Blog For The City

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

20161220_132538

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.

_____________

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!

craig-stevens-blog

 


Language Access Improvements at DC Department of Human Services

Haga clic aquí para la versión en español

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.*

Se avecinan mejoras al acceso lingüístico en el Departamento de Servicios Sociales del Distrito de Columbia

Click here for the English version

Los clientes de Bread for the City (Pan para la Ciudad) sin un dominio  o limitado del inglés llevan años batallando para acceder a servicios de gobierno importantes en el Departamento de Servicios Humanos del Distrito de Columbia (DHS, por sus siglas en inglés). Estos servicios incluyen seguro médico para ellos y para sus hijos, cupones para alimentos, y asistencia temporal en efectivo para las familias con hijos.

La ciudad cuenta ya con una ley que exige que el DHS y otras dependencias del Gobierno del Distrito de Columbia proporcionen servicios de interpretación y, en muchos casos, traducción escrita para los clientes que no hablan inglés. Pero, una y otra vez, nuestros clientes se han quejado de que los empleados del DHS se niegan a proporcionarles los servicios de interpretación —dependiendo de que los niños interpreten para los padres—, o de que sencillamente no envían los avisos importantes sobre las prestaciones en su idioma.

dcdhs_logoEn consecuencia, a muchas familias les han denegado o cancelado indebidamente las prestaciones. Muchos clientes que no hablan inglés nunca entendieron que fue lo que pasó con sus prestaciones o erróneamente supusieron que no satisfacían los requisitos para recibirlas. Las familias que querían disputar la cancelación o denegación de sus prestaciones, o el hecho de que el DHS no les proporcionara acceso lingüístico, enfrentaban una pesadilla burocrática de formularios, reuniones y audiencias administrativas. Aun con la mediación o ayuda de un abogado, el proceso de corregir los problemas surgidos a raíz de que, en primer lugar, el DHS no proporcionó acceso lingüístico, era abrumador y frustrante, y, como resultado, muchas familias sencillamente se dieron por vencidas.

En octubre de 2015, Bread for the City, participando como “asesor jurídico”, se unió al Comité de Abogados de Washington para los Derechos Civiles y Asuntos Urbanos y a la firma de abogados Hogan Lovells US LLP para entablar una demanda contra el DHS por su negativa generalizada a proporcionar acceso lingüístico para sus clientes.

Como resultado de la demanda, el DHS se ha comprometido a reestructurar la manera en que brinda el acceso lingüístico y ha dedicado más recursos a cumplir este importante mandato. Sigue siendo un trabajo en progreso — hace sólo unas semanas, entablé otra reclamación de acceso lingüístico contra el DHS en nombre de una persona hispanohablante a la que se le negaron los servicios de interpretación—, pero, en general, estamos viendo mejoras en la manera en la que el DHS brinda acceso lingüístico.

María Amaya Torres, una de las denunciantes de la demanda, señaló que, recientemente, cuando acudió al DHS a renovar sus cupones para alimentos, fue recibida en el vestíbulo por un empleado bilingüe y entrevistada en persona en español, por primera vez en todos los años que lleva acudiendo a la dependencia.

Nos complace anunciar que la demanda quedó oficialmente resuelta hace poco. En apego al acuerdo de conciliación, el DHS ha accedido a instrumentar una nueva estructura formal para asegurarse de que los clientes reciban servicios de interpretación en todo punto de contacto con la dependencia. Si no se le presta acceso lingüístico, el cliente podrá acudir a un defensor designado en cada uno de los centros de servicio, quien de inmediato saldrá en su auxilio antes de abandonar el edificio, tanto para asegurarse de que reciba acceso lingüístico, como para resolver cualquier problema subyacente que tenga con sus prestaciones a consecuencia de una falta de comunicación.

Además, el DHS también establecerá un Grupo Consultivo de Acceso Lingüístico para el Cliente, el cual vigilará que la dependencia cumpla con el acuerdo, mantendrá comunicación con el defensor de los derechos del consumidor asignado al centro de servicio y asesorará al DHS en cuanto a las prácticas de acceso lingüístico.

