Beyond Bread: Budget Cuts and Growing Needs

>~More and more Americans are asking where to go to receive social services, says the New York Times. This new group of people experiencing poverty and homelessness is comprised mostly of families whose breadwinners have lost their jobs due to the recession. For the first time, they are having to ask for help and are realizing that they have no idea how to go about navigating both non-profit and government-funded social service programs.

~According to a report by the Brookings Institution, unemployment rates have grown faster in DC suburbs than in the city itself.

~The About Homelessness blog asks “Why are people homeless?” and provides information on the four different types of homelessness that the National Alliance to End Homelessness focuses on.

~We’ve been spotted all over the blogosphere this past week, but we missed the ongoing coverage we’ve been getting on The Slow Cook blog, where both our Gleaning program and the Save our Safety Net campaign have been highlighted. Thanks for reading about, blogging about, and supporting our initiatives!

Beyond Bread: Minimum Wage Increases

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~HUD’s annual report to Congress released yesterday documents no major changes in the number of homeless people in the United States since 2007 but a change in the makeup of that demographic. The report notes an increase of nine percent in homeless families seeking shelter and “more demand for transitional housing in the suburbs and in rural areas of the country.”

~The federal minimum wage is set to increase to $7.25 an hour from the current $6.55 an hour on July 24th. While many people advocate this wage increase as a way to relieve economic stresses related to the recession, “At $7.25 an hour, a full-time worker earns $15,080. At the nationwide work week average of 33 hours, the worker would earn $12,441. The U.S. government sets the poverty level at $10,830 for one person or $22,050 for a family of four in the lower 48 states and D.C.” This pay increase may prove to make it easier for minimum wage workers to rise above the poverty line but won’t necessarily make it easier to live, as those making more money may not qualify for certain welfare benefits.

~Bread for the City’s cucumber sorting trip was mentioned on the Wasted Food blog this past week, drawing attention to how our American focus on aesthetics has contributed to food waste.

~In case you didn’t get a chance to read through Joni’s post on the budget deficit that DC is facing, here is the issue in brief. DC is facing a $190 million dollar shortfall for this fiscal year and a projected deficit of $150 million next year, and the Mayor’s Office is working on a proposal to close this deficit. We want to make sure Mayor Fenty continues to fund a strong safety net for DC’s vulnerable residents and that programs that help those in need don’t get cut!
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>Beyond Bread: Money, Medicine, and Reform

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~According to an Applied Research Center’s report, African Americans and other racial minorities experience a myriad of factors, such as unemployment, incarceration, and lack of post-secondary education, that make them more likely to be in poverty during this recession. Add on the recent trend of women, especially single mothers, experiencing unemployment at higher rates than males, and it’s easy to see that poverty may discriminate more than we know. Media sources, according to Barbara Ehrenreich’s op-ed in the New York Times, already discriminate, focusing on the experience of the “Nouveau Poor,” or those recently in economic trouble, and ignoring the struggle of those “already poor” before the recession.

~Health care reform proposals are being scrutinized by the Congressional Budget Office. The cost of the proposals that have already been put forth would, according to CBO Director Douglas W. Elmendorf, “be much more likely to worsen the long-run budget outlook than to improve it.” While popular ideas such as electronic medical records and incentives for doctors who choose more effective(and thus less expensive) treatments have gained support and have the potential to lower costs, the process of their eventual implementation and their subsequent success at lowering the national debt has been brought into question by the CBO.

~President Obama recently announced the start of the United We Serve program, an effort to encourage all Americans to volunteer in their communities. From our perspective, DC is already ahead of the pitch. In the last three years we’ve seen a surge in the number of people looking to support our efforts, and most of our partner organizations are saying the same thing. Many thanks to all the people in our community who allow us to do the work we do!
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Beyond Bread: The Latest in Healthcare

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~A study that was released by the Kaiser Family Foundation on June 10th reveals some disconcerting news. Black women in the District are shown to be in considerably worse health than their white, Hispanic, and Asian peers in just about every way imaginable. According to the study, Black women in DC experience health issues such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, as well as AIDS and HIV in numbers that vastly outnumber the “valedictorians” of the nation’s health class, or DC’s wealthy and healthy white female residents. The sad truth is that many of these health issues are those that are relatively easy to avoid if the conscientious American is presented with the opportunity and resources to experience good health, such as access to healthful and affordable food, safe and pleasant areas to walk and exercise, and affordable quality health care.

~A step in the right direction is literally a few blocks away at Howard University Hospital, where a free student-run health clinic is set to open on June 18th. The project was a dream of a student named Raolat Abdulai. What’s especially cool about this new clinic is that Bread for the City was part of its creation! Abdulai visited Bread for the City’s medical clinic with other students to see a free clinic in action. As a result of her visit, she realized “how much effort has to go into a project like this.”

