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New artist Eddie Boxxer is using his music to support Thrive DC in our mission to end and prevent homelessness in DC. He will be donating proceeds from his new music video, "It's My Choice" to Thrive DC because he feels passionate that in a nation with so many resources, there should be no one without shelter.

We sat down with Boxxer to discuss inspiration behind his new song and why he chose to donate to Thrive. Check out his interview and the song that made it all happen below!

We are very grateful for donors like Eddie who chose to support us in so many ways. Thank you for helping us to keep our one-stop shop running so that individuals and families in crisis can find it within them to thrive.

Interview with Eddie Boxxer

What's the song about?

There was no attempt at subtlety when I wrote the title, and lyrics, of "It's My Choice." The track is about inspiration, self-worth, and positivity. My hope is that listeners can draw something positive from the song, and incorporate it into their lives, as well as others in their sphere. To be honest, I didn't set out to write the song. Many artists have lyrics, or at least an idea or theme, when they begin to put a track together, I (with few exceptions) write the music first, it always feels more comfortable. Once the general music template is established, the theme and lyrics seem to fall into place. With the sincerest of intentions, I always hope that someone can take something positive from a piece that I've written, and incorporate it into their lives. "It's My Choice" seems to strike a chord with folks, and for that, I'm truly grateful!

Why choose Thrive as a charity to support?

There are so many wonderful causes, and wonderful people who get involved with them. In a society that's driven by greed, power, and image, it's reassuring to know there are folks who selflessly, and without recognition, put humanity and compassion above all else. My manager and I began our search in my community. There are many worthwhile efforts, but I wanted to select an organization that most lined up with the spirit of the song. One of the first things to catch my eye was the mission statement of Thrive DC, "Our mission is to end and prevent homelessness in Washington D.C." Homelessness has been a hot button for me as long as I can remember. In a nation with as many resources as we have, there should be no one without shelter. The way I see it, shelter and healthcare are rights not privileges! Why do I believe this? The answer is simple - because I'm human, and so are the folks in need.

Obviously the theme of believing in yourself and not giving in to negativity is something that's incredibly relevant and personal for our clients. What has helped you get through the low points and tough moments in your life?

Luckily, I've a great support system in my family and friends. I suffer from general anxiety, and even with support, I've had some rough times. I can't imagine what it would be like to have this, or any condition, and not have the support of friends and family, let alone food or shelter. I'm an extrovert, so being in the company of others seems to help when I'm going through a low point. I'm a big fan of comedy and that has taught me to see the world in a different way. If you can extract even a modicum of laughter from a tough situation, the mood will shift and there's an opportunity to build on the positivity.

Why do you think it's important to give back?

Giving is part of our human condition. Most of us adhere to a code of morality that includes empathy and compassion. It seems unnatural to not want to uplift and inspire, even if receiving nothing in return. That being said, anyone who helps another will receive the greatest compensation of all, knowing that someone is better off because of them.

Every 10 years, the federal government embarks on a massive undertaking that involves counting everyone who lives in the United States, called the census. This colossal data collection effort informs federal funding for many different programs, including school lunches, mental health services, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP. The data is also used to determine the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives. The lower the count, the less representation in government and the less funding toward vital programs.

Many of these programs are critical for people who are homeless or housing insecure, which is why Thrive DC is concerned that everyone will indeed be counted, especially our clients. “Nationally, it is estimated that every year over 3.5 million people are homeless,” says Alicia Horton, Thrive DC Executive Director. “The disastrous impact of this pandemic is likely to raise that number even higher, which is why we need to make sure there are enough resources to address the needs of the most vulnerable. A lot more new people are queuing up for food assistance. We cannot underestimate the economic impact of this public health crisis.”

The systemic inequities that plague our society are reflected among the homeless population, which is why it is even more critical to capture the data and ensure there are services in place. For example, according to Census Count, in 2010 African American family members were seven times as likely to be in a homeless shelter as white family members. Veterans were also disproportionately represented among those experiencing homelessness, making up about nine percent of homeless adults in 2016. While addiction and mental health conditions are common.

Persons experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity are included in the “hard to count” group identified by the Census with some of the lowest response rates. Not having a permanent mailing address or access to the internet are some of the barriers that make it especially difficult to count this population. As is residing in hard-to-reach places, such as emergency shelters, transitional housing or being in the streets.  Young children are traditionally hard to count and, according to Census Counts, about 22 percent of people experiencing homelessness are children.

