead of three.
  • We embedded an organizer in the urban agriculture program, who works with clients and staff at City Orchard and on our rooftop gardens.

Clothing Program:

We saw approximately 3,700 visits to the Clothing Room in FY16, and continued to offer internships to PEP graduates.

Social Services:

In FY16, we conducted 22,823 visits in our Social Services departments, including walk-ins, case management, representative payee visits, Pre-Employment Program visits, intakes/re-certification, etc.

wondimu-amharic-hap

At an Amharic HAP informational session in June 2016, we could barely find space for everyone!

Additionally:

Medical Clinic:

Our primary care clinic saw 2,621 unique patients through 17,679 patient visits. Plus, our dentist saw 827 patients through 1,796 patient visits – increases of 7% and 3%, respectively, and our behavioral health specialist helped 450 people address their concerns.

max-ravens-first-dental-visit

Our young friend Max enjoyed his first ever dentist appointment with Dr. Smyles!

 

Additionally:

 

Legal Clinic:

In FY16 our attorneys and legal clinic staff conducted 1,806 legal intakes, opened 782 cases, and closed 600 cases.

Additionally:

  • With funding from the DC Bar Foundation, we launched a one-year pilot program (including the hire of a new attorney) to help DC residents with the arduous process of getting DC government identification.
  • We now have 18 attorneys (including a Fellow and a Covington Loaned Associate).

Advocacy:

This year, we launched an Advocacy Program – the first formal advocacy program that we have ever had. With the promotion of Aja Taylor to Advocacy Director and the hire of four new organizers (along with our existing Community Lawyering Project organizer), this program now has a staff of 6, making Bread for the City one of the largest organizing teams in DC.

Additionally:

  • We helped push through City Council a bill funding the Public Housing Fund – a $15M fund to preserve public housing in DC.
  • We held monthly affordable housing meetings which had seen huge turnout from clients, neighbors, and concerned community members.

WHEW! I’m tired just reading this. Thank you to all who gave of their time and treasure to make our work possible last year, and let’s make this year another one to remember!

Volunteer Spotlight

lindsay-volunteerFirst introduced to Bread for the City as a volunteer with the food pantry, Lindsay Powell has since been a committed volunteer to the mission of BFC and the FoodWays Program.

Originally from New York City, Lindsay has dedicated her academic and professional career to looking at ways to assuage issues of poverty and inequality. This passion led her to work both internationally and domestically, where this interest in food policy and hunger
alleviation grew.

Spending time as a teacher, intern, and student in South Africa, Nicaragua and Vietnam, and as a Fulbright Scholar in Malaysia, she began to see how other countries used food as a connector but also the serious issues their governments faced with food distribution and nutrition. Lindsay began to make connections between her own experience in the United States with issues of access in under-served communities. Being a part of the FoodWays Program has given Lindsay the ability to positively contribute to the DC community, and she plans to continue well into the future!

“My FoodWays are rooted in a love for food and simple hospitality. I love playing host to dinner parties and sharing good conversation over real good food,”  says Lindsay.

Are you interested in volunteering at Bread for the City? Please contact our volunteer department at 202-386-7006, volunteer@breadforthecity.org, or visist www.breadforthecity.org/volunteer.

 

Apple fritter season is here!

We’ve got a great crop of apples coming in from City Orchard this season and now is as good a time as any to thank YOU, all of you, who support our work to provide among other things, fresh fruits and vegetables to our Food Program clients.

The following apple fritter recipe is compliments of Martin, one of our amazing urban agriculture staff members, and avid farmer and chef.

Recipe:

1 1/2 cups flour (*2 1/2 cups for doughy variety)
2 cups coconut milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 teaspoons baking powder

Batter skinless apple slices, with above mixture, and fry in high heat peanut oil till golden brown and crunchy on the outside and lusciously soft on the inside (2 minutes each side). Pat off excess oil.

Dust with confectioners/powdered sugar and drizzle with lemon juice (optional). Serve warm. ENJOY!

