202-737-9311 | info@thrivedc.org

Our Morning Program is aimed at providing our clients with fresh food, emergency groceries, personal care items, showers, laundry and mail.

Recently, American University students conducted an assessment on our male clients to get a better grasp of their needs and backgrounds. Not only has this report helped our team to further understand our clients but it has created a better awareness of DC homelessness for everyone.

To help you get a sense of who we work with, here are 5 things you should know about our clients.

1. About 1/3 of Our Homeless Speak Spanish

We are located in Columbia Heights, a region with a large Spanish population often overlooked when it comes to Spanish programs.

Wanting to address this growing issue, our bilingual Job Developer David Vicenty has implemented a Spanish Employment Workshops to help our Hispanic clients.

Twice a week, we provide two hours of working one-on-one with them to improve resumes, look for jobs online, and assist with completing job applications.

2. Almost Half Have Lived 5+ Years in DC

Despite DC being internationally recognized as a city with opportunities, DC’s homeless are growing and many are staying homeless.

Though we do provide a variety of programs to all of our clients, our mission is to prevent and end homelessness. That being said, this study is proving just how important it is to continue addressing an often neglected population.

3. Not All of Our Clients are Homeless

Actually, more than 30% are low-income individuals who are struggling to keep afloat. This can be especially difficult when buying groceries since healthy alternatives are often expensive.

Luckily, our Fresh Food Fridays provide a free farmer’s market for all of our clients. Therefore our place becomes a haven for many wanting vegetables, fruits, pasta and much more!

4. Our Clients KNOW They Have the Skills for a Job

In fact, 80% of our clients believe they have what it takes to land a job. However, many of them are currently not working yet and are looking for jobs.

We understand just how essential jobs are and help through our Employment Support and Real Opportunity Training Program. It’s through these programs that our clients are able to make a real change in their lives.

If you're interested in helping people find jobs, contact the Employment Specialist Jemahl Nixon at (202) 503-1521 or jemahl@thrivedc.org.

5. 60% of Our Clients Cannot Afford Public Transportation

Not being able to pay for transportation can be very hard to our clients since this often means they miss major appointments like going to the doctor or job interviews.

However, over one-third of our clients use tokens which allow for a free pass to board the Metro or Metrobus. Yet this continues to be an important issue. In order to help prevent homelessness, we have to provide those who cannot afford to use the Metro or bus the opportunities to get to job interviews.

How You Can Make a Difference

If you enjoyed getting an insightful look into who we serve and how we help, join the Thrive DC team either through volunteering or donating. To get started, contact our Community Relations Manager Greg Rockwell at 202-503-1528 or greg@thrivedc.org.

Click here to read more about the assessment.

On Thursday, May 25th, Alicia Horton is presenting testimony to the Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs in support of raising the minimum wage to $15/hr, as they hear testimony on B21-712, the "Fair Shot Minimum Wage Amendment Act of 2016."

Thrive DC supports creating sustainable pathways out of homelessness. Raising the minimum wage is a necessary, but not sufficient, part of the solution. But raising the minimum wage is a great first step, and we look forward to greater opportunities for our clients as a result of DC City Council taking action.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Committee,

Without a sustainable minimum wage our clients do not have a realistic path out of homelessness. They will never be able to achieve their goals of housing stability, food security and self sufficiency.

My name is Alicia Horton, and I am the Executive Director of Thrive DC. I have been the Executive Director for eight years, and Thrive DC has been serving our city’s low income and homeless community for the past 37 years, ever since we were the Dinner Program for Homeless Women at First Congregational Church. We moved to Columbia Heights 7 years ago and now provide wraparound services to people who are homeless and those on the edge of homelessness.

\We provide over 137,000 meals a year, see more than 250 people a day, and are just one of six places where our clients outside of a shelter can get both free showers and free laundry.

We have job assistance AND job training, and a new program called WIND that supports women leaving incarceration with comprehensive support, transportation…and a stipend.

Even with all those services, our clients continue to struggle.

Because when you are trying to escape what can become an endless loop of homelessness, you start with nothing except expenses and challenges.

Our clients have all the expenses you and I do: transportation, clothing, medical co-pays, food, etc, in addition to the costs associated with being homeless, like the price of a cup of coffee to use a restaurant’s bathroom, the cost of replacing a bag with all your belongings that was stolen at the shelter, or the cost of buying a pair of shoes at Salvation Army because yours are worn out.

When we meet someone ready to turn their life around, we are there to help them every step of the way. We help them search for jobs and get substance abuse counseling. We work with them one-on-one on foundational skills. We make available employment readiness support as well as a 6 month job training program where 90% of our graduates have found sustainable careers.

Once our client has a job, we can connect them with a work shelter that gives them temporary housing for up to six months. In a work shelter, half of their earned income the shelter puts in escrow, saving it for when their time is up at the shelter and they can use the money for housing.