~Speaking of health care, this mom named Kathie McClure from Atlanta is driving a purple school bus (with some intense smiley faces painted on the side) across America to learn about America’s “broken health-care system.” She plans to end her pilgrimage in Washington, DC to share what she has learned in her quest for understanding. I don’t know how I feel about the purple bus, but I like her style.

~Our stalwart readers will know that the DC City Council recently passed the Bag Bill, which Bread for the City vociferously advocated for. This week, the UN’s environmental chief is calling for a global ban on plastic bags. I’m not saying there’s a direct connection, but the environmental chief for the UN may or may not subscribe to our blog via email. That’s all I’m saying. Take it as you will.

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>Beyond Bread: Nutrition and Rising Homelessness

>~Sharon Feuer Gruber, our blogging Nutrition Initiative Adviser, has been on a spring holiday at the Sustainable Food blog at change.org, producing all sorts of discussions over the Series of Tubes. The subject of her posts are Bread for the City’s Nutrition Initiative–an ongoing effort to improve the health of our community.  One of our major efforts has been providing healthy food including fresh produce to all the low-income residents who utilize our food pantry. A series of cooking classes called Fit for Fun, a Health Peer Education Program, gleaning trips to local farms, and much more have come out of this initiative, as well.

~Kathryn Baer let us know about a report published last week by the Homeless Services Planning and Coordinating Committee of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. The report states that the number of officially homeless people in the greater Washington area has increased over the past year by 2.4%. Of the 12, 035 people who are reported as “literally homeless” in greater Washington, 6,228 are living in DC. Also important is this statistic: “Twenty-one (21) percent of these persons report severe mental illness; 23 percent have a chronic health problem and 15 percent are physically disabled.” There are currently 1,426 homeless children in DC, up 24% over last year.
~DCPCA’s CEO (and friend of Bread for the City) Sharon Baskerville was honored with the 2009 Community Achievement Award this week by DC Appleseed.
~A big “hey, thanks” to DCist for helping us spread the word about Bread for the City’s new afterhours Human Rights Clinic!

>Beyond Bread: Law Day Roundup

>First a word to DC’s many lawyers: Happy Law Day! Started in 1958, May 1st legally became Law Day in 1961. Many groups of lawyers come to DC around this time to lobby Congress for all sorts of things. Our lawyers will spend the day in court as part of the Lawyer of the Day program, through which we take on civil cases when the defendent can’t afford an attorney.

We’re happy to have eight full-time attorneys on staff covering three types of law: public benefits, family, and landlord/tenant.
~Speaking of the Lawyer of the Day program, City Desk’s Jason Cherkis picked up on the good news we reported about civil legal services in DC. Earlier this week, the Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to maintain funding for a host of needed legal services. As City Desk reported, 98 percent of respondents in cases filed in the Domestic Violence Unit in D.C. Superior Court don’t have representation. They go into court to defend their home themselves. Thanks to Jason for drawing attention to the importance of civil legal funding to low-income residents in DC.
~Leslie Bray was, at one time, a client at Bread for the City. Now she has a vibrant fashion column in the Examiner, donates to Bread for the City monthly, and is a passionate advocate for individual giving. You should read her column about her latest charity initiative.
~Councilmember Graham has a really interesting interview on The Heights Life, talking about development, the need to preserve low-income housing, and how he loves to party at Wonderland.
~The CKP Blog, run by the non-profit Campus Kitchens, has a good discussion about trying to reduce waste. Considering they deliver meals, this is no small feat. Right now many Campus Kitchens are using styrofoam clamshells because they’re cheap and efficient. But one of their Kitches has come up with another solution–tupperware! Liz Whitehurst tells us that the kinks are still being worked out, but this is a perfect example of how direct-service non-profits are responding to the national call to reduce waste. Good work, Campus Kitchens!
~DCFPI’s blog says the Youth Employment Program needs to heighten accountability if it is going to truly help young people. With 21,000 participants and 23 million in funding, accountability structures must be a mind-numbing thought.

Beyond Bread: News on the Street

>~The New York Times is reporting that newspapers created and sold by the homeless population are receiving wider circulation despite the recession. There are a number of newspapers all over the country–providing jobs for homeless residents either writing content or collecting cash as vendors. The skills learned from these positions are easily transferred to other areas, and the news stories often deal with the underbelly of homelessness that rarely makes its way into mainstream media sources. In fact, your author is an unabashed admirer of DC’s own newspaper for the homeless, Street Sense! On their blog, Street Sense is reporting that, like so many non-profits, their support from foundations is drying up even as demand for their service increases. They’ve been forced to limit their print edition to fewer pages, and use paper that is not as pleasant to the eye.

~DCist and Washington Grantmaker’s Daily both picked up the WaPo story earlier this week that DC has seen a 15% increase in homeless families over last year. As expected, the three major perpetrators appear to be unemployment, the high cost of housing, and foreclosures.

