Blog For The City

Immigrant domestic violence survivor detained while seeking legal assistance

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that an undocumented woman was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents at a courthouse in El Paso while she was seeking a protective order against a boyfriend she accused of domestic violence. This action, like the Executive Order that supports it, undermines public safety, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and the tireless efforts of organizations like Bread for the City to make our country safe for all people.

While the facts of the case are alarming enough, what is even more troubling is that the ICE agents are believed to have received the tip on her hearing from the women’s abuser. Abusers often use a victim’s undocumented status, and the threat of deportation, as a way to control them and force them to endure additional violence. The actions of the ICE agents reinforced the power dynamic between abuser and victim, and may deter future victims of intimate partner violence from coming forward and seeking safety.

This action is in direct violation of VAWA which provides important protections to undocumented survivors so that they may seek safety and escape their perpetrators. VAWA includes provisions “to protect the confidentiality of immigrant victims and prevent ICE from engaging in enforcement actions in sensitive locations”, as they did at the courthouse in El Paso.

At Bread for the City, we recognize that for those seeking to escape an abuser, legal recourse can often be the only way out. Too often, though, legal assistance is unavailable to those who need it the most. Through our Domestic Violence Community Legal Services Project  our attorneys serve very low-income DC residents, 99% of whom are women, who have very few other options for addressing dangerous situations.

We believe that all survivors, regardless of immigration status, are entitled to the protections provided by the law. We are more committed than ever to standing with survivors and advocating for their safety, respect, and dignity. Please join us by supporting this important work.

Bread for the City’s Domestic Violence Community Legal Services Project is funded in part by the DC Bar Foundation.

Beyond Second Chances: Returning Citizens’ Re-entry Struggles and Successes in the District of Columbia

Below is an excerpt from the “Beyond Second Chances” report, originally posted by Council for Court Excellence here.

Beyond Second ChancesD.C. citizens returning to their communities from prison face an “incredibly complex” path to re-entry, according to a new report from the Council for Court Excellence (CCE).

Through a review of previously unreleased data and a series of in-depth interviews with returning citizens and service providers, this report, Beyond Second Chances: Returning Citizens’ Re-entry Struggles and Successes in the District of Columbia, provides the most complete picture to date of the challenges that returning citizens face in D.C. and offers recommendations to help them succeed when reintegrating into their communities.

“In a city where 1 in 22 adults is under some form of correctional control on any given day, easing the path home will benefit thousands of D.C. residents, their families, and the entire city by helping returning citizens move beyond second chances to fulfill their potential,” said June Kress, CCE executive director.

According to the report, D.C.’s returning citizens face a variety of challenges, including:

  • Different standards and procedures among various D.C. and federal criminal justice agencies.
  • Isolation from necessary local support systems due to being held in federal prisons around the country, sometimes as far away as the West Coast.
  • Lack of access to stable and affordable housing, health care, and child care.
  • Unemployment and lack of training or education for jobs in D.C.
  • Poorly managed halfway houses for returning citizens.
  • Few services designed for specific populations, including women, youth, and LGBTQ people.

Click here to read the Executive Summary.

Click here to read the full report.

A letter to Mayor Bowser: We are proud to be a Sanctuary City

Below is a letter penned by DC Fair Budget Coalition (signed by Bread for the City) and sent to Mayor Bowser and the Council of The District of Columbia asking them to keep DC a safe sanctuary city.

Fair Budget logoIn the wake of the 2016 presidential election, the residents of the District of Columbia—who overwhelmingly opposed the presidency of Donald Trump—are shaken and deeply concerned about the future of this country and of this city. Multiple communities, including Black people, Latinx, and other people of color, immigrants, Muslims, and the LGBTQ community have already seen a significant increase in assaults, hate crimes, and a general sentiment of hatred and bias.

President Trump not only promulgated racist, misogynist, and xenophobic rhetoric throughout his campaign, but he has now appointed individuals to serve in his cabinet with long, proven track records of openly oppressing marginalized people. On January 25th, 2017, he signed an Executive Order that threatens to strip the District of federal funding because of its status as a Sanctuary City. Additional, there is a very real possibility that federal policy and budget decisions will threaten to destroy our already inadequate social safety net for generations to come, including the repeal of The Affordable Care Act. We, as a city and as a society, all depend on this safety net in various ways throughout our day-to-day lives; however low-income people, seniors, and a disproportionate share of people of color are particularly vulnerable and would experience the most dire consequences.