Securing a part-time job is usually the first concrete step out of homelessness for our clients, and at $10.50/hr (this summer’s wage increase) it is not enough to cover expenses AND save enough money for housing. Many of our clients are limited in their employment opportunities. Many have big gaps in their employment history, are held back by a criminal record, and lack the skills to skills to immediately secure a full-time position.

So an individual makes 10.50/week for 20 hours/week or $840/month. But with taxes they only take home $673 and $336 is immediately put away as savings. That leaves $336 to live on for an individual and quite possibly a family.

How would you live on $336 a month?

The expenses I mentioned earlier don’t go away when our clients start working, but sometimes increase. We’re talking about $336/month to buy food, pay a phone bill, take the bus to work and back, buy clothes, medicine…and the list goes on. But that’s the best case scenario. Few of our clients are able to work a full 20 hours/week, and hours get cut or they don’t work at all.

Also remember that our clients can only work between 6 AM and 5 PM in order to have any chance of claiming a bed at a shelter, which significantly limits their opportunities and eliminates their ability to be flexible or accept additional hours without risking their bed for the night.

Conversely, if our client could work 20/week at $15/hr, their take home pay at the end of the month would be $895. With half going into savings for housing, that’s $447 to live on for a month, or $111 more in our client’s pocket.

Our clients can do a lot with an extra $111 a month.

That money means a few more meals, an extra trip to the Laundromat, a necessary prescription…it means a few more critical expenses to make it through the month.  This small but important increase could help provide the resources necessary to actually help someone claw their way out of homelessness.

Our clients deserve a better minimum wage so that they have a fighting chance at building stability by earning a wage that can actually support someone in this city, in this economy.  Without an increase our clients will continue on an unending treadmill where self sufficiency, independence, and security will continue to be fleeting and unobtainable dreams.

We cannot continue to blame, point fingers and judge the poor.  We must create viable pathways out of poverty, accessible strategies for achieving financial health and wellbeing. Raising the minimum wage isn’t a panacea.  But it does provide greater opportunity, a fighting chance.

Every one of the people we serve deserves this chance!

Ladies and gentlemen, I ask that you reaffirm your commitment to ending homelessness by raising the minimum wage to $15/hour, and providing a financially sustainable path for our clients out of homelessness.

Thank you.

Alicia Horton
Executive Director
Thrive DC

This year violent crime in DC has skyrocketed. With the increased violence comes more scrutiny at repeat offenders and those who have experienced incarceration multiple times, a group that was called out during a recently publicized email conversation between DC Police Chief Lanier and a concerned citizen.

While repeat offenders may be involved in rising violent crime in DC, it’s important to remember that this is a uniquely vulnerable population that faces many barriers to stability with little support. Two staff members from Thrive DC took the time to sit down and explain what it’s like for someone coming out of incarceration, and what Thrive DC does for people when no one else will help.

Can you introduce yourself (briefly) and what you do at Thrive DC?

Nicole: I am the Re-entry Program Manager for Thrive DC. I am responsible for coordination of services, case management, and life skills group facilitation for the women’s program for returning citizens: Women in New Directions. This program combines employment assistance, sobriety maintenance, basic needs, and supportive services offered by Thrive DC staff to assist women in their journey to stable and productive lives.

Jemahl: I am the Employment Specialist here at Thrive DC. I have over 12 years of experience in employment services teaching, training, and guiding community members toward self sufficiency. I specialize in working with individuals who are seeking to re-engage themselves back into the workforce and aide in developing habits that are relevant to the job or career of their choice.

At Thrive DC, I also manage the Real Opportunity Culinary Program, which is a 23 week extensive program designed to provide soft and hard skills training and an externship within the food service industry. For ex-offenders, restaurant kitchens and construction jobs offer the most opportunity for stable employment.

What is the biggest struggle for ex offenders coming out of incarceration?

Nicole & Client

Nicole: What isn’t one of their biggest struggles?  In most cases what we would consider immediate needs are their biggest struggles. Employment, personal documents, stable housing, food, peace of mind, and rest are just a few of the barriers that many women and men face once released from custody. Each of these contributes greatly to an individual’s ability to become and remain a productive citizen.

Jemahl: All ex offenders struggle when transitioning from incarceration to a stable environment. What makes the transition more difficult is having to do it without support and immediately being expect to provide for themselves after starting with no resources and no initial funds.

Most people aren’t aware, but most ex-offenders released from incarceration finish their sentence in a halfway house that is supposed to help them with the transition. But without any money, IDs, or transportation, it’s extremely hard to make something happen for yourself before your time in the halfway house is up and you’re out on the streets.

