Blog For The City

TANF is a Lifeline: Let’s Protect DC’s Children and Help Their Parents Succeed!

This blog is re-posted from the DC Fiscal Policy Institute: Written by Kimberly Waller, Senior Policy Attorney at Children’s Law Center
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program ensures that children have their most basic needs met despite the economic hardships their parents face. However, under current law, DC will cut 13,000 children from all cash assistance this October, simply because their families have reached the TANF time limit.
This harsh rule ignores the reality that cutting off families before they are ready will push thousands deeper into poverty. This is why Bread for the City supports the DC Public Assistance Amendment Act of 2015, which will create exemptions and extensions for families who need more time to continue on the path to self-sufficiency. This series of guest blogs will share various perspectives on the need for a more flexible time limit. More information can be found at

The District’s leaders will make critical choices this budget season over how to modify the city’s rigid Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) time limit, with tremendous consequences for the well-being of DC’s children. Under current law, the time limit will cut 13,000 children off from assistance this fall, regardless of their family’s circumstances. Yet a time limit that cuts off families who are not ready will simply push thousands of families deeper into poverty and distress, worsening DC’s homelessness crisis, reducing children’s success in school, and increasing the chance that children will end up in foster care.TANF is a lifeline

By contrast, a TANF program focused on protecting children, with a time limit that recognizes that some families need more time, can help put DC’s poorest families on a path to success. That’s why the DC Fiscal Policy Institute and a number of organizations support legislation introduced last December to extend assistance to families under certain conditions, and to follow the lead of many states that never cut children off from aid. Information on the legislation, and on ways to sign on as an organization, can be found at

DC’s TANF program ensures that our children can have their most basic needs met despite the economic hardships their parents face. Protecting families is not only the right thing to do, it also helps children go to school ready to learn and improves their chances of future success.

Yet this lifeline for DC’s children is at risk. Under current law, DC is poised to drop 6,500 families who have reached the 60-month time limit from TANF – including more than 13,000 children – this October. We know that even with the best TANF services, some families face barriers, like domestic violence or a disability, that get in the way of finding or holding a job. Equally important, DC’s economy is not working well for low-income residents. Wages have fallen for residents with less than a college degree, and unemployment remains high years after the end of the Great Recession. The income of the poorest DC families has fallen to just $9,300, a $1,500 drop over the last decade

The reality is, if families are kicked out of TANF without being ready, they will end up straining other costly programs – such as homeless services or child welfare programs.

• Half of the families trying to move out of homelessness through Rapid-Re-Housing are TANF recipients at the 60-month point.

• When TANF benefits are cut off from mothers of preschoolers, their children are three times more likely to have serious behavior problems than other young children.

• When parents are cut off of TANF without a secure job, their children are more likely to be abused or neglected and end up in foster care.

This week, the District’s Dime will share various perspectives on the need for a more flexible TANF time limit. Our blog posts will focus on TANF’s critical role in addressing a number of serious issues including family homelessness, domestic violence, and child welfare.

Navigating DC’s Department of Human Services: My Experience as a Refugee

Last Thursday, the DC Council held an oversight hearing for the Department of Human Services (DHS), which provides low-income District residents with public benefits such as TANF, SNAP, and Medicaid/Alliance health insurance.

These hearings are an opportunity for community members to raise concerns about DC agencies. Below is an excerpt of written testimony from a Bread for the City client:

My name is Zahraa Alnajjar. I am mother to two children and wife to my husband. We are a Syrian family. Our story began when the war broke out in Syria and there was no way to return to the homeland. Everything there was gone.

My family applied for asylum in January 2013, and our waiting began. We did not have authorization to work, and the little money we had ran out. There was no way to get aid. We were lucky we could take our children to doctors at Bread for the City. They helped us apply for health insurance. My husband and I enrolled in Alliance, and my children received Medicaid.

My husband and I had to interview every 6 months in the human service center (H Street) to renew our Alliance. We always waited for hours. There was nowhere to sit.

Our cases stayed unchanged for two years and a half. I told the lady at the Service Center that our asylum would be granted in a month and she said: “I can’t do anything until you have documentation. When you get it you can get food stamps, TANF, and Medicaid”.