We, the DC Fair Budget Coalition and all signatories of this letter, are prepared to resist these threats. We are proud of being a Sanctuary City, and we appreciate your reinforcement of that commitment. The District of Columbia should be a safe place for all people to live and work, particularly people of color who have been historically disenfranchised and targeted by discriminatory policies. We strongly urge you to affirm your willingness to fight to protect DC residents—and all who dwell, work, and visit here—against the threats that will likely soon come.

Our city has a long and proud legacy of being a national leader on civil rights, workers’ rights, immigrant rights, women’s reproductive health, and LGBTQ rights. As the nation’s capital, DC needs to maintain this standard and never waver in our steadfastness to protect our safety net, or in our determination to fight for our residents, particularly those who face the greatest threats under this administration. This includes fighting for the District’s right to create and enforce our own laws, as well as manage our own budget without undue federal influence. We trust that you are prepared to lead this fight.

Now is the time to invest in policies that will ensure that all people and families have the social, physical, and financial security that they need to navigate the immediate and long-term impacts of a Trump Presidency. As a first step, we ask that you, our elected leadership, pledge to replace any federal dollars—taken from public housing or other affordable housing, homeless services, healthcare, public benefits, transportation, education, workforce development, women’s healthcare, or any other of the vital services our residents depend upon—with local funds.

That may ultimately require a significant output of local dollars, however we believe you could raise additional revenues by taking some of the following measures:

  • Increase corporate tax rates for multi-national and multi-state corporations operating in the District;
  • Withdraw all subsidies and abatements from developers and corporations doing business in the District who are not complying with local hiring and affordable housing requirements or wage and other labor laws;
  • Eliminate District subsidies for housing providers and property owners who operate housing units with substandard or unlawful living conditions;
  • Increase taxes on developers building luxury and high-end condominiums;
  • Revisit the tax cut triggers that automatically spend any increased revenue over 3% on tax cuts;
  • Reconsider subsidized development projects that do not meet basic resident needs like the streetcar, soccer stadium, and Wizard’s practice facility;
  • Consider using money from the fund balance and reserve;
  • Raise taxes on wealthy individuals and families, particularly those whose federal income tax rates may be lowered in the next federal budget;

We strongly oppose any local dollars being spent towards the opening or operation of Muslim registration centers. We expect you to ensure that our local police do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement that may break up families or that targets racial/ethnic groups or religious communities and that you will support efforts to protect these communities against dangerous immigration raids.

The Fair Budget Coalition will release our Budget Report in February 2017. In this report, we will outline a list of investments DC can make that are critical to protecting low-income residents and people of color within the District. Now, more than ever, we must double down on our commitment to addressing the fundamental racial, economic, and social inequity in our city and ensuring that everyone who lives and works in DC has access to basic necessities and can feel safe throughout the city.

Amidst the echoes of the chant to “Drain the Swamp,” we have an opportunity to show the country and the world the true character of our great city. We urge you to demonstrate your leadership and fight for DC and all of its residents.

Bread for the City Stands with Immigrants and Refugees

20170129_140322On Friday, President Trump signed an executive order banning all refugees from entering the country for 120 days — or even indefinitely, in the case of Syria — while barring citizens of a select group of predominantly Muslim nations from traveling to the U.S. for 90 days.

As a nonprofit employer of 110+ people in Washington, DC, and neighbor of our newest resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Bread for the City is called to respond to this attack on human dignity. This xenophobic ban, which is having excruciating consequences for Muslim immigrants and refugees, goes against Bread for the City’s values of dignity, respect, service, and justice. 

While the majority of our clients are longtime Washingtonians, we serve a small but growing number of immigrants and refugees, and our staff and Board of Directors include immigrants and refugees.  We worry about our community, having already seen evidence of the impact of this order across the country. From the Clemson University graduate who was prevented from boarding a plane from Dubai to Washington after 7 years of legal residence in South Carolina, to the Syrian woman with a valid tourist visa who was detained in Chicago as she attempted to visit her mother who just undergone surgery for cancer, there has already been a cost paid in human suffering for this inexplicable and cruel act.

20170129_142412Bread for the City supports Washington, DC’s status as a sanctuary city. We stand with the community groups and individuals who have fought to maintain this status, as well as with Mayor Bowser, Councilmembers White and Grosso, and the rest of the DC City Council, in affirming that all of our neighbors should feel safe in the District. Attacks on sanctuary cities are attacks on us all: our clients, our staff, our neighbors, our friends, and our families.

While the events of the past week are profoundly disappointing for anyone who cares about human rights, we know we are stronger together, and we are heartened by the protests we witnessed across our city and the world.

