Wouldn’t it be cool to use a notebook from 1901? Or maybe a watch or set of marbles?
Old things can be really cool. They carry a sense of history, a window into the way life used to be.
But when your criminal code is showing its history, that’s likely a problem. And that’s the case with the DC Criminal Code, which was created in 1901 by officials that we, in 2022, did not elect. The code has, of course, had revisions over the years, but they have been limited in scope, rather than looking at how the code as a whole functions.
Councilmember Charles Allen describes the issue in only a few words: “[the code is] full of contradiction, it’s full of outdated language, outdated values." To fix this, the DC Council passed the Revised Criminal Code Act of 2022 (RCCA). The bill aims to bring cohesion to the criminal code, reduce confusion, and promote fairness and flexibility in sentencing.
The bill supports these goals through a few key strategies, according to an ABC News report:
These reforms received wide public approval, with 83% of District voters supporting the bill. Many organizations also voiced their support, such as The Sentencing Project, which released an open letter of support for the legislation. Their letter outlines key reasons for passing the measure:
These reasons, and more, are backed by expert opinion, as shown during the open comment period for the bill. In the fall of 2021, the Council held a symposium and three public hearings which saw testimony from advocates and experts from the US DC Attorney’s Office, Public Defender Service Office, DC Attorney General’s office, and more.
This bill, if signed by the mayor, will create tremendous change for DC. It will put us on the path to more equitable sentencing and less incarceration. Yet, there’s still a long way to go. The Sentencing Project, while praising the changes the RCCA creates, made sure to note the ways the city can expand on sentencing reform in the future. In addition, Thrive DC would like to point out the additional support is needed to help returning citizens build a thriving life when they come home. There are so many barriers to housing, employment, and financial security when a person returns home from incarceration. Changes to these systems must be made in tandem with sentencing reform to ensure that we’re not releasing people from prison just to end up homeless within a few months.
In the meantime, without these changes, organizations that aid returning citizens will need increased support. Thrive DC serves returning citizens by providing general case management, housing referrals, employment counseling, employment training, re-entry transitional housing and more. These programs are likely to see an increase in clients over time with the passage of RCCA, as sentences are re-considered and are made shorter overall.
Thrive DC joins the call for Mayor Bowser to sign the RCCA and make these changes in the DC justice system. Everyone deserves a thriving life, and criminal justice reforms such as those contained in the RCCA are an important step toward making that a reality for everyone, regardless of race, gender, or economic class.
In 1987, just 35 years ago, scientists introduces AZT as the first treatment for HIV. Previously considered a terminal diagnosis, this new treatment gave hope to those diagnosed with HIV.
Over the past 35 years, scientists, healthcare providers, and the government have worked together to develop antiretroviral treatments, which, enhanced over time, have made it possible to live a long, healthy, happy life with an HIV diagnosis. Additional medications bring HIV to undetectable levels, preventing the spread of HIV to others and contributing to the end of an epidemic.
But the epidemic can only end if people have access to and utilize these treatments. For DC, a city that has made remarkable steps in decreasing the spread by encouraging testing and connecting people to treatments, creating access and developing trust in the medical system for the most vulnerable populations is the next challenge in ending the epidemic.
DC has the highest rate of HIV in the country, with a rate of 39.2 people infected per 100,000 people (CDC.gov). That’s 1.8% of the DC population that is living with HIV (2020 HAHSTA Surveillance Report). The city is taking great strides to address these statistics. In 2015, the city introduced their “90/90/90/50 plan.” The plan’s name reflects its goals: by 2020, 90% of all District residents with HIV will know their HIV status, 90% of District residents living with HIV will be in sustained treatment, and 90% of those in treatment will reach “viral suppression.” If completed effectively experts predicted the plan to reduce new HIV cases in DC by 50% by 2020.
The plan focused on a model that emphasized increased screening for HIV, linking those who test positive with resources like mental health and substance abuse counseling, engaging and retaining people in treatment so their HIV remains undetectable and non-transmissible, and providing drug therapy.
Additionally, the plan also acknowledged the systemic factors that contribute to people of color and vulnerable populations (like the unhoused community) contracting HIV at higher rates than their counterparts, while also having decreased access to treatments.
