Blog For The City

Gentrification Makes Shaw Resident an Outsider in His Own Neighbourhood

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Ernest Peterson stands outside his home in the Shaw neighborhood in Washington, D.C. He has been living in the area for almost 40 years and has seen the neighborhood shift with the influx of new people. Raquel Zaldivar/NPR

This blog is reposted from a recent article by NPR

Ernest Peterson has spent his entire adult life in Washington, D.C. — almost all of it in Shaw, a neighborhood of colorful row houses and tree-lined side streets about 2 miles from the White House. In Shaw, Peterson bought his first house and started a business. And, for 20 years, on the Saturday before Labor Day, he organized a community picnic at the elementary school near his house. Over the years, friends and neighbors moved away or got locked up. He lost touch with many of them.

But despite living in Shaw for nearly 40 years, Peterson is increasingly starting to feel like an outsider in his neighborhood.

“I go outside, and these people who been here for 15 minutes look at me like, ‘Why you here?’ That’s that sense of privilege they bring wherever they go,” he said in his front yard on a sunny Saturday in November. “I been here since ’78. They been here six months or a year, and they question my purpose for being here.”

In a city facing some of the most intense pressure on housing in the country, the feeling is not uncommon for many of Washington’s longtime residents.

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A newer home is undergoing renovations at the end of a block of row houses in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Newcomers began arriving in the neighborhood more than a decade ago. Raquel Zaldivar/NPR

Read full NPR article “Old Confronts New in a Gentrifying DC Neighbourhood” at http://n.pr/2iyd1Df

Donate to Bread for the City’s Housing Access Program and help DC residents adversely affected by gentrification: http://bit.ly/2hAT5xP

Support Bresha Meadows!

This post was written by Erin Shields*. Erin is a Community Organizer with Bread for the City.

Every day, three women are lost to intimate partner violence (IPV). Almost half are killed while in the process of leaving the relationship.

C10us37W8AEyBvUIt is unlikely that Bresha Meadows knew these grim statistics the day she took action to protect herself and her family from the violent actions allegedly perpetrated by her father. What she did know was her father had terrorized her family and controlled her mother’s every move.

Bresha was 14 years old when she was arrested for allegedly killing her abusive father in Warren, Ohio on July 28, 2016. In an interview conducted shortly after her arrest, her mother, Brandi Meadows, described Bresha as “her hero”. She went on to say, “I wasn’t strong enough to get out and she helped us all.”

Unfortunately, Bresha’s story is not unique. Women and girls, particularly Black women and girls, are often punished and criminalized for defending themselves in instances of domestic or intimate partner violence. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) asserts that nationally, nearly 60% of people in women’s prisons have a history of physical or sexual abuse before being incarcerated. In certain prisons, this number rises to 94%. Sadly, these statistics are unsurprising when placed in the context of mass incarceration in America, where women of color and women living on low incomes are disproportionately affected by mandatory arrest policies for domestic violence.

Last October, Bread for the City’s Community Lawyering Project hosted a teach-in using Bresha’s story to draw connections to larger trends of women and girls facing incarceration for defending themselves and their children. The teach-in explored the history of the criminalization of girls and children, the ways that all the institutions in Bresha’s life were unable to help her, and asked participants to write their dreams for Bresha once she’s free.

Tracy Davis, managing family law attorney in Bread for the City’s legal clinic said, “Events like this teach in are so important to increasing awareness of how systems meant to assist women survivors of color, often don’t hear, understand, or value their voices.”

As Bresha’s next court date approaches, it’s important for us to not forget her or the young girls like her who are still in jail today. Bresha and young people like her need healing and support, not punishment.

In preparation for Bresha’s upcoming court date on January 20th, people across the country will be taking action on January 19th in support Bresha. Check here for ways to support or host actions in your city.

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Erin Shields, Community Organizer at Bread for the City, engages audience at the #FreeBresha Teach-in. The event was hosted by our Community Lawyering Project.