The day came and we got a letter indicating we were all granted asylum. We were happy because we knew with asylum came rights and hopefully we could work soon. I ran directly to the human services center … I dreamed that once I give them the papers we will get help, I will kill the poverty we had been living in, and forget the suffering and cruel nights that passed us by nearly 3  years in America…

After 4 hours, a lady rudely said: “Why you are here? You already renewed your Alliance!” I told her what her colleague said last time, and she interrupted: “This center is to assist American citizens not asylees. You have to go to the refugee center.”

At the refugee center, he said very coldly: “What do you want?? You already have health insurance” He talked to the assistant director. “Go back to H Street, they will switch your health insurance to Medicaid.”

Frustrated, I met with the health insurance worker at Bread: “I am so sorry for that. Go to the human services center, and I’ll explain to them.” She called them. They did not answer. She left a message.

I went back and waited as usual for three hours. The man who told me to go to the refugee center was surprised when he saw me: “Why you are back here?” He did not listen to the message from Bread. After a long discussion with his supervisor: “The refugee center was supposed to help you, but they refuse. My manager will call them.”

I felt at that time I’m like a ball they exchange among themselves in the time-out of a boring game.

I began the application and gave them all the papers they asked for. Then I got the rejection as if nothing happened, as if we did not get asylum.

On October 30th, I received a letter again to renew our Alliance…

I had completely given up. I did not want Alliance. The medicine we need is not covered by Alliance … Every day was worse than the previous! The problems with getting insurance negatively affected our health so much!

I told Bread I gave up and then talked to a lawyer. She went with me to Human Services. I felt I had power for the first time. I felt strong. It was still a long wait but finally we spoke to someone and months later I have Medicaid.

The name of the agency is Human Services. “Human.”  I always want to find the humanity. I don’t see that there. I suffered a lot. I felt like I was still in the third world. I want to help improve that. Because I love the USA.

More potatoes to harvest, more people to help, more work to do. Why I serve.

Steven V. Roberts is a journalist, writer, political commentator, and Bread for the City board member.

Some years ago, my wife Cokie and I decided to stop giving each other Christmas presents and donate whatever we would spend on gifts to worthy local charities.

Bread for the City has always been one of our major beneficiaries, since we believed deeply in its mission of feeding the hungry, especially at holiday time. Then we attended the 40th Anniversary Gala two years ago and our commitment to the organization –and our knowledge of its wider mission—continued to deepen. Yes, we bought t-shirts (which our grandchildren wear proudly), but far more importantly, we came to understand that Bread did far more than feed people. We came to understand that the organization’s core insight made total sense, that its clients required a range of services that included medical treatment, legal advice and community advocacy—all in one accessible place.

Steve and Cokie Roberts at BFC's 40th anniversary gala

Steve and Cokie Roberts at BFC’s 40th anniversary gala

Within several months, after talks with George Jones and other Bread staff members, I agreed to join the board. I didn’t realize my education was only beginning.

At one meeting, I moderated a panel about expanding Bread’s presence in the Southeast community and learned a lot about the nature of our client base and the Washington real estate market. At another, I heard a marvelous presentation from the staff of WomenStrong-DC, an innovative program that focuses on supporting and empowering women as leaders. During the holiday season, I took my three grandsons who live here to volunteer on a Saturday morning. We thought we’d be filling grocery bags. Nope. You quickly learn that when you volunteer at Bread you do whatever needs to be done, no questions asked. That morning, a vast but very dirty load of sweet potatoes had come in from City Orchard, the BFC-run mini-farm in Beltsville that produces fresh fruit and vegetables for Bread’s feeding programs. So we spent two happy hours scrubbing those potatoes clean. Actually, one of my larger grandsons joined the team that hauled and stacked boxes. Another specialized in bagging the cleaned yams. A third got really dirty joining me on the scrub line. A great day, and at the next Board meeting I recommended the experience highly. Being part of the Bread family helps build a commitment to community service that’s far more effective than listening to a speech or a sermon.

So, now to the future. I know I have a lot more to learn and to contribute. For example, Bread knows that affordable housing is a key problem for many of our clients. Just look at the building boom surrounding our 7th Street center. Where are the people who used to live in our neighborhood going? How can they afford a new place? How can we continue to serve them when they need to take a couple of buses or metro rides to reach us?

My wife and I will be at the Good Hope Gala this year and we hope you’ll join us. The more you learn about Bread, the more you’ll be moved to support its vital mission. Every day, every dollar, every sweet potato makes a difference.

Cokie and I look forward to seeing you on April 30th.

BFC Community Advocating for ID Access!