“Before Covid-19 forced us to reduce our onsite programs,” continues Horton, “we had planned a series of educational workshops for clients on the importance of being counted by the Census. Our computer room was also open, so they could fill out the survey online. All our plans went out of the window when the pandemic hit us, and we had to pivot to adjust to a new reality.”

The good news is that the Census 2020 data collection effort has been extended from July 31 to October 31. How best to count the homeless population in light of Covid-19, is still under review but there is increased coordination with all stakeholders who interact regularly with this population. On our part, we will continue to educate our clients on the need to get counted and find ways to facilitate that process through sister organizations that manage shelters and transitional homes. Our mission is to ensure no one falls through the cracks and the Census is one way to do that. Do your part. Get counted.

Resource:

The Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality has compiled some of the information contained above and more in Counting People Experiencing Homelessness: Guide to 2020 Census Information.

Bailey, our summer Development Intern, sat down with Kimberly Gray, Thrive DC’s Re-entry Program Manager, and a recent graduate of the New Directions program. The New Directions Re-entry Program is designed to assist individuals who have been recently incarcerated have support on the road to becoming successful returning citizens. 

Washington DC has the highest prison population in the world, with an incarceration rate of every 1,153 per 100,000. An arrest of any sort, at any point in one’s life serves as a barrier to finding housing and employment. In fact, having a criminal record reduces the likelihood of receiving a job callback or offer by 50 percent

Studies show that returning citizens face the highest probability of being unemployed in their first two years after release. This suggests that pre- and post-release employment services are essential to reducing recidivism and providing returning citizens with a greater opportunity to successfully integrate back into society. 

Thrive DC is dedicated to equipping returning citizens with the tools they need to succeed. We are going to be talking about how our New Directions program is designed to provide our clients with the tools to prosper. 

Conversation with Kim, Re-entry Program Manager:

What is our New Directions program?

The New Directions program is a program that works with returning citizen women. We assist them in gaining customer service certification and additional life skills. This is a 6 week program for women who are currently reentering back into society. 

What is your favorite part of leading this program?

Seeing the transition in the women, the difference between how they are coming into the program and how they are when they leave-- their image, their personality, the way they speak, and even how they dress.  My favorite part of this transition is the self-discovery, they really get to discover who they are. 

Is there something you wish the general population knew about individuals who are re-entering into society? 

They have hearts. A lot of these individuals want to win in life, sometimes they just have taken the wrong routes. When you give them the right tools, they embrace them. They have hearts, they are people. 

Conversation with a recent New Directions graduate:

What did this program mean to you? 

The program really meant a lot to me. I got my customer service certification and I found out who I was. We did self-discovery which showed us we are worth it. We realized our flaws and negative thoughts. When I first came to class I was really shy and didn’t talk at all, but Ms. Gray got me to open up. I really appreciate her because if it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have found out who I am. We always talked about “if you get to the little girl, you can bring out the woman.”  

I learned that image means everything. If you look a certain way, you will feel a certain way. I started dressing up everyday and after this class I feel like I can do anything. I know I am going to succeed in life.  

What part of this program did you enjoy the most?

Even though I did get my customer service certification, I really enjoyed the self-discovery.  

Is there something you wish all women coming out of incarceration knew? 

I wish every woman out there would know that they are worth it and that they can do it.  I would love to work with young females, to let them know that this world is a cruel world but we have to stay positive. If you have a plan, you will succeed. What Ms. Gray did for me made me realize I can go out and do the same for others. I am the oldest of eleven and I have a daughter, and I just want my daughter to know that no matter what she goes through in life she will make it and she will succeed. 

Visit our webpage to learn more about how you can get involved and donate to keep our programs accessible to the community. Contact Kimberly Gray at (202) 503-1531 or kimberly@thrivedc.org for information on how to join New Directions.

Written by Bailey, Development Intern at Thrive DC 

Bailey is a senior at Belmont University where she is majoring in Global Leadership Studies with a minor in Social Justice.  As a member of the Belmont Softball team, Bailey is a representative of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and on the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) leadership team. Upon graduation, Bailey plans to serve in a community abroad as a part of the Lumos Travel Award.

