Blog For The City

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

REGISTER HERE!

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

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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 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.

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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 Neighborhood” 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.