This past Monday, Bread for the City’s Kathleen Stephan along with several others from the BFC community testified at the DC Council oversight hearing of the DC Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

The hearings serve as annual check-ins with DC agencies about their work, and are an opportunity for community members to raise any concerns.

At the hearing, Kathleen gave an overview of why ID access is so important and the scope of the problem:

“It is vitally important to have proper government issued identification. Not having an ID can be an impediment to employment, housing, public benefits, or to entering government buildings. This is a growing problem across the city – during the calendar year 2015, Bread for the City received over 1,000 in-person visits from DC residents with questions about how to obtain a DC ID.  DMV hearing

Several community members were on hand to share stories about the barriers they have faced at the DMV. BFC client leader, Ms. Hunt, spoke about how she has never been issued a correct birth certificate and as a result, has no way to prove her identity at the DMV. She said:

“The DMV requirement that I provide my birth certificate has kept me from getting an ID and blocked my job search. I want the DMV to create an exemption process for people in similar situations. I also want the DMV and Vital Records to work together in order to better assist applicants in obtaining their required documents.”

During the hearing, Bread for the City made the following asks of the DMV:

● The DMV should expand their lists of accepted documentation based on best practice in other REAL ID compliant jurisdictions. Many other states accept additional types of documentation and DC should follow their lead.
●The DMV should also create exemption processes for situations where individuals are unable to reasonably obtain the required proofs.
● The DMV should expand their current memorandum of understandings (MOU). As an example, the DMV currently has a MOU with the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) that aims to easily provide IDs to returning citizens. However, it does not cover residents in halfway houses such as HOPE Village, many of whom are trying to seek employment and cannot do so without an ID.
● Lastly, the DMV should create a means-based fee waiver for non-driver’s ID and licenses. This would ease the financial burden on applicants, who could easily prove eligibility by showing proof of income or enrollment in other means-tested programs (such as SNAP, Medicaid or SSI).

Are you interested in helping these advocacy efforts? Please consider contacting your Council Member and reiterating the above asks!

Chairwoman Mary Cheh asked DMV Director Lucinda Babers to form a task-force to address ID issues. We’ve followed up with Director Babers to set up an initial meeting for March 2016 – keep an eye on our blog for updates on the date/time/location.DMV hearing

During the hearing, there was expression of fear that expanding the list of accepted proofs of residency will result in residency fraud. However, this argument rings hollow as a government issued photo ID is NOT required in order to establish residency for public assistance programs. The continued sharing of narratives from impacted individuals is integral to undoing the troubling stereotype that people living in poverty are trying to misuse resources.

We know that the DC DMV has an important mandate and we’re excited for this opportunity to work together towards more inclusive policies. We hope that more members of the community, like those who testified on Monday, will continue to come forward with their stories about the barriers they faced while trying to obtain identifying documents.

*To read more about the ID advocacy work that Bread for the City has been doing, check out our four part blog series from earlier this year.*

We’ve expanded our Food Program!

In December, we asked you to donate to our food program so that we could expand distribution. Well, you heeded our call, made a gift, and we expanded as promised.

We are proud to report that as of January 19th, Bread for the City’s food program now distributes a five-day supply of groceries to households experiencing hunger rather than the three-day supply that we have traditionally provided. This is an AMAZING program shift that was only possible because of the kindness of our community–that’s you!

From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for your compassion and for your generosity. You are helping to make DC a better place for all of us.

BFC Food Team showing you their happy faces. (That is Damon's over-the-moon face. I promise.)

BFC Food Team showing you their happy faces.
(That is Damon’s over-the-moon face. I promise.)

A Strange Case of Reparations

This blog is re-posted from:

A Strange Case of Reparations
The U.S.’s Pays Reparations to Holocaust Victims; What about its Own Victims?

Ta-Nehisi Coates sparked a national conversation with his June 2014 Atlantic article, “The Case for Reparations,” but it is safe to say that the policies suggested by Coates’s article are nowhere close to being realized. It therefore might surprise people to learn that less than a year later, the United States expanded its program for paying reparations to some of its previously wronged citizens.

About a year ago, Social Security’s rulebook was updated to include SI 00830.711: German Social Insurance Payments Under the ZRBG (“Ghetto Pension” Law) for SSI Income. The rule addresses pension payments by the German social insurance program to victims of Nazi persecution who performed paid work while forced to live in Ghettos. The rule began treating “Ghetto Pensions” the same way the Social Security Administration treats reparation payments: disregarding them as income for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit determination.

