Posted on November 20, 2012 at 11:29 am
By Alicia Horton, Thrive DC Executive Director
On the surface, it seems like a typical morning at Thrive DC. Our team of staff and volunteers opened the doors at 8:30 am and provided 121 homeless and vulnerable men and women access to a square meal, a hot shower, and other emergency services to take care of their most basic needs.
About 50 women will join us for our evening program and throughout the day we’ll work hard today as we do every day to help each individual stabilize his or her life and overcome a unique set of challenges by offering comprehensive services including yoga, psychiatric counseling, case management, employment readiness assistance, job training and phone, mail and computer access.
Behind the scenes however, we are facing a crisis situation with life or death consequences for the most vulnerable members of our community.
A looming $7 million cut in homeless services in the District’s 2013 budget is about to claim its first casualty.
On November 30, Hermano Pedro, a program that has served the homeless in the Mount Pleasant community for nearly a decade, will close its doors for good.
Here at Thrive DC there is no time to mourn the loss of this vital safety net and neighboring agency. As the only other homeless services agency in the immediate area, we are scrambling to prepare for the inevitable surge in clients that will no longer be able to access services at Hermano Pedro.
Since learning just a few weeks ago about the impending closing, my staff and I have met with their Executive Director and staff to plan the transition and how to best help the 80-100 individuals they see in a typical day. We’ve met with members of the homeless community to discuss their needs in light of these drastic funding cuts and on Friday morning, we met with the Director of the DC Department of Mental Health services.
These painful cuts couldn’t happen at a worse time with the winter upon us and homelessness in the District on the rise. The number of homeless families in the District is projected to increase by 20% this year. And an ever-growing ‘at risk’ population, with at least 1 in 5 DC residents living in poverty, signals an even deeper problem within our community.
The fact that the District has reported a $140 million budget surplus for FY 2012 makes the planned $7 million cut in homeless services a particularly bitter pill to swallow.
Thrive DC has had a contract with the District for many years and we have not yet received confirmation of its renewal. We need support from concerned citizens to will help us press for continued funding of our program as well as dozens of other safety net programs throughout the city that would not exist without a strong commitment from the District government.
In our 33-year history, Thrive DC has never turned a person away due to lack of resources. We cannot let that change today.
Approximately 200 homeless and vulnerable individuals walk through Thrive DC’s doors each day. With the Hermano Pedro closing we must prepare for that number to grow to 240-250.
Thankfully, Thrive DC has learned how to stretch a dollar over the years. Food donations from farmer’s markets, partnering restaurants, faith groups and schools keep our food costs low. And our volunteer community, more than 1,200 strong, permits us to operate with a lean professional staff. Our high standards for accountability and efficiency have earned Thrive DC distinction from the Catalogue for Philanthropy as one of the best small charities in the D.C. Metro area.
Last year Thrive DC served 81,000 meals. This year we’re on track to serve 100,000 meals. And next year, in order to meet the growing need in our community, Thrive DC must be prepared to serve over 120,000 meals.
Our hearts go out to everyone at Hermano Pedro impacted by the deep D.C. government funding cuts in homeless services. Eliminating a service does not eliminate the need, and the homeless people served by Hermano Pedro will not disappear. When they turn to Thrive DC we are committed to being here for them. Your support through a financial donation will make a tremendous difference in reaching this much-needed goal.