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.

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.*

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.

housing-rally

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.

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!

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 omontiel@dccouncil.us.
  • 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

CAPL_@_WASHJEFF.EDU / CREATIVE COMMONS

Welcome(ish) Aja Taylor, Advocacy Director

Bread for the City is just making ALL the big changes right now. We’re officially an FQHC; we just launched our new strategic plan; and for the first time ever, we have hired an Advocacy Director!

This new role is a big step for Bread for the City. While we’ve had a manager of advocacy and community engagement in the past, this position has never before been at the director level. This means that we have elevated advocacy to be a core piece of our holistic service model—like our food program, medical clinic, or legal and social services programs.

After so many years of listing “justice” as one of our fundamental values, why are we doing this now? It’s simple: the District has lost over half of its affordable housing in the past 10 years. Bread for the City’s clients are being priced out of the city they call home – away from resources like jobs, social services, public transportation, and the leisure and cultural activities that make DC such an amazing place to live. We believe that this is unacceptable; we believe that this is based, in part, in racist housing and economic policies; and most importantly, we believe we can do something about it.

Enter Aja Taylor! Aja is an award-winning community organizer previously based in our Legal Clinic. She will be leading a team of community organizers and client leaders at Bread for the City and beyond, as we work to staunch the bleed of affordable housing, and ensure that all DC residents can afford to live and work in the city they call home. In coalition with cross-sector partners, other tenant organizers and others, Aja’s charge is to work toward building the power needed to create the political will to preserve and create 22,000 units of affordable housing.

Join us in congratulating Aja on her new role, and please join with us as we continue the fight for housing rights in the District. Wanna get started? Email Aja at ATaylor@BreadfortheCity.org.

Aja

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking Into the Future

Two Sundays ago, the combined boards of Bread for the City, Inc. and Bread Inc. (our supporting umbrella organization) had an all-day meeting with the senior staff of Bread and many of our staff members to chart Bread’s way forward over the next five years. Our planning is still in progress, but much was covered, and the essentials of our course have been laid in.

Our supporters should not worry, we will continue to do what we already do. The plan supports our mission – to alleviate the burdens of poverty and help address the conditions that cause poverty with an unchanged motto: Dignity, Respect, Service and Justice. We just plan to do more, and to do more even better than we do now.

As you know, we serve over 30,000 people in the District of Columbia each year, with a range of services from social work support to food distribution, from legal advice and representation to medical care, from free clothing to vision care, and from pre-employment trainiSE Centerng to dental care. We make a huge difference in the lives of our clients. We are committed to making that difference. And we continually expand and improve our services, offering better quality meats and fresh vegetables to ever more people across the city, expanding our medical services, and expanding the pre-employment training program so people can get a leg up on a job.

Our new strategic plan builds on our strengths. Virtually since we opened our Southeast Center on Good Hope Road in Anacostia 11 years ago, we have been at and over capacity. The need in that part of the city swamps our ability to serve it. So we are planning to at least double the size of that center. It’s an expensive and long-term project, and it will be the subject of a fund raising campaign to pay for its substantial cost, but we would not be true to our mission if we did not step up to meet the very real needs.

Our plan also includes expanding our medical, dental and vision services, continuing to improve our delivery of high quality food, streamlining and expanding our legal services, and reaching more people with pre-employment training.

Our social workers have had notable success finding housing for our clients most in need, serving as key points of contact to help them obtain public housing assistance. But because housing is one of the key factors in helping alleviate the conditions that cause poverty, and because the District is facing a crisis in affordable housing as it gentrifies, we are planning to ramp up our advocacy with DC and federal officials to ensure that DC regains the 22,000 units of affordable housing it has lost over the last decade. So as part of Bread’s focus on justice, to keep our city the kind of diverse environment that protects the most marginalized among us, Bread will initiate a directed advocacy effort, working with other housing organizations, to ensure that 22,000 affordable housing units are added back into the District’s housing mix.

And all of these efforts would not be complete without reference to racial equity. I’ve written praffordablehousing4(2)eviously about Bread’s recognition that poverty in our city is in no small part due to systemic racial inequity. We reaffirmed at our weekend retreat that Bread will continue its focus on racial equity, on training for our staff and Board members, and on efforts to affect systemic inequity based on race.

We have an obligation to affect the conditions that contribute to poverty, and although the hurdles are dauntingly high, that does not mean that we can ignore them. Three factors are the most significant in addressing and alleviating poverty: housing, education and employment.

