Blog For The City

A Note to the Bread for the City Community

Bread for the City Community,

Tuesday’s election results have stirred up a wide range of emotions for many of us in the Bread for the City family. The past year was filled with hopes and dreams as well as angst and anxiety as our process of electing a new president unfolded. Forty-three years ago, our founders committed to fighting poverty and the conditions that perpetuate it. And for 43 years, we have fought. Many of the promises made in this campaign – including targeting marginalized groups, eliminating the Affordable Care Act, and limiting charitable giving incentives – threaten our ability to serve our community and to do it in an atmosphere of dignity and respect.

Today we gathered Bread for the City employees for a powerful lunchtime discussion. I spoke about our organization’s core values of dignity, respect, service and justice. We have always celebrated diversity, and fought against sentiments that marginalize the community where we live and serve. Our staff discussed our commitment to come together as an even stronger, more determined, and united community.

Over the coming days we’ll all seek to come to terms with the results, and move forward despite them. We will continue to refine our advocacy efforts to affect change in our country and community. We will join together in candid, productive dialogue, and we will continue to lead as we have for the last 43 years. And, of course, we will honor our four decades long commitment to providing critical safety net services to people experiencing poverty.

Our community members are already asking what they can do to help Bread for the City. To that I say, continue to give as you always have. Share your time. Share your ideas. And donate the critical resources that we need to fight poverty in the District and beyond. 

Yours in service,

George A. Jones

Chief Executive Officer

 


Language Access: More work to be done!

Last year, I blogged about an important bill that Councilmember David Grosso introduced – the Language Access for Education Amendment Act. This bill proposes to amend the DC Language Access Act of 2004 to allow for DC government agencies to be fined if they fail to provide language access.

The DC Language Access Act of 2004 was groundbreaking legislation that was intended to ensure the rights of DC’s diverse community to access government services. This law already requires DC government agencies to provide interpretation–in all languages–for limited and non-English proficient (LEP/NEP) individuals that seek to access services, and in some cases government agencies must provide written translations as well.

This is an important law for LEP/NEP Bread for the City clients. It means that a French speaking mother has the right to an interpreter during a special education meeting at her son’s DC Public School. A Spanish speaking family has a right to receive a notice in Spanish from the Department of Human Services letting them know that they need to come in for a meeting in order for their medical insurance to continue. And an Amharic speaker has the right to an interpreter when he is picked up by the Metropolitan Police Department and charged with a crime. If this law did not exist, many Bread for the City clients and other DC residents and visitors would struggle to access basic government services.

DC Councilman David Grosso with the Language Access Coalition

As good as the Language Access Act of 2004 is on paper, in the more than ten years it has been in existence it has become clear that it needs strengthening. The current law lacks “teeth.

Under the law, if someone claims that a DC government agency failed to provide language access to an LEP/NEP individual, the DC Office of Human Rights (OHR) conducts an investigation. If OHR finds that the agency has violated the law, it tells the agency to take “corrective actions” and makes a written finding of non-compliance. But agencies have no obligation to follow OHR’s corrective actions, and the finding of non-compliance has no financial or other impact on the agency.

As a result, DC government agencies simply ignore the law in many instances. One government agency, the Department of Human Services (DHS) has continued to violate the law over and over in spite of multiple findings of non-compliance by OHR.

In response, one year ago, a group of attorneys (with Bread for the City “of counsel”) filed a DC Human Rights Act Class Action lawsuit against DHS on behalf of LEP/NEP individuals who were denied language access. Just last week, I met with another Spanish-speaker at Bread for the City whose food stamps were terminated after DHS failed to provide an interpreter when she went in to re-certify.

The Language Access for Education Amendment Act would not impose new requirements on DHS or other DC government agencies to provide language access. However, under the bill, OHR would order DC government agencies to pay a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000 for each finding of non-compliance with the law. The complainant will get to keep half of the money, and half will go to a fund to promote language access in DC government. If agencies continue to violate the law in the same manner, they may face doubled fines.

This fine structure is exactly the “teeth” that the existing law needs in order to make DC government agencies take note and come into compliance.

The bill has unanimously passed through two DC Council committees already–the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Education–and is just waiting to go before the Committee on the Whole before it can be put up for a vote.

It is crucial that the bill be set for a vote this year so that it does not die out. We urge you to contact your Councilmembers to let them know that our LEP/NEP community members deserve a language access law that is actually enforceable!

The work of Allison Miles-Lee and Bread for the City’s Legal Clinic is funded in part through private and public dollars awarded by the DC Bar Foundation.