The traditional southern version is far more bready/doughy, but I prefer a bit crunch with my thin crust “sweet/tart” green apples.apple fritter 1 apple fritter 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Am: Strength, Values and Resilience of TANF Families

Last weekend marked the 20th anniversary of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) reform, and the Department of Human Services has begun to convene a working group and to craft a TANF extension policy.

This video, created by DC TANF families, and put together by Samantha Davis and Sequnely Gray, shows the strength, values, and resilience of families receiving assistance.

Bread for the City supports fixing the TANF time limit because children should always have their basic needs met.

Please watch, enjoy and share!

 

Just when you thought you were out…

….Bread for the City pulls you back in!

Let’s (re)meet our new(ish) Chief Development Officer, Andrea Messina! Eight years ago, she worked at Bread for the City before going on to business school, to different nonprofits, and even <gasp> to the private sector. But as many of our current and former staff who stay engaged at Bread can attest, we’re harder to shake than the mafia, so this summer Andrea returned to the Family to lead our fundraising efforts.

AM and KV (1)

Andrea (L), with former CDO Kristin, helped to launch our rooftop garden! 

Truth is, Andrea never really left.  Take a look at the creative ways she supported BFC during her time “away”:

  • She was a volunteer in our Food Pantry’s gleaning program Glean for the City in 2009.
  • She was one of the first volunteers at BFC’s rooftop garden in 2011 when we kicked off our urban agriculture program.
  • She joined our Bread and Butter Club in 2011.
  • She has been a frequent guest to the Good Hope Gala, and helps us secure donations for our auction every year.
  • In 2015, she taught weekly donation based yoga classes to benefit BFC!

There are so many cool ways to support BFC and we are glad Andrea did so many of them.  But, we’re even happier that she decided to come back.  As Chief Development Officer, Andrea is in charge of making sure we can afford to meet our strategic goals, help everyone who comes through our doors, and just keep the lights on every day. Plus, she will lead the effort to expand our Southeast Center through the largest capital campaign in Bread’s history.

We’re lucky to have her back and it seems the feeling is mutual. Andrea says, “I am in awe by the ways that Bread has evolved and expanded over the last decade.  But, I’m even more inspired by the ways that Bread has maintained its close-knit community, unmatched passion, and tireless commitment to service while more than doubling in size.”

If you have any questions or well wishes for Andrea, or want to grab a cup of coffee with her, you can reach her at amessina@breadforthecity.org.

Want to be a part of DC punk history?

Normally, Bread for the City reaches for go-go music when we want to celebrate. But for the next four weeks we’re embracing a different part of DC music history and going punk with Hamiltonian!

Kicking off on August 13th, Hamiltonian Gallery on U Street is playing host to an exciting and interactive exhibit: a series of all-ages punk shows in a structure that also grows wheat grass for “punk shots” of juice. Artist Naoko Wowsugi is a Hamiltonian Artists Fellow, and has held several successful exhibitions. For this latest work, titled Permacounterculture, she takes inspiration from the District’s punk rock scene as well as the city’s natural environment. And to make the connection between the earth and the music even sweeter, Hamiltonian is raising money from the exhibit for BFC’s City Orchard!

Since the spring, Naoko has been volunteering at City Orchard, Bread for the City’s 2.75 acre orchard in Beltsville, MD. She explains, “I like the idea of organic fresh produce for everyone, not just people who can afford it. The concept of equality and the spirit of sharing really inspired me!”

naoko

Naoko checks out the progress of the sprouting wheat grass seeds!

Working at City Orchard planted the seed (get it?!) of an idea: plants grow best when people are interacting with them, as the carbon dioxide that human breath produces is used by plants in the photosynthesis process. Since Naoko had also been going to local punk shows, it occurred to her that a venue where people were singing and dancing and jumping around would actually make a really healthy growing environment!

Plus, punk rock and agriculture had other connections, too. “Punk music and farming are both very energetic,” notes Naoko. “I was surprised that DC punk scene is into the idea of healthy living. And the punk community really tries to support each other and is inclusive, like the City Orchard project.”