In this piece, I am going to argue that the United States’ payment of SSI to people under these rules is best understood as reparations from the US government for the Holocaust. I am then going to consider what that means for a country that has so deeply failed to atone for its own sins.

First, a little background: SSI is a safety net program meant as a last resort for the elderly and disabled. When people work and pay Social Security taxes, they insure themselves—and in some cases their families—against disability and old age. When people become disabled or elderly but do not have enough work credits to qualify for a Social Security benefit, or when their Social Security benefit is very small (less than $753 currently), they receive an SSI benefit instead of or in addition to a Social Security benefit.

A key thing to understand about SSI is that no one is entitled to actual SSI dollars. SSI eligibility guarantees a minimum total monthly income of $733–about 75% of the poverty line for an individual–but almost all other means of support must be exhausted before SSI kicks in. If an SSI beneficiary receives a Social Security benefit or a veteran benefit, collects a private pension or disability benefit, goes back to work, receives child support or alimony, inherits money, or even receives a free or discounted place to live from a friend or family member, the SSI benefit is reduced. For most “unearned income”–any income other than wages—the SSI benefit is reduced by one dollar for every dollar received after the first 20 dollars (i.e., if someone receives $100 in unearned income, her SSI benefit drops by $80).Franklinchainreparations

Payments made to individuals because of their status as victims of Nazi persecution are disregarded in determining benefits for need-based federal programs like SSI, meaning otherwise eligible survivors can receive reparations benefits and the maximum SSI benefit. This was first decided for SSI in Grunfeder v. Heckler, a ninth circuit case about a survivor, Felicia Grunfeder, who had lost her $119 monthly SSI benefit and Medicaid eligibility because of a $170 monthly reparation payment from the German government and sought reinstatement through the court. The dissent explained the problem: “The SSI program is a need-based program. An individual is eligible for SSI benefits if that person’s income and resources fall below certain statutory figures. Grunfeder’s resources do not fall below those figures.”

If describing a Holocaust survivor suffering from debilitating trauma and related mental illness surviving on a reparation payment equivalent to 47% of the 1980 poverty line as too rich to qualify for financial assistance and healthcare sounds a little heartless, welcome to the world of US public benefits. Here is some legislation you should support. Something was clearly wrong with the picture the judges saw. But the same thing that was wrong for Ms. Grunfeder is wrong for the disabled and elderly people caught in the same trap–a situation where pensions, Social Security benefits, and VA benefits are too little to live on but too much to qualify for SSI–so the court did not justify itself based on a sense of equity or  the survivors’ needs.

Instead, the judges argued that various actions by Congress implied an intention to exclude the income because it was intended as reparations. (This supposed intention was eventually realized in a 1994 law, which exempted payments made to victims of Nazi persecution from consideration as income for means-tested federal programs including SSI, food stamps, subsidized housing, and several others.)

For the judges’ logic to work, they had to place Holocaust reparations into a pattern of other income exclusions. They cited federal reparations payments to Alaskan Native Americans, as well as the Blackfeet and Gros Ventre Tribes of Montana Judgment Funds Distribution Act. The latter authorized a 1976 payment to two American Indian tribes, which was excluded from SSI consideration because, according to Senator Abraham Ribicoff, Congress intended the payments to “‘rectify past injustice perpetrated against the American Indian.’” The majority in Grunfeder argued that the set of specific exclusions was meant to imply a category, and, based on Congress’s history of memorializing the Holocaust and providing tax benefits to survivors receiving reparations, that Holocaust reparations belonged in that category. Similar exclusions currently include Agent Orange settlement payments, Hostile Fire Pay from the Uniformed Services, Radiation Exposure Compensation Trust Fund payments, Japanese-American and Aleutian Restitution payments, DOD payments to certain persons captured and interned in North Vietnam, and victim compensation income.

That would all make a lot of sense except for one thing: The United States did not perpetrate the Holocaust. Thus, it seems curious that the judges would cite other instances of reparations as indications of Congressional intent. (This point was made in the previous ruling by a ninth circuit panel  before the case was taken en banc, but the judges in the final ruling believed the precedent applied nonetheless.)