After the completion of this plan in 2020, DC examined its successes and areas of improvement. Taking into consideration these learning opportunities, DC is now operating under the newest iteration of the plan to end the HIV epidemic, DC Ends HIV. This plan has loftier goals than the 2020 plan, as it aims for fewer than 130 new HIV diagnoses per year, 95% of DC residents knowing their HIV status, 95% of HIV positive people in treatment, and 95% of people in treatment living with viral load suppression (decreasing transmissibility) by 2030.
To achieve these higher goals, the government added another arm to their “Diagnose, Treat, Prevent, Respond” strategy: Engage. This strategy acknowledges that the push to end HIV in the District must now go towards the hardest to reach populations, the ones with the least trust towards the medical community.
This is where Thrive DC comes in. The city needs connections with the most vulnerable residents, connections that are built on trust and respect, in order to communicate effectively about the benefits of testing and treatment. But for these vulnerable populations–especially people of color, women, and individuals with low-income who are more likely to experience medical mistrust–these connections could take a long time to build with someone like a government official or traditional medical provider because of the preexisting mistrust.
But at Thrive, we already have these connections with our clients. We are a safe space for them to receive food, take a shower, get their mail, take employment training, share their experiences with domestic abuse or being a victim of a crime, or opening up about substance abuse or mental health. We’re here for them. Consistently. Every day. For the past 40 years.
Our clients are disproportionately affected by HIV, with 3.3% of unhoused adults living with HIV/AIDS, as measured during the 2021 Point In Time Count. As we serve predominantly people of color, we conservatively estimate that at least 20 - 25% of our current client community are HIV positive or living with HIV. We also estimate that at least 40% of our clients are engaging in behaviors that significantly increase their risks of becoming HIV positive.
By utilizing the connections we’ve already established with our clients, we can connect them with the resources that the city and other providers have, that our clients might not otherwise use. We’ve partnered with the CDC to provide HIV self-test kits to our clients, so they can learn their status. We also provide safe sex supplies, substance abuse & mental health counseling, victim services, and general case management to encourage safe decision-making and support our clients in achieving the greater self-sufficiency and stability that promotes healthy decisions.
DC government has reached all the easy to reach HIV+ communities - what comes next are the hard to reach: the unhoused, residents with low trust towards medical institutions, and people engaged in risky behavior who aren’t connected to traditional healthcare. This is the population that Thrive serves, and we’re proud to be part of the effort to create safer, healthier communities with our clients through a model of trust and support.
With Thanksgiving now in our memory books, and Black Friday and Cyber Monday rushing past, many people are looking forward to the coming holidays. But while many will spend these holidays inside, with hot chocolate, holiday feasts, and a safe space to gather family and friends, many others face hunger and the cold.
So, as people gear up to buy presents for family and friends, the Washington City Paper created a Gift Guide for those who also want to contribute to providing food, shelter, education, and more to DC residents in need this holiday season. Thrive DC is so grateful to be included with so many other fantastic organizations in the 2022 Gift Guide. With Giving Tuesday tomorrow, Thrive DC appreciates all the support from our volunteers, donors, and wider DC community, who all make our work possible.
To read Thrive's feature and see all the other great organizations in the Gift Guide, visit the Washington City Paper article here: Give It Up, D.C.: Our 2022 Giving Guide - Washington City Paper
It can be easy to get caught up in the stress of the world. With inflation, an ever-continuing pandemic, and daily mass violence events, it can be hard to focus on the positive. At Thrive, our clients face barriers every single day that can make it hard to have hope, and as the staff supporting them, it can be disheartening when a win doesn't come through when you thought it would.
But nevertheless, we recognize that our clients have wins every day. Often they're small--a paycheck in a the mail, an ID that finally came in, or even just taking a warm shower and doing a load of laundry at our facilities. These wins remind us to keep going and keep doing our work, so clients can continuing having successes, big and small.
So today, this Thanksgiving, we're here to share our thankfulness. From a staff member, volunteer, and client, we're sharing why the people involved with Thrive are thankful to get to share this space and community with one another.
Staff: I'm thankful that I get to be a part of an organization that responds to the needs and wants of clients, as expressed by the clients themselves. The clients have lived experience, they're the experts in their own lives. I'm grateful to get to join them in turning that expertise into action steps for how to achieve their goals.