Until recently, Bread’s major focus has been in addressing the effects of poverty: lack of access to food, clothing, medical care, legal representation and social worker assistance. And we are not backing away from that focus; indeed, we will continue to expand our services and extend our programs. But we need to do more. We are of course not in a position to build housing, to educate our youth directly, or to be an employment agency; we are, however, in a position to advocate for increased access to affordable housing, to support calls for better education, and to help position our clients for employment. All of these things can make a difference and we are committed to doing our part to help be an agent of change. So that level of advocacy, focused on housing for now, will be a new area of Bread’s efforts.

None of this could happen though, without our supporters, without the dedicated staff at Bread and without the devotion of a truly special set of Board members, who sacrifice time, money and energy to keep us going. There are no quick fixes or easy solutions to the problems we address, but with focus, effort and support we can, and will, make a difference.

Ms. Johnson comes home

This morning Ms. Johnson received a calendar in the mail. It was from her rental office and read “Welcome Home 2015.” Ms. Johnson smiles widely as she tells me this and says, “Isn’t that something?” This is the first time in many years that Ms. Johnson has had a place to put her calendar. As housing prices in DC have skyrocketed she has struggled to maintain housing, often forced to rely on friends or shelters. She lives with several disabling conditions that have impacted her ability to maintain employment.

Ashley Moore, a social worker with the BFC SOAR program, worked with Ms. Johnson to apply for Social Security disability benefits and about a year later she was approved. However, even with stable monthly income Ms. Johnson was unable to find housing within her budget. The federal SSI benefit is set at $733 – well below what is needed to afford a one bedroom apartment in DC.

welcomeAt Bread for the City we work daily to support the community in the constant fight for housing dignity. Our Housing Assistance Program (HAP) is often a starting place for folks thinking about long term housing stability. We understand that safe and affordable housing is the foundation necessary to thrive. We make an effort to link clients from all departments with HAP even while focusing on other projects. Ashley connected Ms. Johnson to HAP during SOAR and they assisted her in filling out applications for several local buildings. Ms. Johnson is thankful for Ashley’s help she says “She was my life saver. She is a wonderful young lady and she’s been with me for four or five years. She fought for me and I’m thankful for everything she’s done for me and I’ll never forget her.”

After receiving her SSI benefits, Ms. Johnson continued staying between friends and shelters in the area. Finally, in April 2015, her name came to the top of the wait list at one of the subsidized buildings that HAP had helped her apply for. Her rent is set at 30% of her income and she will be able to afford her housing ongoing. Ms. Johnson is fortunate, recent studies show that 64% of low income DC residents now have to devote half or more of their income to housing costs.

Ms. Johnson has benefited from many of the services offered at Bread for the City. She’s a fan of the chicken and turkey offered in our food pantry as she doesn’t eat red meat. Together with the support of our SOAR and HAP teams Ms. Johnson has a future where she doesn’t have to worry about where she will sleep. This is a simple yet profound experience that we hope to see become a reality for everyone we serve.

Your continued support of Bread for the City allows us to be here for those in need as they work towards sustained stability. As Ms. Johnson said to me today: “This problem, trying to get housing, get my life straightened out, deal with this and that, now I’m in a place where I can take care of myself. I hope Bread for the City is open for many years to come and continues helping people that need it in the nation’s capitol. It’s a wonderful program.”

Going, Going, Gone: DC’s Vanishing Affordable Housing’ DC Fiscal Policy Institute <http://www.dcfpi.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Going-Going-Gone-Rent-Burden-Final-3-6-15format-v2-3-10-15.pdf>

Holistic Care for our Clients

Here at Bread for the City we describe ourselves as providing holistic care. This means comprehensive wrap-around services that help individuals achieve and maintain stability across many areas of their lives.

YogaHaving difficulty figuring out how to apply for food stamps? Stop by Social Services – we’ll go over the application with you and make sure your family gets groceries from our food pantry & garden. Need legal help to apply for child support? Legal intakes are every Monday afternoon. Want a medical home where you can care for your physical and mental health? Become a patient with our medical clinic and go to a free yoga class while you’re here!

We are serious about working to meet the complex needs of the community. We are invested in helping to create an environment that lets clients know they are respected and have the right to dignity – both inside and outside of our buildings’ walls. How though, do you ensure that someone feels dignified when they’re trapped in a system that often strips them of their humanity? There is little respect in being turned away from emergency shelter again because all available spaces are at capacity, or in having your EBT (food stamps) card be empty when the Department of Human Services (DHS) terminates your benefits without proper notice.Heather

Looking from the outside in, it can be difficult to understand the way that poverty keeps people from moving forward. As a caseworker I hear stories every day that demonstrate just how difficult and oppressive it is to be poor in Washington, DC. The circumstances that trap folks at the bottom of the class pyramid are complex, interwoven, and often completely outside of any one individual’s control. There are many studies (including this one) that show the high price of being poor. It can be hard though, to translate numbers to personal experience – so I’d like to introduce you to a few of the people that I have met and their stories.