If you’re interested in urban agriculture, art, and music, this is a must-see event. The exhibition will run from August 13 – September 10, 2016 with an opening reception and punk show on Saturday, August 13 from 6:30 – 10 pm. See here for more info on this awesome exhibit!logo

Permacounterculture is supported by the Awesome Foundation, Home Depot, Damaged City Fest, DC Punk Archives, in-kind support from the Washington Project for the Arts, donated vegan food for bands from &pizza, Timber Pizza, and Mellow Mushroom, and a plethora of individuals, including members of Bread for the City’s urban agriculture team.

Bread for the City’s City Orchard is funded in part by the University of the District of Columbia.

The Intern and the Orchard

Hi everyone!

I’m Ashley, a summer intern here at Bread for the City.

Usually, I’m sitting behind a desk in the development department helping with some behind the scenes work pertaining to a lot of interesting communications management tasks. Part of my responsibility is to know what goes on at Bread for the City, and so I took a day to step away from my desk to join the BFC staff and volunteers at City Orchard.

Ashley at OrchardBread for the City does an incredible job with making sure its clients have access to fresh and healthy foods, and I got to join this effort first hand.

Depending on the day, the tasks at City Orchard vary for the workers and volunteers. The day that I went, we focused on laying down and securing tarp in order to plant sweet potatoes. And then the planting commenced!

Ignoring the bright sun and heavy heat, I put on a pair of gloves and staked the tarp into the ground to make sure it was secured in place and wouldn’t wash away with any rainfall. While I was working on putting dowAshley at Orchard 1n the tarp, some other volunteers used small shovels to create holes in its center to make space for the sweet potato plants.

I grabbed a bundle of sweet potato plants and, one by one I made sure I could get the plant through the hole in the canvas. I dug into the ground to set the roots, and patted the surrounding dirt to make sure the plant was stable. That was it…I had planted yams! The whole cycle continued until all of the sweet potatoes were planted. In just one day, hundreds of sweet potato plants were planted that will be distributed to Bread for the City clients!

It was an incredible experience to join the Bread for the City staff and volunteers on just one day of many that they make an effort to help our organization and its clients.

 

A Message to the Bread for the City Community

Bread for the City Community,

Over the past month our country has been battered by tragedies in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Texas. These shootings remind us of two difficult truths: wishing we lived in a post-racial society doesn’t make it so, and the issue of race and all of its complexities will challenge us for years to come.

In response to these recent tragedies, several Bread staff members met to discuss the trauma of the shootings – both of police officers and those at the hands of police officers. In these discussions, we sought to address one central question: What does all of this chaos and pain mean for our work in social justice?

Many of you know that several years ago, Bread for the City made the commitment to pursue our social justice work through the lens of racial justice.  This meant we would first look to educate ourselves about the historic and social underpinnings of the racial tension that persists in our country. We have engaged our staff, Board members, and clients in trainings about the long history of racism in America. Through our daily work with clients and our own personal experiences, we cannot help but see how racial bias still permeates so many institutions in the country and continues to manifest itself in schools, the housing industry, and the justice system.

CEO George A. Jones

CEO George A. Jones

As leaders from both sides of the political spectrum have recognized, people of color have a different experience of American institutions than those who are white. We must all do a better job of understanding why many people of color view institutions with such suspicion. The recent gun violence has resulted in too many innocent people paying the ultimate price. But the divide in our communities and country is based on problems far more complicated than the headline police shootings. At the heart of the frustration and anger felt by so many people of color are the facts: their children attend public schools that fail to educate them; they are routinely locked out of the work force; they pay 50 to 60% of their income for housing; and they are profiled so systematically by the criminal justice system that they are far more likely to be arrested than their white neighbors suspected of the same crimes.

In our post-civil rights world, many of us have silently agreed that race doesn’t matter.  Sadly, this is magical thinking. We cannot wish away a deep-seated issue like racism.

Events like those in recent weeks and those that occurred not long ago in Ferguson, Baltimore and New York City sound a persistent alarm that real work must be done to address this difficult problem.

Bread for the City invites its community of partners to join us in our commitment to help make the systems in our organization, city and country more racially just.  For more information on how your organization can get involved in the fight for a more racially equitable DC, contact me at 202-386-7602.

In service,

George Jones