Making the Case for Community Lawyering

vs-clients-in-front-of-dc-council-520x388Excerpt from an article posted at Clearinghouse Community:

For 42 years, Bread for the City has delivered poverty-relief services in the District of Columbia. For the last 25 years, a key part of that relief has been given through legal services.

In the 1990s the social services staff noticed that many of their clients were routinely being denied disability benefits. What started as an ad-hoc initiative to try and help more clients burgeoned into the current iteration of the legal clinic, where attorneys assist clients not only on disability benefits but also in the areas of public benefits, family law and domestic violence, and housing law.

Read the full article: “Making the Case for Community Lawyering” HEREhttp://bit.ly/2fzaesl

Watch the video “Making the Case for Community Lawyering”

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

Guess What?! It’s Turkey Time!

sylvia-ford-scott-2There is so much excitement in the air right now. Why? Holiday Helpings kicks off today!

That’s right, it’s turkey time. The leaves are turning, winter coats have been taken out of storage, and we’ve got 10,000 families to feed this holiday season!

We need your help. Can we count on your gift of $29 to Bread for the City today?

At Bread for the City, we firmly believe that our neighbors who are living below the federal poverty line shouldn’t have to forego holiday celebrations. That’s why we come together through our Holiday Helpings program to provide free holiday meals—a turkey and all the trimmings—for our clients to enjoy at home with family and friends.

This year, we will provide turkey dinners to 10,000 families. Families like Sylvia Ford-Scott’s.

Sylvia is a longtime client, volunteer, and supporter of Bread for the City. Here’s what she has to say about Holiday Helpings:

“Whoever may come over during the holidays – friends, neighbors, or family – I have to have enough to feed them. That’s just how I was raised.”

You can help bring the excitement of the holiday season to one, two, or even 10 families like Sylvia’s with your donation of $29, $58, or $290 today.

Here’s wishing you the best of holidays!

21 outstanding volunteers celebrated at BFC’s Annual Good Hope Awards

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They come in all shapes and sizes, from all corners of the metro area, and all walks of life. They are lawyers, business owners, retirees, students, and everything in between. Above all, they are selfless and committed to being of service to their community. Luckily for us, Bread for the City is a part of that community!

At the 2016 Bread for the City Good Hope Awards, we honored 21 of our dedicated volunteers in fine style. The Awards, hosted at Hotel Monaco on Thursday, October 13, recognized these remarkable 18 individuals and three (3) organizations for their support to the organization over the past year.

Keynote speaker Will Jawando, highlighted the importance of dignity in working with the community and how Bread for the City embodies that in its approach to helping. He spoke of his own childhood experience of growing up and depending on the support of organizations like BFC. His message was powerful resonated with the audience.

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Hawkin’s award was accepted posthumously by friend Mike Hopkins.

Recently, Bread for the City lost one of our own, Ms. Dorothy Hawkins. A special award was presented posthumously to the former board member for her outstanding dedication to Bread for the City in executing our mission to help people. This award will henceforth be named in Hawkins’ honor and presented annually to an outstanding board member.

 

 

Join us in congratulating these outstanding Bread for the City volunteers:

LEGAL – Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis

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SE SOCIAL SERVICES – Richael Faithful

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FINANCE – Esther Kim

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Esther’s award was accepted in her absence by Ally Blaine (pictured).

 

NW SOCIAL SERVICES – John Heath

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SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE – Barbara Flint & Willnet Stokes

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NW FOOD PANTRY – Wayne Gardner

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SE FOOD PANTRY – Yahweh Outreach International

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DEVELOPMENT – MCN Build

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ADVOCACY – Client Organizers: Nicole Baker, Lark Catoe-Emerson, Charles Crews, Vielka Downer, Marilyn Harris, Robert Harvey, Adrianne Hill, Rashad Johnson, Ebony Price, Taha Shabazz, Wilnett Stokes, Antoinette Williams, Schronda Williams

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If you would like to support Bread for the City as a volunteer please sign up online at www.breadforthecity.org/volunteer.


Our community needs affordable housing, not more police and jails!

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

On October 1st, Bread for the City clients, community members, and allies rallied outside DC General and DC Jail to demand that DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and the District’s City Council invest more in housing than they do in police and prisons. In its current FY17 budget, DC is spending about $700 million on jails and police, compared to only $235 million on housing programs – a 3:1 ratio.

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photo by: Robyn Di Giacinto

Bread for the City client organizers intentionally chose the location of the rally to highlight the disparity in funding between the city’s housing and policing budgets. With a demand that Mayor Bowser “Balance the Scales”, organizers used images of Lady Liberty’s Scales of Justice to juxtapose the city’s police and housing budgets.