*Erin’s work is made possible in part through private funds awarded by the DC Bar Foundation.

Happy New Year!

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I find myself struggling to find the right words to convey how grateful I am for what you make possible each day.

Over the past twelve months you have uplifted Bread for the City. You saw how our clients struggled, how hard our staff and volunteers worked, and you were moved to act. Thank you.

From all of us in the Bread for the City family, I wish you a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

With love and gratitude,

George A. Jones
Chief Executive Officer

Your donation DOUBLES TODAY!

Through the years, Mrs. Sanders has had some ups and some downs. But through it all, Bread for the City has been there. “Bread for the City has become the one place that I can rely on,” she says.

copy-of-presentation-untitled-designSupporters like you, Friend, enable us to help 34,000 people each year. Will you stand with us in the New Year? Thanks to a generous donor, every dollar you donate today will be matched so your donation will DOUBLE in value!

We must be able to reassure Mrs. Sanders and others like her that we aren’t going anywhere: when food stamps run low, when layoffs or evictions occur, when Medicaid isn’t enough — Bread for the City will be there with groceries, legal assistance, social services, and healthcare.

Please take this year-end matching opportunity to support the critical services that Bread for the City provides. Make a gift today, and stand with us as we fight poverty in DC.

Today & Tomorrow: Your donation DOUBLES!

As we put this difficult year behind us, Bread for the City is preparing to face the challenges of 2017 head on.

With over four decades of service under our belt, it is vital that our services continue and expand in the coming years, especially as budget cuts and changes to healthcare access appear imminentWill you give today to support our work? If you make a gift before midnight on December 31st, your gift will be MATCHED by a generous donor!

untitled-designRecently, we’ve had a number of conversations with our clients, recording their concerns about 2017 so that we are prepared to help. With 31% of DC residents (and 68% of Bread for the City patients) either uninsured or on Medicaid, the vulnerability of being without private insurance weighs heavily on them.

Ms. Kennedy, a client of our WomenStrong DC wellness program and our food program, is worried about her family as she looks ahead. She asks, “Lots of people’s lives depend on Obamacare. What are they going to do if it goes away? How is their health going to be affected? People that have cancer and need treatment, where are they going to turn?”

At Bread for the City’s Medical Clinic, we treat nearly 3,000 patients every year, including children, the elderly, and those facing homelessness. Will you help us reassure Ms. Kennedy that we’ll be here no matter what? Your gift today will help sustain our work as we continue to be a cornerstone of the DC community.

Looking forward in solidarity.

Connecting over Crochet and Art

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This post was written by Brittany Morgan. Brittany is the Health Resource Room Coordinator with Bread for the City.

For the last few years, Bread for the City has been hosting a crochet group that meets every Monday in the medical waiting area. Clients use the time to socialize, share their skills, and enjoy a mutual hobby. Yesterday, our group went on an outing to the Phillips Collection to see the Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series and other related works. The collection focused on the mass exodus of the black community from the rural south to the urban north between the world wars. The exodus, which was prompted by wartime shortages and oppressive conditions, was the largest population shift of African-Americans since the time of slavery. Lawrence’s  collection features 60 panels of the African-American migration and is open until January 8, 2017.

The crochet group enjoyed experiencing their history in a new and expressive way–many noting different events they had never heard of. Many felt connected to the collection  and greatly enjoyed the interactive features and  time-worn objects from everyday life that were incorporated into the pieces. We hope to have many more similar trips that engage our community in history and new experiences.

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I would like to give a special thank you to Bread for the City Board Member and long-time Health resource room volunteer, Marie Hoffman, for making this trip a success and giving our group this wonderful opportunity.

DC’s New Progressive Law reduces Housing Discrimination affecting People of Color

This post was written by Taylor Healy*. Taylor is the Community Lawyering Project Supervisor with Bread for the City.