Get to know a few of the team members at Thrive DC through Take 5 with Thrive, a new feature on our blog. 5 minutes, 5 questions, 5 ways to look deeper into the passions of the people behind the work we do every day. We're excited to share more about Jarrett and Jessica, who are both completing their placements as social service interns with us!

What interested you in interning at Thrive DC?

Jessica: I first heard of Thrive DC when I joined my fellow Bonner Scholars for the annual freshman summer trip. I fell in love with this organization and made it my permanent placement for the 2 required summers of service and whenever I was home for breaks. Since I started volunteering at Thrive, I knew I wanted to complete my field placement here.

Jarrett: I never had the chance to work with those experiencing homelessness before interning at Thrive. When I found this organization, I was captured by the services (re-entry, job development, case management) they provided to their clients. I wanted to be a part of the amazing services that Thrive DC has to provide to the community.

Tell us a little more about yourself!

Jessica: I am a Salvadoran American from Columbia Heights, Washington, DC. Soon to graduate in May with my Bachelor of Social Work.

Jarrett: I am a Senior at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, majoring in Human Development and Family Relations. My ultimate goal is to become a Child Protective Specialist. I have a deep passion for helping others who are in need. In addition, Charmed is hands down the best show ever created and Mariah Carey will always be the greatest female vocalist.

What have been a few of your favorite things or moments at Thrive DC with clients and staff?

Jessica: A few of my favorite things or moments at Thrive with the clients have been when a client recognizes me from a few years ago. Also, when a client comes in bearing great news either them having an interview or finding a job or housing. Our weekly staff meetings are my favorite moments because it is rare to all be together at once. I also really liked our self care workshop because we go to be ourselves and get to know each other on a deeper level.

Jarrett: The staff here at Thrive DC are extremely welcoming and helpful. They are all wonderful individuals inside and out. I love working alongside them because they are wonderful role models for working in this field. My favorite moment with clients would be working with the Substance Abuse group. It gives me the chance to learn more about the clients and to connect with them.

Why should someone give during our 40 Giving 40 campaign?

Jessica: People should give during our 40 Giving 40 campaign because everyone deserves to feel clean, have a meal and the basic necessities in life. If you are in the position to help someone feel human, why not? We all have ups and downs.

Jarrett: Someone should give during the 40 Giving 40 campaign because it will give them the opportunity to make an everlasting impact on someone else’s life. We all have the ability to bring change, no matter how big or small and every should try and do as such.

What's 1 or 2 things you wish people knew about homelessness?

Jessica: It can happen to ANYONE regardless of the degrees you have. 2: Life is difficult as it is, imagine having to go through life without a stable home and not knowing what your next meal is and where it will come from?

Jarrett: I wish that people knew how homelessness is a violation of someone's basic human rights. Because of this we should be more inclined to promote change for those experiencing homelessness. I also wish that people knew how hard it is to get out of homelessness once someone falls into it.

You can make a difference in our community today by sponsoring a client's basic services. At only 40 dollars a month—you can provide laundry, hot meals and showers to a neighbor in need.

Help us reach our goal of sponsoring 40+ clients a month during our 40th anniversary year as we continue to be a safety net for those who look to us for stability.

As temperatures drop, take action to help a community member experiencing homelessness this season.

Here are 5 tangible ways to support someone experiencing homelessness, share this information with friends, family, and co-workers.

1. Call the Hypothermia hotline

During hypothermia season, DC guarantees a legal right to shelter and although this gets complicated when putting the construction of shelters across all 8 wards after the closing of DC General—this is a tangible and quick way to help a neighbor in need of a warm place to stay. You can call: 311 or 202-319-7093. There is a free pick up service for those needing transportation to a shelter or day center that operates 24/7, 7 days a week.

We all need a warm, safe place to go during the holidays and winter months. Lend a hand and ensure someone is able to get warm at a day center in the District or have a place to stay at a shelter. The District is one of only three jurisdictions in the country with a right to shelter year-round, you can find more information here.

On the first hypothermia alert of the season, a woman died from exposure to the cold near union station. No one should die without the dignity of a home. Unfortunately, she was one of 54 people experiencing homelessness who died in 2018. That's absolutely unacceptable, housing saves lives. We must keep putting pressure on policy makers and show up for each other locally for continued change.