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photo by : Robyn Di Giacinto

Client organizers, all deeply impacted by housing and incarceration issues, strategized, canvassed, and prepared for weeks prior to the event. Their efforts paid off when nearly 75 people joined the rally demanding Mayor Bowser and the District’s City Council prioritize the housing needs of the city’s most vulnerable. Coming through loudly and clearly, client leaders Nkechi Feaster, Nicole Baker, Brother Rahshad Johnson, and Charles Crews connected their personal struggles to the broader demand for city investments in housing.

“The lack of housing has had a negative effect on my children,” said Nicole Baker, a Bread for the City community leader. “Housing stability would give some mental stability, which would help create a more productive and healthy environment for my children to grow with the opportunities they deserve.”

Their words were echoed by tenant leaders from Brookland Manor and members of the District’s large Ethiopian and Eritrean communities, many of whom are refugees who face additional barriers to housing and employment. Issues of affordable housing affect everyone, particularly those who have been historically marginalized in this city.

Organizers also passed out postcards for attendees to sign asking Mayor Bowser to invest more money into housing than into police and incarceration, and to attend a community meeting this December to discuss affordable housing issues specifically.

Housing is a human right, that is why we have to fight. Join Bread for the City and residents of the District living on low incomes as we demand a #Right2DC.

See coverage of the rally by WAMU here.

Stay tuned to Bread for the City’s #Right2DC campaign by following us at @BFCorganizing, or emailing us at organizers@breadforthecity.org

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photo by: Robyn Di Giacinto

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photo by: Robyn Di Giacinto

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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


Tons of Creativity at the Fall Craft Bazaar

For the love of creativity and supporting our budding business women, Bread for the City’s WomenStrong DC program hosts regular bazaars to help our members work on economic empowerment. At the last Fall Craft Bazaar, four of our talented WSDC women sold self-made items ranging from earrings and stretch jewelry to incense, soaps shampoos, and baked goodies.

Here are their stories:

30179990411_8195b39135_mJune: For three years, June taught sewing at Bread for the City with the WomenStrong DC program. Her grandmother taught her to bake and sew when she was 8 years old, and she thought it was important to pass on some of those skills to her colleagues. She has a master’s in Liberal Studies but it is her undergrad minor in Food and Nutrition that comes in handy when she’s making her delicious treats including cookies, brownies, and cakes. These are all her own recipes. “Who ever thought of making lemon cookies with chocolate chip and made ‘em taste right,” she says.

29634718954_a07d6bdc08_mPeggy: “It’s pretty easy to make these actually; it’s the ideas that take the longest.” Peggy has been making beaded necklaces and stretch jewelry for a while, but at the Fall Craft Bazaar, she showcased her talent at making earrings. “I’d been making them for a while actually, but then I went through a rough patch and I just kind of stopped. In talking with the ladies and being able to bounce ideas off them, I’ve been getting back on track; the energy is up, the sleeping is regular and the creativity is back.”

30149930452_e9ff9a691c_mSakinah: Sakinah makes candles, washcloth dolls, fragrances, burning oils, sugar scrubs, bath salts, shower gels and soaps. This all began with her trying to find a soap for her daughter’s eczema. “It was difficult. Hardly anything worked and if it did it was so expensive. So I started trying things myself to see if I could come up with something that was effective and affordable.” It worked, and then other people started enjoying her soap so she started vending them in 2006 and has since turned it into a small business.

30179995811_4d51252724_mStephanie: “I sew, I make bags and accessories. I take worn jeans and I make them into bags and purses.” Stephanie has been doing this for 3 years; a talent she picked up from interactions with the ladies at Women Strong DC. “I just bought a sewing machine one day and started playing around until the designs started turning out good. I also picked up a few things here and there from the senior people Women Strong.”

Take a look at the images from our Fall Craft Bazaar here: http://bit.ly/2d7Qiet. If you’re interested in purchasing any of the items we’ve reviewed, please contact Donnie at dhampton@breadforthecity.org.

Bread for the City’s WomenStrong DC is proud to be a consortium member of WomenStrong International (WSI), a network of organizations worldwide dedicated to empowering women and girls and to sharing what works. For more, and to learn what you can do as part of this effort, see www.womenstrongintl.org.


DC Fiscal Policy Institute speaks on DC’s Widening Racial Inequality

“As our friends at the DC Fiscal Policy Institute remind us, there is still much work to do to create an equitable and just city for all DC residents.”
-George A. Jones, CEO Bread for the City

Extracted from a letter written by Ed Lazere, Executive Director of DC Fiscal Policy Institute, the passage below highlights the widening racial inequality in Washington, DC even as the city undergoes substantial economic growth in this post-recession period. Take a quick read…


poverty-rate-2007-2015-revisedAn economic recovery is supposed to help more and more people the longer it lasts —  but that’s not happening in DC. Our economy has been rebounding since 2010, and median income has risen sharply following a nationwide trend. Yet this growth has not reduced poverty. Over 110,000 DC residents lived in poverty in 2015, according to new Census figures — that’s 18,500 more than in 2007.