As a result of not having the support and resources to help with their specific barriers, ex-offenders often get upset with the process and some will fall back into behaviors that contributed to their trouble in the first place.

What opportunities do you have at Thrive for ex offenders to turn their lives around?

Nicole: Most importantly, we offer support for those who are tired. As a returning citizen there is always something new to get back on track, and the process of finding housing, employment, services, benefits, etc can be draining. We work to assist returning citizens with the much needed leg-work that helps them piece their lives back together.

Supporting these women means being available and stating the hard facts. For example, I have helped a client recover from identity theft, something that happens more frequently when moving from incarceration to transitional living. I’ve provided a listening ear when personal issues and circumstances become overwhelming, and visited a client at her treatment program just to let her know that she’s not alone. Simple things like that help my ladies keep going in the right direction.

Jemahl Nixon

Jemahl: At Thrive DC, we offer access and support from our Employment Assistance Program and the Real Opportunities Program. Both programs are aimed at assisting individuals who have high barriers to employment. One of those barriers is the simple fact of there status as a returning citizen. Here we act as a buffer for all clients to advocate on their behalf and encourage employers that the skills and abilities gained within our training program will be an asset to their business.

What makes it hard for Thrive DC to help ex offenders? 

Nicole: There is no one answer to this question; in my short time here I have seen/heard a combination of answers: that transportation is unreliable (it may take up to 3 buses to get from some areas in SE to Thrive DC), that the area around Thrive DC is too tempting for relapse (Columbia Heights being where they once participated in illegal/drug activities), and time/scheduling issues. Having the motivation to ask for assistance, and a willingness to commit to the processes is also a big struggle for clients who tried and failed before.

Another issue is that some agencies we share clients with may not always have the same zeal that I do for ensuring that their clients get all that is available to them. There have been issues in the past with agencies not willing to coordinating services, and times when it has been difficult to speak to shared clients at another agency’s location.

Ex-offenders face a lot of stigma, especially the idea that since they did the crime, they deserve all the consequences that come from that. Whatever they may be. For ex-offenders, it’s hard not to get punished over and over for the same past crimes.

Jemahl: If an ex-offender has the time, access, and opportunity he/she is welcome. But if the ex-offender has no open time, access, or opportunity to come and enjoy the benefits of our program, they will be very difficult to assist.

What can people do to support your programs?

Nicole: My ladies have a hard time committing to the program because of all the obstacles in their way. People can help them by providing us with gift cards to grocery stores, coffee shops, hair salons, and places like Target that can be incentives and rewards for clients on their path back to stability.

But the biggest thing that people can do is to keep encouraging returning citizens to persevere. Ex-offenders face a lot of uphill battles, and get frustrated with organizations they’ve had bad experiences with. Support and encouragement to keep working with organizations trying to help them make the biggest difference in our clients’ path back to success.

Jemahl: To support the employment department of Thrive DC:

Employers – Allow an opportunity for ex-offenders who have come through our employment program a chance to work with your organization.

Community Supporters – Assist our programs with your talents, gifts, and resources to help all guests of Thrive DC and specifically ex-offenders in their re-entry process.

To support either the WIND program or our Employment Services, please contact our Community Relations Coordinator Greg Rockwell at 202-503-1528 or greg@thrivedc.org.

Lewayne first came to Thrive DC after being homeless and living on the street for a year.  The stable life he had known suddenly took a turn for the worse when he lost his job, went through a divorce and could no longer keep his home.  Lewayne found himself sleeping on benches and in and out of shelters. He was overwhelmed with the challenges of daily survival much less how to begin to rebuild his life.

At Thrive DC, he sought a meal and a shower but he found much more. He says Thrive DC provided the motivation and support he needed to get on the path to self sufficiency. But it took time to gain the confidence to take the first steps. While coming to Thrive DC for a year, he deepened his ties to our staff and volunteers.  In addition to finding nourishment and a safe place to rejuvenate, Lewayne began to build relationships of trust and to believe in himself again.

When our Employment Specialist, Rachel Steber, announced at breakfast one morning that applications were being accepted for Thrive DC’s Real Opportunity Employment Training Program, Lewayne decided to take a chance and apply.  He was accepted and began phase one of the 6-month program.  He says the classes were informative and motivating. Rachel provided individualized support to Lewayne and the three other job trainees and gave him pointers to strengthen his resume.  In just 5 weeks, Lewayne utilized his new skills to land a job at a popular local restaurant.

“Thrive DC provided the job training, the motivation and the sense of hope I needed to get back into work.  They took a genuine interest in my well being.”

1525 Newton St NW
Washington, DC 20010
(202) 737-9311

Client Hours:
Tuesday - Friday
10:00 AM - 12:00 PM | 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM

Staff Hours: 
Monday – Friday
8:30 AM – 5:00 PM
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