2. Show up & Advocate

As more bills go into the hands of council members for voting, we can play a role in ensuring they know we support permanent supportive housing and expanded funding for homeless services. We’re proud to be a partnering non-profit with The Way Home Campaign: Ending Chronic Homelessness in DC and regularly show up to community advocacy events, door knocking at the Wilson Building, and support our fellow non-profits through hosting our Ward 1 Networking Group.

You can learn more and get connected with advocacy opportunities with our staff by emailing Kira at kira@thrivedc.org or Mariah at mariahc@thrivedc.org. Kira spearheads our young professionals and Ward 1 networking group and Mariah keeps us connected to local policy/advocacy events and regularly attends events on behalf of Thrive DC.

In 2018, our community saw several victories with the recent bill passing for public restrooms and the downtown services center opening at the end of January at the New York Presbyterian Church. Let’s show up for each other and continue this momentum in 2019, there is much more work to be done.

3. Host a coat drive or donate cold weather gear

Every year we host Winter Warmth Days for our clients and neighbors who need cold weather gear to keep them safe from the elements throughout the winter. You can drop off new or gently used coats, gloves, scarves, sleeping bags, or blankets to our office (Monday-Friday from 9am-noon, 1pm-5pm) and at any United Bank location in the District!

If you’re interested in hosting a coat drive at your work or place of worship, you can find more information here. You can also support our clients by directly sending us socks and multi-packs of gloves by visiting our Amazon wishlist.

4.  Volunteer with us

The opportunities above require a brief orientation prior to volunteering, to go over what the programs are like, how to best interact with clients, and to walk through your first day of volunteering. If you’re ready to volunteer, sign up for an orientation.

Thrive DC is one of the few programs that allows elementary school age volunteers to work directly with our clients. However, this is only during the Evening Program and it is up to the discretion of the parent whether or not their child is ready for the experience. For the Morning Program we require that volunteers be at least 14 years old. Volunteers that are under 16 years old must come with a parent or guardian. Volunteers that are 16-17 years old can volunteer by themselves, but must have a Parent Permission Form filled out.

All volunteers 18 years old and over must complete a background check before volunteering, unless they are part of a group. If you have any questions, visit our FAQ page or email Jack at jack@thrivedc.org

5. Donate!

Money goes a long way in supporting your neighbors during the winter season. You put your trust in us when you give to Thrive DC. Because of you, we’re able to help our neighbors when they need us most. We keep overhead costs low with a small staff and over 2,000 volunteers a year. As a result, more than 86 cents of every dollar donated to Thrive DC goes directly to comprehensive services for our clients!

Based on the best-selling book, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond, the National Building Museum is currently showing an exhibition “Evicted.” The exhibit debuted in April 2018 and will run through May 2019.

“Evicted” chronicles the process of eviction for low-income renters and impacts of eviction on the lives of those who are most vulnerable in the housing system. Using statistics, graphics, visual pieces of art, and multimedia, the exhibit takes the viewer through the process of eviction and depicts the different effects eviction can have on a family. The power of the visuals of the exhibit was outstanding.

While eviction affects millions of families per year in the United States, some communities are disproportionately affected. Eviction is most common for African American single mothers, and poor single mothers are particularly at risk of eviction. Desmond’s research found that among Milwaukee renters, one in five black women report having been evicted at some point in their adult life. The same is true for roughly one in 12 hispanic women, and one in 15 white women.

Children who live in families that face eviction may grow up with greater risks of mental health issues, substance abuse issues, and are at a higher risk of experiencing homelessness as adults.  

Here are a few key take-aways from the exhibit:

Impact of art and advocacy:

The exhibit used artwork and visual representations of facts and statistics to convey the message of “Evicted” and demonstrate the pervasive issue of housing insecurity throughout the United States. The exhibit featured structures in the shape of homes which visitors could go inside of and watch media such as interviews or clips from documentaries. This interactive experience gives the visitor an immersive experience in the exhibit.

The mental and physical effects of eviction:

The process of eviction poses several challenges for the wellbeing of families. If a landlord files for a court-ordered eviction, a tenant will need to make childcare arrangements, find transportation, and take time off work. This process disproportionately affects low-income renters who may not be financially able to afford childcare or miss days from work. It can also be difficult for those renters who do not speak English to understand the complicated legal arguments or understand what forms they are singing. It also prevents them from seeing opportunities to fight for their rights or delay eviction.