The District’s Black residents are bearing the brunt of the city’s unbalanced recovery. The median income of Black DC households has not grown since 2007 and stood at just $41,000 last year – one third of the typical white household income. Black DC residents are the only racial or ethnic group to face a higher poverty rate today than before the Great Recession, with 27 percent living on less than $24,000 for a family of four.

These findings underscore that communities of color in our city suffer from a lack of opportunity to create a better life for themselves and their families.

2Amidst this troubling news, there is evidence that the social safety net can have a positive impact. The share of District residents who lack health insurance fell for the second year in a row, and about 17,000 more residents had health coverage in 2015 than in 2013. This progress is thanks to Medicaid and affordable health plans offered through DC Health Link.

Our success as a city depends on opportunity for everyone. The failure to achieve that will leave us with even wider racial and economic inequality and a less stable community. However, the success of programs like Medicaid and DC Health Link proves that we have the tools to level the playing field and expand economic opportunity.

You can read DCFPI’s full analysis of the new Census income and poverty figures here.

-Ed Lazere, Executive Director of DC Fiscal Policy Institute


Triple harvest for City Orchard in August!

Tomatoes, okras, sweet peppers, hot peppers, and the beginning of apple season! That’s what August was about at City Orchard.

combo-2We’ve TRIPLED our harvest compared to the last three months, thanks to the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) and Purple Mountain Organics who let us glean vegetables from their sections of the farm. With the decline in the production of early summer berries, our team has shifted focus to summer vegetables.

Also in August, the Sustainable Agriculture team hosted 13 orchard events with groups of 5-125 volunteers totaling over 400 volunteers, harvesting in excess of 1,500 lbs of fresh produce. This equates to over 2,100 servings of fresh, nutrient-dense fruits, vegetables, and herbs distributed to DC residents through both of our farm to pantry operations.

combo-1Health Benefits

Berries have a low glycemic index compared to most fruits, so they’re great for fighting diabetes and regulating fluctuating blood sugar. They are also nutrient-dense and full of antioxidants.

An apple a day really does keep the doctor away. Apples are rich in antioxidants, flavanoids and dietary fiber… they help fight cancer, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.

Sweet potato greens are rich in vitamin B, beta carotene, iron, calcium, zinc and protein, and they are particularly anti-diabetic and anti-bacterial.

img_1997-croppedDo you know any people, groups or organizations that would like meaningful volunteer work and team-building experiences? They can sign up to volunteer here.


BFC Hosts “March III” Book Signing with Congressman John Lewis and Andrew Aydin

29762840622_a43144e37d_oLast Thursday, Bread for the City had the honor of hosting Civil Rights icon Congressman John Lewis and author Andrew Aydin at our SE Center for a book signing of March III, the third in a series of graphic novels.

Published in August, and currently #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list, the novel is a powerful retelling of key events from the civil rights era from Lewis’ perspective. His storied experiences are complimented by powerful illustrative works that both transfix and transport readers to the heart of the black struggle for equality. A timely book against the backdrop of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, the novel is a definite must-read.

When people said things can’t change, I say come and walk in my shoes,” said the Civil Rights leader in his powerful delivery to a packed audience that included attendees from across DC, including students from Kuumba Learning Center and Higher Achievement. Lewis and Aydin shared their insights and knowledge, and encouraged the packed house to fight for freedom and equal rights.

Congressman Lewis (L) alongside George A. Jones, CEO, Bread for the City

Congressman Lewis (L) alongside George A. Jones, CEO, Bread for the City.

 

John Lewis book signing (The March, Book 3) at Bread for the City

Co-Author Andrew Aydin speaks at the book signing for March III

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lewis related several moving stories from his life and fight for civil rights, including one about how he cried on Election Night 2008 when Barack Obama was elected. When a friend asked him about his tears that night and how he would respond at the inauguration, he said, “If I have any tears left, I’m going to save them for the inauguration. And I did.”

Aydin, who in addition to co-authoring the book series is also Digital Director & Policy Adviser to Lewis, spoke as well. He drew laughter from the crowd when he mentioned that Lewis’ response when he suggested writing a graphic novel was to say “‘maybe’ – and if you know anything about politics, you know ‘maybe’ means no.” But Lewis was quickly convinced that the unconventional format would actually be a great way to bring his story of perseverance and activism to a younger audience.

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