Was this United States’ admission of guilt for refusing Jewish refugees before the war or not intervening more effectively to end the Shoah? Doubtful, because that runs so deeply against the America-as-liberators narrative that Grunfeder cites and embodies. More likely, the US is paying these Holocaust reparations (or perhaps quasi-reparations) because the Holocaust represents the failure of humanity, Western democracy, science and reason, and other values United States thinks itself  to embody. The Holocaust represents a grave and universal failure, and the US is willing to play its part in atoning.

But the United States has its own victims to make whole, particularly African-Americans, who suffer the enduring economic and social harm of slavery and an ongoing history of racist policies. Our willingness to participate in a reparations program for our indirect victims shows the hypocrisy of our refusal to pay our direct victims and their heirs.

My point is not to argue against the reparations income exclusion for Holocaust survivors or fulfilling what the judges in Grunfeder called “our Government’s interest in restoring a semblance of normal existence to Holocaust Survivors who are part of our society.” My point, instead, is to remind us of what we are capable of doing when we actually care about correcting an injustice.

If the United States can participate meaningfully in the reparations program for Holocaust survivors—and in a way that recognizes intergenerational suffering and trauma no less—there is no excuse  for our national failure to engage in what Coates described as a “national reckoning that would lead to spiritual renewal.” There is no excuse to deny reparations to Black Americans for slavery and its ongoing aftershocks.  None at all.

Ben Bennett is a Dorot Fellow currently living in Jerusalem. He has previously blogged about Social Security and racism while working as a case manager at Bread for the City in Washington, D.C.

Strong DC Council resolution affirms Bread leaders’ public housing demands

In the first decade of DC’s experiment with public housing redevelopment, at least two of the New Community Initiative’s (NCI) four guiding principles have repeatedly been left by the wayside: Build First, and the right of residents to return to their communities.

A functional Build First would keep residents in quality affordable housing near their original homes during redevelopment; Right to Return would mean no new barriers on their ability to come back.

After a Public Roundtable on these issues last week that was powerfully charged by Bread for the City leaders’ testimony, the DC Council appears to be getting serious about a vision of NCI that truly works for public housing residents.

On February 2nd, less than a week after a dozen Bread leaders and staff testified on NCI, the Council unanimously introduced a resolution to:

“Define 100% Resident Success as ensuring that every resident has the opportunity to return and thrive as an important part of a new mixed-income community, has a clear and realistic path to return, and is offered the support required to do so.”

The rhetoric and urgency of the resolution, written and spearheaded by At-large Councilmember Anita Bonds, seems to feed off of the powerful testimony given at the Jan 28th roundtable.

“I’m lucky to have a lawyer,” said Barry Farm resident Michelle Hamilton at the roundtable. “Many of my neighbors do not and are signing move-out agreements with no guaranteed right to move back to their homes. People should not have to get a lawyer in order to make sure they are able to return to their community. The right to come back should be standard for all families living in public housing.”

“When residents are coming back after redevelopment, please don’t discriminate because of criminal history, poor credit history, or family size,” said Chearie Phelps-El, client leader with Bread for the City. “Physical redevelopment should include mental redevelopment. Our communities can only grow together if everyone feels they’re being treated equally and fairly.”

The resolution echoes Phelps-El’s and many other Washingtonians’ sentiment:

“It is the sense of the Council that the DC Housing Authority formulate and implement a relocation rights strategy for DCHA residents… that includes… not creating screening requirements such as work or service minimums, criminal background requirements, credit checks, and drug testing that are more stringent than DCHA’s requirements for tenancy in traditional public housing.”

As the resolution gives root to legally binding legislation and strong oversight, we hope to see additions in at least two areas:

  • Debt forgiveness: Recognizing through the near-universal neglect of tenants’ living conditions – described as “deplorable” by Councilmember Elissa Silverman during the roundtable – that DCHA has not done its job as a landlord, and recognizing that heavy debt burdens serve only to evict and make residents homeless, New Communities should include a wiping of any outstanding rent debt.
  • Financial incentives for Right to Return: Recognizing that the good intentions of DC government are not enough to incentivize New Communities developers to bring residents back, all NCI contracts should promise full payment to developers only once all residents who wanted to return to their original neighborhoods have done so.

On February 10th, Bread for the City leaders will join other public housing residents at a meeting of DCHA’s Board of Commissioners to demand an NCI that truly serves them.

Want to know more about how you can stand in solidarity with residents? Follow us on Twitter and contact Client and Community Organizer Sam Jewler at!