This entire process can negatively impact the physical and mental health of the families affected by eviction. As Desmond writes, “eviction can be a cause, rather than a result of poverty.” According Desmond, individuals who have gone through an eviction are more likely to suffer from depression and other mental health challenges. Also, frequent moves disrupt healthcare, especially for people with chronic illnesses who have built relationships with doctors in their neighborhoods. For children, the frequent changing of schools interrupts their ability to make relationships with peers, counselors, and teachers, and stay up-to-date with current curriculum.

All of these changes build up as added stress on a family.

What activists have been doing across the nation:

The end of the exhibit featured a map of the United States, highlighting where different organizations have taken steps towards guaranteeing more tenant rights and preventing evictions. Here in DC, the campaign #OurHomesOurVoices works to convince Congress to reserve more funds for housing subsidies and low income renters. The organization also works to incentivize developers to build more affordable housing. The organization Homestart has prevented more than 2,500 evictions in the Boston Area. By providing low income and at-risk households with legal advice and rental assistance payments, the organization works to prevent evictions and end homelessness in Boston.

Homelessness and eviction go hand in hand. Often, homelessness is a result of eviction. Eviction leaves vulnerable tenants with no place to go, and it is often hard to crawl out of poverty in cities that have financial and prejudicial barriers to jobs, healthcare, and housing.

Thrive DC’s services work to aid those who have fallen victim to the eviction process, by offering meals, showers, and laundry services. Beyond these emergency services, Thrive DC also provides clients with either legal advice or career coaching, both of which can help our clients get back on their feet.

Written by Colleen, Communications Intern at Thrive DC

Colleen is a junior at the George Washington University double majoring in English and journalism with a minor in creative writing. Originally from Allentown, Pennsylvania, Colleen hopes to enter the world of communications post graduation and hopefully work in the nonprofit field. Colleen is passionate about housing in D.C., and previously interned with Street Sense Media, a D.C. newspaper dedicated to reporting on issues relevant to the homeless community. On her campus, Colleen is the Political Affairs chair for Voices for Choices, GW’s reproductive justice advocacy organization, and is a member of the Feminist Student Union.

Mariah, our Communications Coordinator, sat down to chat with the newest member of the Thrive DC family: Marciel, Re-Entry Specialist and Case Manager. We are now able to offer victim services to our clients through support, referrals, and connecting clients to services if they have been a victim of a crime.

The purpose of this NEW program is to provide victims of violence with specific resources to improve their quality of life. Victim services includes resources and referrals for homeless victims of crime in the last 3 months from the day they share the event of a crime with us. This includes (but is not limited to): assault and battery, property damage, sexual assault, stalking, domestic violence, hate crime, harassment, theft, and other violent crime.

Fatal assaults against people experiencing homelessness outnumber hate-crimes against all protected classes combined. Between 1999 and 2015, at least 1,657 homeless individuals were violently attacked, in many cases because of their housing status, according to a report by the National Coalition for the Homeless. This is only including those that are reported.

Homeless victims have rights. We’re going to be talking more about how we’re providing support for our clients while bringing public awareness to this issue.

Tell me more about what you’ve been up to!

So we received this grant so the cool thing about this grant is that we’re not giving direct services but referring most of the clients coming in who need support to other organizations and agencies that have the space and capacity to see them for a long period of time, help them get what they need if something was damaged or stolen, or help them get the legal services they need.

Right now-I’m working on adding the questions to our intake forms and updating our Spanish documents, We’re going to create a short 2-3 questions survey so I have documentation that they came in and I can follow up/check on them, see what services I referred them to. I’m building the materials I need to best serve our clients.

What does victim services mean and who can access support from you to get referrals?

Anyone who is a victim of a crime. So for example:  if you experience stalking, sexual assault, domestic violence, etc-it’s a variety of things that fall under that umbrella. What’s cool is there’s a special victims unit of the metropolitan police department that I’m connecting with in case anyone wants to report or follow up.

So that’s what I’m figuring out, how I can connect with other organizations. It’s unique because we’re not offering direct service so it may be a little confusing so we’re here to bridge the gap. It’s difficult to navigate all the resources in the District. So I’m putting together resources , with the help of Hailey [Program Coordinator and Case Manager]. She has a ton of knowledge about the services offered in the city and has been super helpful. Which helps when it comes to making sure a resource is a good fit and the client feels comfortable accessing their services.