Yesterday, the DC Council unanimously passed the Fair Criminal Record Screening for Housing Act (“Housing Ban the Box”) – an extension of the Employment Ban the Box law that Bread for the City advocates and clients helped to pass in 2014.

asfd_editedCouncilmembers McDuffie and Bonds introduced the housing version of the bill back in April 2016. The Council then held a hearing in July where Bread organizer, Chearie Phelps-El, and 4 Bread client leaders testified in support of the bill. After months of advocacy efforts by a coalition of organizations including Bread for the City, the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, the Legal Aid Society of DC, Legal Counsel for the Elderly, the ACLU of the National Capital Area, and the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence, DC now has one of – if not THE – most progressive laws in the country reducing housing discrimination against people of color who have already experienced discrimination at the hands of the criminal justice system.

Specifically, the bill will open up housing opportunities for people with criminal records – moving people out of homelessness and into housing much more quickly. The bill:

  1. Prohibits landlords from ever considering prior arrests that did not result in convictions when evaluating an applicant for tenancy.
  2. Prohibits a landlord from making an inquiry into or requiring an applicant to disclose a criminal conviction or pending criminal accusation prior to making a conditional offer for housing.
  3. Requires a landlord to give an applicant the financial, employment, criminal and rental history criteria used in deciding whether to rent or lease to an applicant before accepting an application fee.
  4. After making a conditional offer to an applicant, a landlord can only inquire about certain convictions or pending criminal accusations that have occurred in the past 7 years – that 7 year clock starts from the date of conviction and NOT release (a huge win for our coalition).
  5. If an applicant has a pending charge or conviction in the last 7 years for one of those crimes that can be considered, then the landlord still has to look at 6 factors to determine if the criminal record is related to the applicant’s ability to be a good tenant:
    • nature and severity of the crime;
    • age of the applicant at the time of the crime;
    • how long it’s been since the crime occurred;
    • any information on rehabilitation or good conduct since the crime occurred;
    • the degree that the crime would impact other tenants or the property if it reoccurred;
    • and whether the crime took place in the applicant’s rental unit.
  6. If the landlord decides to deny the application after considering those factors, then the denial has to be made in writing and state the reason for the denial and advise the applicant of their right to file a complaint at the Office of Human Rights.

We want to thank Councilmember Kenyon McDuffie for his strong leadership on this bill and Councilmember Bonds for co-introducing and supporting the progression of the bill. Staff members of the Judiciary Committee (Chanell Autrey, Jontae Clapp and Kate Mitchell) also deserve special recognition for working so collaboratively with the community to improve the bill. Another huge win towards increasing access to affordable housing!

 

*BFC’s Community Lawyering work is made possible in part through public and private funds awarded by the DC Bar Foundation.*

Paid Family Leave: Especially Good for Residents East of the River and DC’s Small Businesses

This is an excerpt of a blog written on December 12th, 2016 by Ilana Boivie for the DC Fiscal Policy Institute…

family-leavePaid family leave—adopted in an initial vote last Tuesday by the DC Council—is poised to make a big difference in the lives of workers, while also strengthening DC’s economy. The benefits will be broad, but especially helpful to some. Low-income communities of color will see tremendous gains in economic security and public health from having paid leave to care for themselves, a new child, or an ill family member. And small businesses will benefit from being able to provide a benefit to their workers that many currently cannot.

Read full article HERE.

 

The Cost of Giving…

Our guest author for this post is BFC Board member, Craig Stevens.

As we prepare for the new presidential administration, Sam Cooke’s foresight rings true: “A Change is Gonna Come”.

Some of the changes the administration is likely to make could impact charitable giving incentives in a big way. As a Bread for the City Board Member and a partner in Aronson LLC’s Nonprofit and Association Industry Services Group, I have an idea: Give today!

Under Mr. Trump’s tax plan, charitable giving may fall in 2017 by at least 4.5 percent and by as much as 9 percent, that’s about $13.5 billion-$26.1 billion. As a result, many families are front-loading their charitable giving plans, according to Robert Frank of CNBC’s Inside Wealth.

 If you expect to make a monetary donation to Bread for the City in 2017, you might consider taking advantage of the current after-tax incentives and increase your giving before year’s end.