Can DC redevelop public housing without displacing residents?

Public housing residents filled the room to testify at the DC Council on January 28th about the ways the DC Housing Authority (DCHA) has betrayed them through neglect and dereliction of duty as a landlord.

Tenants noted systemic housing code violations like rodents, mold, leaking plumbing, and holes in ceilings and floors, as well as DCHA’s unwillingness to respond to requests for service. Residents also testified to the warm memories and positive communalism they’ve loved about their public housing neighborhoods at their best.

These stories came out at a Public Roundtable on the New Communities Initiative (NCI) held at the John A Wilson Building, where about a dozen Bread for the City client leaders and staff testified, many for the first time.

Michelle Hamilton testifies on her experience in public housing

Michelle Hamilton testifies on her experience in public housing and the need for Right to Return

New Communities is DC’s redevelopment program intended to turn public housing into mixed-income housing, through transferring ownership from the city to private developers. As federal investment in public housing has dropped precipitously, the city has turned to this mixed-income model as a way to make housing for the very low-income more financially sustainable. NCI includes four DC neighborhoods: Barry Farm in Ward 8, Lincoln Heights – Richardson Dwelling in Ward 7, Northwest One in Ward 6, and Park Morton in Ward 1.

The problem is that, since the program’s start in 2004, many of the redevelopments have taken such a long time, or have been built with insufficient numbers of affordable units, that the original public housing residents have not been able to return. In some cases when they have returned, they’ve met new restrictions they didn’t face as original public housing residents.

Those restrictions have included barriers due to employment, credit ratings, or criminal history. In sum, the projects have resulted in the destruction of traditional public housing units, rather than their preservation for the long term, as the program promises.

Bread clients speak truth to power

Bread for the City clients gave some incredibly powerful testimony throughout the roundtable.

“I can’t afford to pay full market rent, and rely on public housing to live,” said Tyanna Dickey, who has three children as well as custody of her late sister’s three children. “There’s already so many people who are homeless. I was one of them, before I came to Barry Farms. I lived in DC Village where conditions were so bad they shut it down, and was thankful to have housing when I came off of the list and moved into Barry Farms. Imagine how mad I was when I arrived to find the conditions of Barry Farm were not much better than the ones I left.”

Dickey has had awful conditions there: a floor so soggy her 13-year-old fell through it, a bathtub so leaky you couldn’t bathe in it, and a bedbug problem the Housing Authority refused to resolve, forcing her to cough up $300 for it herself. Meanwhile, the Housing Authority is trying to evict her for a crime her grown son committed across the city – and she says they’re refusing to negotiate.

“If New Communities is able to build a Barry Farm that is healthy, safe, kid-friendly and most importantly, that I can afford,” Dickey said, “then I should have the right to live there.”

“I’m a returning citizen, but I’m not the same person I was in 1998 or 2006 when I got arrested,” said Bread client leader Chearie Phelps-El. “When residents are coming back after redevelopment, please don’t discriminate because of criminal history, poor credit history, or family size… Our communities can only grow together if everyone feels they’re being treated equally and fairly.”

Through discussions with resident leaders and other partners, Bread for the City’s housing advocacy campaign made seven demands of the city and the Housing Authority as they recommit to a New Communities Initiative without displacement:

  1. A real commitment to Build First, and when possible, building in phases. This means building nearby–or even on-site, affordable and dignified housing for residents where they can live while their homes are being redeveloped.
  2. A clearly stated and written date of eligibility for the right to return to the newly-developed property given to the resident. This date should be tied to something concrete, like the date of selection of a master developer for the project.
  3. Return criteria that maximize resident return, and prevent the “creaming” of residents that ultimately leads to displacement. This means no new criteria such as criminal background and credit checks, which ultimately restrict residents from returning to their redeveloped homes.
  4. In the mixed-income communities, public housing residents should be subject to the same rules as tenants at other public housing properties. High on the list in this category is that the Housing Authority continue to fund public housing resident leadership groups, especially since public housing residents will find themselves in the minority in the new developments.
  5. Residents of properties going through New Communities should have any outstanding rent debt wiped clean upon the initiation of the relocation process. DCHA is asking tenants to keep their end of the deal, while falling woefully short in so many of its obligations as DC’s biggest landlord.
  6. NCI and DCHA should partner with community organizations and other agencies to support residents during relocation.
  7. This strategy should be written down and codified.