Client: I'm thankful for the consistency at Thrive DC. I can really count on them, every day, for food and stuff like that, but also just to talk.
Volunteer: I came to Thrive because of the convenience--I'm new to the area but Thrive is a quick walk from my house so it's easy to volunteer in the morning before work. I'm thankful that the staff are flexible and open and that the clients are super kind. It's a great way to start the day.
Throughout the holiday season, Thrive endeavors to foster thankfulness and move into the new year with an eye on the positive, the hopeful, and the possibilities for change.
World Kindness Day: 7 Kind Things You Can Do for Unhoused People Today
Have you ever been in a drive-through and had the person in front of you pay for your meal? And then maybe you pay it forward to the person behind you. And they pay it forward to the person behind them. And then 30 minutes later the chain is still going.
This can be heartwarming, when you experience it or hear it on the news. Big kindness events like this are often spurred by reminders to be kind, such as World Kindness Day.
This year, World Kindness Day was on Sunday, November 13. But a week later, Thrive DC is still here, talking about kindness. Thrive DC wants kindness to be at the front of everyone’s minds every day. We believe that it is through kindness, compassion, and caring for others that real change, both big and small, will happen for the homeless community.
So, we’re here to provide you with some ways you can be kind to unhoused people, today and every day.
Educate Friends, Family, and Your Children
Employ the Homeless
Support Other Social Justice Causes
Thrive DC understands that the average person does not have the funds to give money to every unhoused person they interact with on the street. We also know that homelessness is a systemic problem that will take concentrated efforts from a government level to end–something that the average person does not have control over. But there is something you can do every single day: treat unhoused people with kindness, respect, and dignity. We are all human. We are all people desiring social recognition and respect. Make safe decisions, but when possible, smile, say hi, and hold kind intentions in your heart.
World Kindness Day might have been Sunday, but Thrive DC urges you to make kindness a priority every day. We experience such kindness from our clients, and we hope to provide a kind and caring space with resources and community in return for them.
What kind action from this list will you do today?
On Tuesday, November 1st, DC entered Hypothermia Season. As a DC resident, you have the right to shelter during this dangerous time! Below are resources available to you, and remember, Thrive is always here to support you and answer any questions you may have.
What is Hypothermia in Washington DC
Hypothermia is a medical emergency that happens when your body cannot maintain its normal body temperature. If emergency services are not provided, hypothermia can lead to death.
DC issues a Hypothermia Alert when the weather is forecasted to dip below 32 degrees (including wind chill), or 40 degrees if there is a high chance of precipitation.
Know the signs:
We understand any hesitancy to go to a shelter or reach out for support, but when you start to notice these signs and symptoms you need to warm up, or there could be serious consequences, like frostbite or death.
Signs and symptoms of hypothermia include:
Resources and Support
DC has protections during hypothermia season to ensure that everyone, regardless of housing status, has access to shelter during dangerous weather conditions. You can utilize these resources:
Thrive DC is here to support you. Visit our office or come to the morning breakfast program to learn more about any of our services. You have rights–let us support you in exercising them this hypothermia season.
On November 1st, DC entered Hypothermia Season and put in place its Winter Plan. Since the 2005 Homeless Services Reform Act (HRSA), DC has had a mandate to serve residents without safe housing in extreme weather.
When the weather is forecasted to dip below 32 degrees (including wind chill), or 40 degrees if there is a high chance of precipitation, DC issues a Hypothermia Alert to let providers and DC agencies know enhanced services are in effect.
No one should be forced to endure harsh, and potentially fatal, nights in our nation’s capital.
To help your neighbors without housing in DC, we’ve made a list of ways you can spread warmth and make a tangible difference in someone’s life this winter.
Hypothermia is a medical emergency that happens when your body cannot maintain its normal body temperature because it is losing heat faster than it can generate heat. If emergency services are not provided, hypothermia can lead to death.
In DC, every person has the legal right to shelter during winter weather that can lead to hypothermia. DC categorizes November 1st - April 15th as hypothermia season. During these times, DC creates additional shelter capacity and the shelter hotline becomes available 24/7.