Bread for the City rejects in the strongest of terms, policies that divide us. We affirm the fundamental dignity and worth of all human beings.

Stay tuned later this week as we discuss what comes next in the fight for justice and dignity, and how you can help.

To Achieve True Public Safety, Bread for the City Demands DC Council Prioritize Investments in Affordable Housing over Policing

This post was written by Erin Shields. Erin is a Community Organizer with Bread for the City’s Community Lawyering Project.

In the midst of a housing, homelessness and displacement crisis, the DC government is spending about three times as much on jails and policing as it is spending on housing. Bread for the City organizers and community members demand the council prioritize funding for affordable housing in the city.

On Tuesday, Councilmember Vincent Gray along with co-introducers Jack Evans (Ward 2), Trayon White (Ward 8), Kenyan McDuffie (Ward 5), Anita Bonds (At-large), and co-sponsor Mary Cheh (Ward 3), filed emergency legislation to increase funding to DC’s Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) by nearly $63 million. Submitted as emergency legislation, the bill would double select police officers’ salaries in efforts to keep them on the force.

In response to more than $60 million proposed by Councilmember Vincent Gray for increased Metropolitan Police Department salaries, Bread for the City amplifies community members’ demand that the DC Council rethink what true public safety means in the District.

Recent studies show that access to immediate, permanent, low-barrier supportive housing is associated with decreased time in jail, as well as reduced use of emergency medical services. Numerous studies show that homelessness increases the likelihood of recidivism. When people have access to basic needs such as housing and jobs, crime rates fall and our city becomes safer.

Out of a $13 billion FY17 budget, DC is spending $235 million of local funds on affordable housing, compared to approximately $700 million on jailing and police programs, infrastructure and staff. Though Mayor Bowser’s commitment of $235 million is more than her predecessors have spent on housing, it still is not nearly enough to stem the housing crisis for tens of thousands of DC residents in communities of color, and certainly not enough to make good on Bowser’s promise to end chronic homelessness.

Ultimately, we must begin to consider the government’s investments not on the basis of what has been done in the past, but rather, we must demand investments that move us closer to meeting the actual need–a number closer to $5 billion. Homelessness is killing people. The People for Fairness Coalition has held vigil for nearly 100 homeless individuals who have died on the street. It is not enough for this Council to simply invest more than previous administrations. A billion dollar crisis will require annual investments of hundreds of millions of dollars. The District government needs a plan that will get it to the point of making the necessary investments in deeply affordable housing, and spending $63 million on incarceration and policing does not move the city any closer to its goal of housing all of its residents.

Last Fall, residents facing homelessness or housing instability and their supporters, rallied to demand greater support from Mayor Muriel Bowser’s FY2018 DC budget. The residents spoke out about their negative experiences with incarceration and housing struggles, and decried a city budget that puts three times more money into jails and police than affordable housing. They called on the mayor to put more money into housing – vouchers, construction and preservation – than she puts into jails and police. How the government spends our money is a good way to tell what their priorities are – what does DC’s budget tell us? They aren’t invested in our futures; they’re invested in our incarceration.

Bread for the City amplifies community members’ demand that the DC’s Council rethink what true public safety means in the District. Safety is dignified housing, access to preventative healthcare, jobs with living wages, and access to healthy food. Bread for the City community leaders call on the DC Council to treat affordable housing with an urgency matching the intensity of the housing crisis in people’s everyday lives.

Join us as we discuss: “Making the Most of DC’s 2018 Budget”

DC Fiscal Pol InstProgress Amidst Uncertainty: Making the Most of DC’s 2018 Budget

Mayor Bowser & the DC Council will face big issues as they craft a DC budget this year — from addressing the homelessness crisis, to strengthening Metro, to coping with likely federal budget cuts.

Please join us on Tuesday, January 31st to learn about the city’s budget outlook from some DC nonprofits and residents. This forum will also discuss ways to address fiscal policies that limit the city’s ability to address the needs of DC residents and businesses.

Date: Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Location: Public Welfare – True Reformer Building
1200 U Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009-4443
Time: 9:00am – 12:00pm


Co-sponsors include:
Children’s Law Center
DC Alliance of Youth Advocates
DC Fiscal Policy Institute
Fair Budget Coalition
Jews United for Justice
Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia
Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO
Bread for the City

Washington Interfaith Network

Gentrification Makes Shaw Resident an Outsider in His Own Neighbourhood


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 re-posted 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.


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 Neighborhood” at

Donate to Bread for the City’s Housing Access Program and help DC residents adversely affected by gentrification:

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.


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!


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.