~According to the Examiner, The Treasury Department is reporting benefit payments from the unemployment trust fund totaled $44.6 billion so far this budget year, up from $19.4 billion last year.

~Hunger in America’s Greg Plotkin is writing about fixing our food system, and though he’s talking about California, his post could just as easily be about Greater Washington. We’ve got some ideas of our own, and food insecurity is something we’ll continue to talk about until healthy and affordable food is available to all DC residents.

Beyond Bread: Supporting Reusable Bags

>~Bread for the City recently came out in support of the Bag Bill, a measure that would put a five cent fee on plastic and paper bags at grocery stores. As we discussed, Councilmember Wells came to our Southeast Center to discuss the specifics of the legislation, and also take suggestions from our staff on how to implement the program in a way that didn’t disproportionately affect low-income residents. A number of helpful measures were built into the bill, but on top of that reusable bags will be available for Bread for the City, public agencies, and other non-profits to distribute free of charge. Greater Greater Washington, And Now, Anacostia, The River East Idealist, and Congress Heights on the Rise have also come out in support of the measure which we believe will help drastically reduce contamination of the Anacostia River.

~The AFRO started a series to document what homelessness really means in the nation’s capital. The first article by Joseph Young follows Myra Diggs, a 43 year old woman whose bipolar disorder was misdiagnosed.

~TPM had a nice write-up about how Bread for the City is handling the weak economy, the Poverty & Policy Blog continued our discussion of how TANF needs to be given a cost of living adjustment (among other things), and renewshaw has a helpful, condensed list of all the changes (including Bread for the City’s expansion) that are slated to take place in Shaw.

Beyond Bread: the Groundbreaking Roundup

>~Bread for the City had a groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday!!! All of the specifics of the new, bigger facility are on this old internet here along with some of the remarks from our friends. DCist was kind enough to cover the event, as well as the Washington Post. Thank you to all of our readers who moseyed over, and especially those who flagged me down to say hello. It was nice to see so many people come out to support us. Michael Blue, a long-time patient of Dr. Randi, gave a speech about the need for a bigger clinic that is now up on this blog.

~Kathy Kretman, Director of Georgetown University’s Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership, praised our Executive Director George Jones in the Washington Post this week. Kathy says that, “George Jones and the Bread for the City staff set an example of how to handle this economic crisis with grace and dignity. They are true leaders.” Thank you, Kathy. That’s a really nice thing to say.

~MPNnow, the leading news source for suburban Rochester and the Finger Lakes, picked up a story about one of our volunteer groups!! The group, which was down from Rochester on a mission trip, came through the Youth Service Opportunities Project, a non-profit organization that warms my heart by linking us over 200 volunteers per year. Thank you to our friends in Rochester—you’re welcome back anytime!

~The number of homeless residents in DC jumped by 3 percent this past year to 6,228 residents. Of that, 2,294 people are in homeless families—a sharp 25% increase over last year.

Beyond Bread: This Week’s News

>~The New York Times says that New York City is seeing an influx of volunteers as people who are laid off get out of the house and do something with their free time. Unfortunately, they also write that the increase in volunteers is coming just as donations are going down and programs are being forced to scale back their efforts. An interesting problem to have, and one we are also dealing with here in DC.

~Remember last year when “Forced Out,” a series by Washington Post reporters Debbie Cenziper and Sarah Cohen, brought to light some of the tactics used by DC landlords to evict low-income tenants? We do too, and we’re happy to hear that they recently won the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Journalism! Debbie Cenziper does a great recap of the series that is very insightful.

~One Saturday a month, volunteer lawyers from local firms partner with the DC Bar Pro Bono Program to run advice and referral clinics out of Bread for the City’s two locations. Since I’m always here on those Saturdays with my own volunteers, I see the outstanding work they do. People flood into Bread for the City for all kinds of legal needs. The Pro Bono Program’s website has an incredible story this week about how they helped a teenager who recently lost her mother.

~We have a new friend! Martha’s Table launched their blog, “Tidbits from the Table,” today! They have a really nice-looking site and pictures of adorable kids. Who doesn’t love that stuff?

~Former Majority Leader Tom Daschle wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post about how he is not essential to health care reform. His main point is that reform will happen this year no matter who is in the position of HHS Secretary because the climate is right for it. Well, that’s certainly good news for the uninsured, but reform takes a number of different forms. Ultimately the type of reform we get will depend a great deal on who has a seat at the drafting table, and that’s where I think Mr. Daschle’s argument falls apart. For many, many years Mr. Daschle supported plans to expand the community clinic infrastructure–a specific plan that will save money while increasing care in underserved communities. He also called current community health centers a godsend, emphasizing the need to champion primary care. A true “reform” in health care will mean more than getting insurance cards into the hands of citizens. It will mean giving them a place to go once they have it, and that’s where I think Mr. Daschle showed his stars. Though not essential, I still maintain he certainly would have been helpful.