During the roundtable, supporters from around the city tweeted with the hashtags #RightToStay and #DevelopWithDignity. One activist tweeted, “Public housing is most of DC’s last truly affordable housing. Don’t let New Communities mean MORE displacement.”

If you want to watch the hearing, see the video here. To be part of another big affordable housing hearing, join us this Thursday, February 4th, at 5pm at the Wilson Building for a hearing on protecting the rights of tenants at Congress Heights. And stay tuned for more opportunities!

Connecting Childhood Trauma and Diabetes

Research shows that those who experience trauma as a child have a greater likelihood of developing chronic health problems as an adult: diabetes, heart disease, COPD, and more.

Adverse Childhood Experiences – or ACE’s – refer to trauma that happens before the age of eighteen. Since the nervous system, hormonal system, etc. are all in development at these ages, they are more vulnerable to lasting damage from trauma.

As our CEO George Jones explained, “We have long known that early experiences of trauma— whether from physical violence or the complex suffering caused by poverty and racism— negatively impact a person’s whole health.”

TRAUMA-INFORMED PRIMARY CARE INITIATIVEAnd that is why we are proud to be one of fourteen community groups working with The National Council for Behavioral Health on the Trauma-Informed Primary Care Initiative. As part of this initiative, we launched a new trauma-informed care pilot last July to provide behavioral health supports to 50+ patients with uncontrolled diabetes.

The goal after nine months is to screen these patients for early trauma, and provide those who screen positive with case management support and brief, ego supportive therapy that teaches coping skills. The hope is that this trauma-informed behavioral health treatment, along with social services that help patients address their most basic needs, will help patients manage their diabetes. These efforts will also help Bread’s medical clinic explore additional ways that we can integrate a trauma-informed approach throughout the clinic–from front desk staff to doctors. And if it goes well, we will expand the model with a goal of universal screening of all our clients.

And beyond the life-saving care for the patients being treated, there are potentially significant cost savings to the larger health system when appropriate, comprehensive, and accessible care is provided to survivors of trauma. CNBC highlighted these findings in their January 21, 2016 piece, “Can treating past trauma lead to big US health savings?”

Cost savings aside, we are excited for what we are witnessing seven months into this initiative. We have screened and educated more than 50 patients on the impact of childhood trauma, empowering them to begin to heal old wounds that continue to impact them today. We have also redoubled efforts to educate our staff on trauma and on ways to best work with people who have experienced early childhood trauma–including providing appropriate space for reflection and self care to mitigate vicarious traumas’ impact on staff.

You can learn more about our integrated behavioral health model on some past blog posts here and here, and can learn more about the Trauma-Informed Primary Care Initiative, funded by Kaiser Permanente, on The National Council for Behavioral Health’s website.

Take a minute to support public housing residents today!

Since its inception in 2004, the locally funded New Communities Initiative (NCI) has struggled to differentiate itself from the many housing redevelopment programs known more for displacing low-income people than for improving their quality of life. But with a new mayor, a new DC Council Committee on Housing, and a new head of New Communities, the potential for change is in the air.

Can the new New Communities – DC’s public housing redevelopment program – be pulled off in a financially sustainable way, without displacing anyone or restricting them from returning to their homes with new post-development rules? Yes, if the people make our voices heard!

Today, Housing Committee Chairwoman Anita Bonds (D, At-Large) is hosting a Public Roundtable on the program, and a dozen Bread for the City client leaders and staffers will be there calling for equitable and dignified redevelopment.

Even if you can’t make it to the Wilson Building today, there are a few easy ways you can get involved:
  • Check out the hearing on the Council’s live feed here.
  • Email your thoughts on New Communities redevelopment to Council staffer
  • Join us on Twitter! Follow our new handle @BFCorganizing and tweet using the hashtags #RightToStay and #DevelopWithDignity, and consider using the sample tweets below:
Public housing is some of DC’s last truly affordable housing. Don’t let New Communities mean new displacement. #RightToStay


Make New Communities but keep the old; one is silver and the other is gold! @AnitaBondsDC


Thank you @AnitaBondsDC for looking into New Communities. Please start a new course for redeveloping public housing – no more displacement!


DC’s lost half of its affordable rental units since 2000. Make New Communities stem the tide rather than add to displacement. @AnitaBondsDC


40,000 Black Washingtonians have been displaced since 2000. Who will New Communities be for? #DevelopWithDignity