Agradecemos a las Sras. Amaya Torres y Minerva Nolasco, la otra denunciante de la demanda, por su valentía en la lucha por sus derechos y por los derechos de los demás. Esperamos que, una vez adoptadas las medidas del acuerdo, veremos un cambio verdadero, y el fin del ciclo de cancelación y denegación innecesarias de las prestaciones que ha afectado a tantos residentes del Distrito de Columbia con un dominio nulo o limitado del inglés.

Click here for the English version

*La labor de Allison es posible, en parte, gracias a los fondos adjudicados por la Fundación del Colegio de Abogados del Distrito de Columbia.*

It’s #GivingTuesday!

Have you heard? TODAY is #GivingTuesday­–a global movement to put the giving spirit back into the holiday season. And with a $20,000 matching challenge on the table, Bread for the City is all set and ready to go!

It takes a lot of resources to make sure that our friends and neighbors in DC have what they need to live healthy lives. And with food costs rising and our distribution increasing from three to five days’ worth of food, Bread for the City’s food pantry needs your support now more than ever.6303577754_673d9d35d6_o

Will you help us sustain our work with a $35 donation to our food pantry TODAY? With every dollar up to $20,000 being matched, your generosity will be doubled!

Our goal is to match $20,000 today so that our food services do not have to be restricted or reduced in 2017. As long as the need is here, we’ll be here. Stand with us. Together, we can fight harder against hunger.

We can’t do this work without your support, so please make your #GivingTuesday donation! TODAY ONLY, your gift will DOUBLE!

Let’s get the giving going!

BFC Organizing Post-Election Statement & Call to Action

Things are not getting worse, they are just getting uncovered.  We must hold each other tight and continue to pull back the veil. -Adrienne Maree Brown

America is in crisis, and more visibly so than it has been in at least a generation.

In the wake of the election, first we must sit with our fear, sadness, and anger; lovingly collect ourselves with our communities; and begin planning a new resistance.

As we sit and reflect on the path forward for our communities, city, and country, let us not forget how this country has historically responded to anti-racist movements. The backlash we are witnessing post-election fits into a historical narrative of suppression of progress in movements fighting for the liberation of the most marginalized.

Dramatic shifts like the one we just witnessed with this election show that our movements have polarized society enough to inspire a backlash. It also took opportunity from those who believe in solidarity and justice, and handed it to those who plot to divide us and conquer us.

While the Democratic Party failed, and will likely continue to fail in the near future, our grassroots movements demanding justice and liberation must continue to push forward. When crises befall us and our communities, we must have answers better than those offered by the systems that seek to oppress us.

In this pivotal moment, we cannot afford to remain sullen or complacent, or to allow normalization of bigotry and authoritarianism to set in. The conditions we find ourselves organizing in have shifted, and so our strategies and tactics–what we do, and how we do it–must also shift.

The following principles are coming into focus for us as community organizers at Bread for the City:

Center self-care and healing from trauma. We know the coming socio-political, economic, and physical attacks will land hardest on those already suffering the most. We must pay close attention to the pain and fear that may befall us and our community, and center healing in our work. Even when our attention is pulled in many directions, we must continue to practice self-care as a non-negotiable part of surviving, thriving, and resisting.

Strengthen our relationships and communities as we continue to build our base. As conditions rapidly change over the next three months, it is vital that all people who want to fight for justice and liberation join and create political organizations where we learn, struggle, organize, and fight together. Bread for the City serves as that organization for many of the people we serve, but it is absolutely imperative that we increase our numbers and grow our base. Too many still struggle without community or collective strategy. The boldest and most effective organizing comes from people who are in genuine, trusting, and accountable relationship with each other. In this time of fear and instability, we will only be able to find the consistency and courage needed to fulfill our goals by starting from a foundation based in these powerful relationships. We must build a large, powerful, and politicized base in order to bring to bear our mandate of dignity and justice for all people in our city.