Most of the people I’ve met with so far are women. It’s crucial to know where do they feel more comfortable and which agency will respect their identity or preferred name and pronouns. She’s helping me put together a huge spreadsheet of resources in the area and after that I’m going to build relationships each month with different organizations to ensure we’re creating a streamline process and build community while we’re at it. This will include information on where I’ve referred clients so we can make sure they’re getting everything they need.

So you’re a new staff member, how long have you been at Thrive DC? What got you interested in working here?

I’ve been here for almost two months. I started part-time working primarily with the re-entry folks. Then this grant happened, they asked if I wanted to become a full time team member and I said yes! I’ve never worked with returning citizens and I was curious to know the challenges that they face when they come out.

I know the challenges that human trafficking victims and domestic violence victims experience. It was interesting to see how similar the struggles and barriers that they face can be. They have been through different life challenges but can overcome and I see some relations of their struggles.

I’m excited to meet the clients! They come in for so many different things, I’m most looking forward to get to know them and fostering relationships. It’s important to know someone has your back and is looking out for your needs. Hopefully we can continue growing, getting grants, and building support to make this program even better.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of a crime in the past 3 months, contact us at 202-737-9311 to connect with Marciel or stop by during our open hours from 11am-12pm and 1pm-3pm Wednesday-Friday.

Technology and connection to the internet has become a huge part of most everyone’s lives, with only 11% of the American population not using the internet.

What used to be considered a “luxury” expense has now become a necessity.

There are many variables and barriers that can determine whether people have access to technology, but no one can deny that having that access has many different benefits.

Here are just a few ways that technology can benefit homeless and low income individuals:

Contact with family and friends

For many people in the homeless community, family and old friends live in different parts of the country. Technology like social media, email, and basic messaging apps allow for communication with those people which lowers feelings of isolation 

Potential job opportunities

Finding potential job opportunities in today’s society can be a challenge without technology. Most organizations post about their job openings online and even ask for applications and resumes to be sent through online correspondence. This is a huge step in ending the homelessness cycle.

Finding resources

Just like with job opportunities, many resources available to help people are posted online. Having access to technology can help those in need to find shelter, hot meals, showers, and many other basic human needs.

Apps are being developed to also help in finding resources. The apps include lists of necessities, where to go to receive the items/services, maps of various service locations, and contact information.

Staying up to date on news

Staying connected with news sources can be essential for many reasons. One major reason is to make sure certain areas are safe to be around. If an area is unsafe, all peoples need to be informed in order to get away from the situation. It can also keep people updated with new policies that could potentially affect their lives. Everyone has a right to know what is going on in the world around them.

Thrive DC strives to help our clients every way we possibly can.

That is why we have a computer lab available to anyone in the community who may not otherwise have readily available access to the internet or who need assistance with employment readiness. The lab is open every week day from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Clients can sign up for hour time slots at 8:30 a.m. during morning programming. The last two hours of the computer lab program are reserved for women only.

Each week, the lab is reserved Tuesday and Thursday from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. for the Employment Workshop. This is a time for clients to get one-on-one help with writing resumes and cover letters, completing job applications, and searching for job opportunities.

For more information on how you can volunteer with the Employment Workshop, check out our volunteer page!

By Cayley, Development & Communications Intern at Thrive DC

Cayley is a senior at Oklahoma State University studying Agricultural Communications. She has a passion for helping others and hope her words can inspire others to feel the same.

A recent study done by the Prison Policy Initiative shows that formerly incarcerated people are 10 times more likely to be homeless and some demographics are at an even higher risk; people who have been incarcerated multiple times, people recently released from prison, and people of color and women.

A vicious cycle in homelessness all starts with incarceration. Returning citizens often times have difficulty securing a job and housing after they are released due to stigma and systemic barriers. When they try to find shelter in other ways they are often arrested again for public loitering.

D.C. has the highest incarceration rate in the country, one out of 50 people are incarcerated.  Since 2001, the number of women arrested has increased by 19 percent. Releases have increased, but once someone becomes incarcerated their chance of becoming homeless increases as well.