While DC has many resources for residents to protect them from these dangerous conditions, they are ineffective if the people who need them cannot find them. Here are ways that you can help your unhoused neighbors this hypothermia season:
DC has protections during hypothermia season to ensure that everyone, regardless of housing status, has access to shelter during dangerous weather conditions. You can utilize these resources to help your unhoused neighbors:
Organizations across DC are here for our unhoused neighbors, every day of the year. These efforts ramp up in the middle of summer and middle of winter, since these are some of the most dangerous times of the year to be without shelter.
Thrive’s efforts include providing hot breakfast, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate at our morning program, where clients can come out of the winter cold and into our warm dining room for food and conversation. During this program, clients can shower and do their laundry, which are critical to maintaining good hygiene that can help prevent illness.
But to do this work, we need your support. Here are ways you can help:
Another way you can help? Share this information with your family, friends, coworkers, and social media. Every action makes a difference, big or small. Let’s make a difference together this winter.
The potty dance. You know–that little wiggle that toddlers start to do when they have to use the bathroom. They swear they don’t have to go, but their body language says otherwise.
We’ve all been there. Maybe you were on a road trip in South Dakota and there were no rest stops or gas stations for a lot longer than you expected. Maybe you live in a household with only one bathroom, and the whole family suddenly decided they all need it right now. Maybe you’re really hydrated, but stuck in a conversation at the moment.
For many of us, thinking about how or where we’ll have access to a bathroom isn’t a major concern. We may have those moments where we unexpectedly find ourselves without one, but for the majority of the time it's not a problem.
But how would that change if you didn’t have a bathroom at home? Or if you didn’t have a home at all?
For unhoused people, the lack of available bathrooms is a pressing issue. The National Institute of Health documents how the number of public bathrooms in the United States has dramatically decreased in the last decade. This reduces unhoused people’s ability to use the bathroom, which Harvard Civil Liberty Law Review names as a human right.
Access to restrooms is critical to health, safety, and dignity. Without restrooms, people risk health complications like disease. Additionally, many people use bathrooms to privately manage existing health conditions, such as insulin injection. Dignity is also at risk when public restrooms are not available, as people lack privacy and hygiene products when going to the bathroom outside.
In DC, access to public restrooms is particularly dire. Throughout the entire city, the People for Fairness Coalition found only seven restrooms that are clean, safe, and open 24/7 to the public. They found that the most commonly available restrooms are often found within businesses, which have the right to deny the use of the bathroom if you don’t make a purchase and which are not open 24/7. The fact that most restrooms are within businesses became especially clear during the COVID-19 pandemic, when businesses shut down.
This issue drew some attention when delivery drivers–a service heavily utilized during the pandemic–had no place to use the restroom during their work day. As a result of this attention, New York City is requiring restaurants to allow app-based food delivery drivers to their bathrooms.
While this is certainly a success to celebrate, but it is by no means the end of the battle for restroom accessibility. This is beyond a homeless issue or a delivery driver issue. Everyone needs access to clean, safe bathrooms wherever they go. Certain populations require special attention, such as pregnant people, menstruating people, unhoused people, delivery drivers, elderly people, people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and more. As a result, there must be a strong investment in public restrooms throughout the United States to serve this undeniable need.
So, why is there a lack of public restrooms in the first place? Public restrooms have always been an issue, from the early 1900’s when a lack of women’s restrooms prevented women from joining the public sphere to today’s debates about transgender rights and bathrooms. Policing bathrooms is a way of policing acceptance in society. If you don’t have access to a bathroom in public areas, you’re more likely to not enter those areas to begin with. In the 1960s and 70s many public restrooms were closed because of their reputation for being unsanitary, dangerous, and costly to maintain. They were never reopened or replaced, sending the message to those that utilized them that they were no longer welcome in those areas.
Fortunately, DC is investing in public facilities. As part of the Public Restroom Facilities Installation and Promotion Act of 2018, the city is installing two pilot public restrooms in areas with high numbers of incidents of public urination and defecation.
Thrive DC celebrates this initiative that demonstrates DC’s investment in public health and safety. Thrive DC joins in this effort by providing our clients with our bathroom facilities, as well as laundry and shower rooms with free hygiene products.