Here are the details:

The Tax Policy Center states that President-Elect Donald J. Trump’s 2017 tax plan increases the cost of giving by reducing the incentive to do so, as well as raises the cost of giving for those at all income levels by:

  • Raising the after-tax cost of charitable giving. For example, a donation of $100 would change the after-tax cost from approximately $60 to $67.
  • Raising the standard deduction to $15,000 for individuals and $30,000 for couples. This means that a number of taxpayers who itemize today would opt for a standard deduction; this could result in an overall giving reduction of 60%.
  • Capping itemized deductions at $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for couples. This means that many high-income taxpayers would lose their tax incentive to give to charity based on state and local tax deductions alone.

Bread for the City hopes the incoming administration will deliver on its poverty fighting promises. In the meantime, as supporters of this organization, there are steps we can take to ensure that Bread for the City can continue serving its clients. Step 1? Donate more in 2016.

Of course, matters like this are uncertain and much can change. However, if there is an increase in after tax cost of giving in 2017, you wouldn’t want to have missed the opportunity to have given in 2016.

Thank you for helping us do what we do!

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Language Access Improvements at DC Department of Human Services

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Bread for the City’s limited and non-English speaking clients have struggled for years to get access to important government services at the DC Department of Human Services (DHS). These services include medical insurance for themselves and their children, food stamps, and temporary cash assistance for families with children.

DC already has a law that requires DHS and other DC government agencies to provide interpretation and, in many cases, written translation for customers who do not speak English. But time and time again, our clients have reported that DHS employees refuse to provide interpretation, rely on children to interpret for parents, or simply fail to send important notices about their benefits in their language.dcdhs_logo

As a result, many families have been wrongly denied benefits or have had their benefits cut off.  Many non-English speaking customers never understood what went wrong with their benefits or mistakenly assumed they did not qualify. Families who wanted to challenge their termination or denial of benefits or DHS’s failure to provide language access faced a bureaucratic nightmare of forms, meetings, and administrative hearings. Even with an attorney involved, the process of correcting problems that arose from DHS’ failure to provide language access in the first place, was daunting and frustrating, and as a result, many families just gave up.

In October 2015, Bread for the City, participating as “of counsel,” joined the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and the law firm of Hogan Lovells US LLP in bringing a lawsuit against DHS for its widespread failure to provide language access to its customers.

As a result of the lawsuit, DHS has committed to restructure the way it provides language access and has directed more resources towards this important mandate. It is still a work in progress- just a few weeks ago I filed another language access complaint against DHS on behalf of a Spanish-speaker who was denied interpretation – but overall, we are seeing improvements in the way DHS provides language access.

Maria Amaya Torres, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, reported that when she recently went to DHS to re-certify for food stamps she was greeted in the lobby by a bilingual employee and was interviewed in person in Spanish, for the first time in all her years of going to the agency.

We are pleased to announce that recently, the lawsuit was officially settled! Under the settlement agreement, DHS has agreed to implement a new formal structure to ensure that customers are provided with interpretation at every point of contact with the agency. If a customer is not provided with language access, they will be able to contact a designated Ombudsman at each service center who will immediately come out to assist the customer before they leave the building, both to ensure they receive language access and to resolve any underlying problems with their benefits that resulted from a communication failure.

Additionally, DHS will also establish a Language Access Customer Advisory Group which will monitor DHS’s compliance with the settlement, communicate with ombudsmen at the DHS service center, and advise DHS on language access practices.

We thank Ms. Amaya Torres and Minerva Nolasco, the other plaintiff in the lawsuit, for their courage in fighting for their rights and the rights of others. We are hopeful that once the settlement measures are put into place there will be a real change and an end to the cycle of unnecessary termination and denial of benefits that has impacted too many DC residents who are limited and non-English proficient.

Haga clic aquí para la versión en español

*Allison Miles-Lee’s work is made possible in part through funds awarded by the DC Bar Foundation.*