In the PPI study, four recommendations regarding to policy are given as a way to end this cycle:

  1. States should have systems in place to help released individuals a fair chance at finding housing.
  2. Protect individuals from being immediately excluded by their record. Instead, evaluate each applicant as an individual.
  3.  Stop categorizing homelessness as a crime.
  4. Expand social services to assist individuals in becoming successful returning citizens.

Here at Thrive DC, we believe re-entry programs are vital to helping individuals get back on their feetespecially women. In a recent study, 45.6% of incarcerated women in D.C. said they had at least a high school education. In another study, 40% of women in prisons had no job prior to being incarcerated. Most who had a job never made above $6.50 an hour.

Thrive DC is dedicated to helping individuals overcome this cycle.

The New Directions Re-entry Program assists people who are formerly incarcerated get back on track in five key components: Case Management, Basic Needs Assistance, Life Skills Education, Access to Sobriety Maintenance Assistance and Support, and Employment Assistance.  

Within the Employment Assistance component, clients are able to take part in one of two sub- programs: Customer Service Training and Certification or Real Opportunity Job Training. Both options give clients work experience and knowledge about certain career fields that boost their chances of being hired full time. In addition, clients gain support in their journey to integrating back into their community which is critical to success.

By Cayley, Development & Communications Intern at Thrive DC

Cayley is a senior at Oklahoma State University studying Agricultural Communications. She has a passion for helping others and hope her words can inspire others to feel the same.

Earlier this month, the Thrive DC Communications team participated in the Way Home Campaign’s morning of advocacy, welcoming back the DC Council after their summer recess and reminding them to keep ending homelessness on the top of their to-do lists. The Way Home Campaign brings together 98 organizations and over 5,000 people who are passionate about ending and preventing chronic homelessness in D.C.

Representatives from Thrive DC, alongside about 30 advocates from Miriam’s Kitchen and Pathways to Housing DC, as well as concerned community members, split up into three groups. Each group knocked on the doors of 4 different council member’s offices. The advocates reminded the council members of The Way Home Campaign’s mission to end chronic homelessness and get a jumpstart on advocacy for the fiscal year 2020.

The Way Home Campaign’s mission includes three major points. It states that ending chronic homeless is:

Urgent
Many individuals who are experiencing chronic homelessness suffer from life-threatening health conditions, severe mental illnesses, and/or substance abuse issues. Without a stable and safe place to call home, these conditions are almost impossible to manage. These D.C. residents are dying young of manageable and preventable diseases, which is why the council must act now.

Possible
While the task may seem daunting, communities in cities such as Houston, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and New Orleans have ended chronic homelessness among their veterans. There is a plan and advocates know what needs to be done, but now they simply need political will and resources to reach this goal.

Cost Effective
It costs less to end chronic homelessness than it does to manage it. Between the costs of shelter, hospitals, police interaction, and other emergency services, it's cheaper to Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH), the gold standard for ending chronic homelessness.

On Monday, September 17th, the advocates entered the Wilson Building to speak with council members on these issues. As a Communications Intern with Thrive DC, I attended the event and was surprised at the sheer number of advocates who showed up to welcome back the council. Despite being from different fields, areas of interest, or regions of D.C., everyone had something different to contribute to the group and different facts to bring to the table. The more people who showed up to offices the better, proving to the council members that ending chronic homelessness is a cause that several organizations are supporting. It seemed important to me that the council members could put faces to the people advocating for their support in ending chronic homelessness.

Here were some of the bigger talking points of the day...

In 2017, 45 people died without the dignity of a home.

D.C. has made big strides and housed more than 2,000 people in the past 4 years. Now, the council must fund what is needed to meet the commitment to end chronic homelessness.

To end chronic homelessness, D.C. needs to add 1644 units of permanent supportive housing, 307 units of targeted affordable housing, and 1874 units of rapid rehousing.

All together, the plan will cost 72 million dollars over the course of a few years. However, this is still just one half of one percent of D.C.’s budget overall.

The council members seemed responsive to the advocacy, and many of them engaged in conversation and asked questions about the campaign’s plan and outlook. This form of direct advocacy can positively influence change, and that’s what The Way Home Campaign and its partners are aiming to do.

Thrive DC will continue to engage in more direct advocacy like this in the future, and will always work in whatever ways possible to end and prevent chronic homelessness in D.C.

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