We call on the DC government to continue these efforts, and for other cities to follow DC’s lead. As for you, reader, what can you do to help? You can support Thrive by volunteering, donating, or following us on social media to help us keep our facilities open to our clients. You can also celebrate and send your thanks to the DC initiatives to open public restrooms. And, next time you get caught in an unexpected bind and have to do a little potty dance yourself, you can take a moment to appreciate why bathroom accessibility is so important.
Thrive DC is so excited to introduce our fall Social Services Intern, Kathleen Sprow!
Kathleen comes to Thrive from the University of Georgia (go dawgs!). She is a senior majoring in health promotion with minors in both Spanish and Health Policy and Management.
Kathleen chose to intern at Thrive because of its mission. She is passionate about Thrive’s purpose of providing low-barrier services to individuals in need. Kathleen studies health promotion, which explores how community advocacy and policy change can help individuals achieve greater self-sufficiency. These studies align well with the programs Thrive hosts every day. Additionally, the abundance of people using social services in Columbia Heights reminds Kathleen of the need to apply her classroom studies to real situations. Spending time in Columbia Heights made Kathleen want to work for an agency like Thrive that provides people with the resources they need to live a stable and thriving life.
We asked Kathleen what stands out about working with Thrive. She said that both the staff and the clients have been so impactful. The staff cares about the well-being of their clients and continues to make connections with them. The staff has also been welcoming, kind, and patient toward her as she takes on this new role. The clients have helped her understand the need for our services. Before this internship, she had not worked in a social services position and was unaware of the many issues that impact our clients. Now, this opportunity has opened her eyes to some of the problems vulnerable populations face.
As we move further into the fall, Kathleen hopes to learn more about the changing needs of our clients. She also wants to explore the policy changes that need to happen to protect vulnerable people from systemic issues. After she graduates, Kathleen wants to pursue a career in public health policy. In this role, she can apply the hands-on knowledge she has gained from her time at Thrive. Her long-term goal is to use public health policy to better protect and provide opportunities to vulnerable folks.
We’re excited to see the impact Kathleen makes, both at Thrive and in the future!
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, the trees are turning orange and yellow. You know what that means? It’s time for the 2022 Coat Drive and Distribution!
Every year, Thrive DC collects coats, hats, and other winter gear from the community. We then give it out to our clients–who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford this seasonal clothing–to keep them safe in the winter weather.
Are you interested in donating, volunteering at distribution, or running a coat drive? We’d love to have you participate in any way you are able!
We’re so happy you’re thinking about donating gear that will keep our clients safe and healthy this winter. Thrive DC will begin accepting winter clothing donations on Tuesday, November 1st. We are looking for:
And NEW OR GENTLY USED:
Due to space limitations, we will not be accepting;
We also ask that before you donate, please check your pockets! For more information about donating, please see our website at https://thrivedc.org/collectresources/ or email our in-kind donation coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org. When you are ready to schedule a donation, please reach out to Vanessa to coordinate a time.
Coats upon coats upon coats upon coats. Collecting and distributing hundreds of coats, hats, and other winter gear within two months is no small task. We can’t do it without the help of you–our dedicated volunteers! If you would like to volunteer at Coat Distribution, there are many rewarding opportunities to join!
We also especially appreciate group volunteering at distribution days. Because we know we will have high numbers of clients coming to us, it’s awesome to know we have an enthusiastic group coming to help out!
We start distributing coats on Giving Tuesday, November 29th. If you, your family, or your team would like to volunteer at one of our coat distribution days, or help out at Thrive leading up to or in between a distribution, please see https://thrivedc.org/volunteer/ to sign up for orientation. If you have volunteered before, please contact email@example.com for the volunteer sign-up sheet.
We can’t give out winter gear if we don’t have winter gear. We do accept individual donations, but a huge source of our winter gear comes from Coat Drives (or glove drives, hat drives, etc).
If you’d like to host a coat drive, please visit https://thrivedc.org/collectresources/ and fill out the form. Our In-kind Coordinator Vanessa will help you plan your drive and coordinate your donations.
If you have questions, please feel free to reach out to us in the comments or on social media @thrive_dc. We appreciate everyone's support as we look ahead to keeping our clients warm, safe, and healthy this winter season.