MelissaThomas
Thomas is the single parent and primary guardian of a severely disabled child. Thomas wanted to stay in DC where he would be close to family that could provide childcare and emotional support – but his income made it impossible to find affordable housing. We’ve highlighted before that market rate rent is largely outside the affordable range for our clients. Our Housing Access Program helps people like Thomas, get on long term wait-lists for subsidized housing programs-and since starting in 2010, over 50 people they assisted in the process have obtained housing in affordable units. However, as these wait-lists all take many, many years, it is not an immediate solution and Thomas had to turn to already overcrowded family for support.

Through our Short-Term Case Management program, I was able to help Thomas identify the public benefits he could apply for, as well as aide him with the DC Public School enrollment process for his child. Even with our assistance, Thomas ran into several snags along the way – for example, it took us weeks to secure all necessary application proofs for DHS – and for that entire time their family was without any income or medical insurance coverage.

Many of our clients take regular medication that allows them to maintain their health stability – and without access to affordable health care they can fall into a crisis. Our medical clinic provides free care to anyone in need – and for Thomas they were able to provide an important bridge while he was without insurance.

Mary
Mary is in her 80s and lives in an apartment by herself. She doesn’t have many family members nearby and came into our legal clinic when she got a mailed notice she didn’t understand. The legal team quickly realized that Mary was not receiving all of the public benefits she was entitled to and linked her with me for help completing an application for the Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) program. This is a supplemental program available to low income Medicare beneficiaries in the District to cover their monthly Medicare premiums and co-pays.

Donald at AMCQMB requires applicants to provide various documents to prove eligibility and access benefits. Like many older people, Mary’s monthly income comes from a few different places – Social Security, pensions, veteran’s benefits, etc. As a result, it can be difficult to get all the proofs you need to show that you qualify. We spent a lot of time helping Mary track down her income statements so she could apply for QMB. We were happy to help Mary and she was glad to have the support – but not everyone has someone to help them navigate these complex scenarios. That’s why the comprehensive care that Bread for the City provides to the under-served residents of DC is so important. That’s also why it is important that our donors continue to support our efforts. One client at a time, we change lives for the better.

 

Bread for the City PIcnic

 

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One Man’s Joyous Homecoming, 17 Years in the Making

When Timothy came to Bread for the City in September of 2011, he was accustomed to being just a number. By then, he had been on the DC Housing Authority’s now 60,000-person waitlist for almost 11 years and had been homeless for a total of 17. He had fallen through the cracks of the DCHA system too many times, missing mailings and notices due to forced transience from shelter to shelter.

Suffering from the effects of stroke and early onset memory loss, Timothy had been disconnected from his family and other supports. — Literally. — Amidst his movement, he had lost their contact information and had no contact information of his own.

Alone, Timothy was struggling. He needed help connecting with housing options in the city, and he needed assistance gathering basic identifying documents that had recently been stolen from him.

It is a sad reality, but, here at Bread for the City, we meet people like Timothy every single day.

His situation is all too common. Given the chronic shortage of truly affordable housing in our city and the continued underfunding for new development, there are simply not enough apartments for the up to 20,000 people who are forced to live on the streets. But, given his age and disability factors, we harbored some hope that Timothy might stand a chance.

Over the next few months, our social services case managers worked intensively with Timothy in our Housing Access Program (HAP) to secure the identification he needed and to prepare documents necessary for housing applications. We guided him toward a specific set of subsidized apartments, targeting only those for which he was eligible in order to maximize his chances of acceptance. We worked with each building individually to make certain that Timothy would not fall through the cracks again should he come to the top of a waiting list.

Then, this past Friday, after 9 solid months of case management, our efforts – and his – paid off. A delighted Timothy moved into his new, affordable apartment at Fort Lincoln Senior Village.

Thanks to generous support of our Housing Access Program fund, Bread for the City was able to cover Timothy’s deposit and first month’s rent so he would not miss the opportunity to secure the apartment. Over the course of the next month, we’ll also work with partners such as A Wider Circle to ensure that he has furniture while he transitions into his new life. We’ll make sure he has enough food to get by as well.

They say that there is a fundamental difference between a house and a home. Maybe that difference is having people to share it with. Luckily for Timothy, his good news coincided with more good news – word from his family. He has just returned to DC after reuniting with them in North Carolina, and he is ecstatic that they will be able to come visit him soon.

Welcome home Timothy, and our deepest thanks to all those who support our Housing Access Program.