Center the most marginalized among us, while building solidarity among groups of differently marginalized people. Immigrants, refugees, Muslims, low-income people, people of color, women, LGBTQ people, Jewish people, and people with disabilities will face threats that are different but at times overlapping, and always originating from an increasingly unapologetic white supremacist power structure. These are our communities, and it will be imperative that each of us – many of whom live at the intersection of these communities – stand together. As our struggles all intersect, so must our strategies against our common oppressors, if we are to truly transform this country. Our liberations are tied up together – none of us is free until all of us are free.

This is a call to action. These fights will take all of us, and there are many ways to get involved, including:

  • Talk to a Bread for the City community organizer about how you can get involved in our fight against the elimination of low-income folks in DC by emailing us at organizers@breadforthecity.org or calling us at 202-791-3997.
  • Do anything, anything, ANYTHING but nothing.

Abolitionist Frederick Douglass reminds us that: “Power concedes nothing without a demand–it never has, and it never will.” We cannot afford to do nothing. The time to demand justice is now!

BFC’s advocacy program is funded in part by the Open Society Foundation.

Chairman’s Corner: Happy Holiday Helpings!

Welcome to Chairman’s Corner”, where our Board Chair, Paul Taskier, will write about a variety of topics that impact Bread for the City and indeed the community and nation at large. We invite you to Read, Enjoy and Share!

hh-collage-small

Many things about Bread for the City have touched my heart and given me many rewards, but our annual Holiday Helpings drive is the most meaningful part of my year, and it is what originally drew me deeply into the organization.

A few years ago, during a Holiday Helpings fundraising effort at my office, a young staff member came to me with a $29 donation. I knew that $29 was a lot of money for him so I asked him why he was donating. His answer touched me deeply. He said that as a child, the only time he ever had Thanksgiving is when his mother got a turkey from Bread for the City. So now that he was earning, he wanted to give back and help another family have a Thanksgiving. That is the power of community, of caring, of seeing yourself in the shoes of another and sacrificing a bit so that others do not go without.

Thanksgiving is special. For so many of us it is the one time each year that our families come together solely in celebration of family and the simple gift of life. It isn’t about religion, or football, or even the Pilgrims. It’s about being grateful for what we have, for the gift of our parents, our spouses, our children, and others dear to us. We need only look at the world around us to see how blessed we have been, even though we know there is much work yet undone.

It is a special day in my family–my mother’s favorite holiday–celebrating that she was able to escape the horrors of World War II in Europe and establish a family here, surrounding herself with dear friends, surviving family, and the children who anchored her. Nowadays, we celebrate with my wife’s brothers and their families, with a meal that is over the top in quantity even for the twenty-plus family members who surround the table. In fact, it’s much too much when I think about the many people who have no Thanksgiving meal at all.

That is why Bread for the City started Holiday Helpings back in 1996. The idea was that we could help our clients have the dignity of a full holiday meal in their own homes. It resonated with me. I made it my own cause, and did a drive to raise money. That effort brought me deeply into Bread for the City even though I had done volunteer work well before that. And Holiday Helpings still remains my favorite program at Bread, just because it touches that part of us that gives thanks and recognizes that we are not alone in this world.

The goal for Holiday Helpings in 1996 was to raise enough money to distribute about 800 turkeys to our clients and their families. Twenty years later our goal is to distribute 10,000 turkeys. But it is no easy task. Donations to Holiday Helpings are what pay for the food we distribute. We can’t do it without our donors and their generosity. A turkey dinner is now $29 for a family of four, because we Paul Taskier croppedhave become super-efficient in sourcing our foods. Please consider a generous gift of $29 or more to Holiday Helpings.

Let’s make Thanksgiving a holiday where we can all truly give thanks. If it’s one meal, 10 or 100, every gift is gratefully received and put to its best use.

May each of you have a wonderful, happy Thanksgiving.