We are rolling out our Strategic Plan for 2021-2024!
In the next three years, Thrive DC will grow its programming to be a more
comprehensive one-stop shop for DC residents in need. This growth will be in
three main areas: expanding our current Emergency Services, growing our reentry
programming, and building a housing portfolio, focused on transitional support
to permanent housing.
To read more about our strategic vision and goals for the next three years, check out the full document.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
No matter what obstacles we faced in 2017, you made your impact felt.
2017 was a hard year. However, Thrive DC was able to continue providing its life-changing services to clients with the help and support of the community.
We’re very thankful to everyone who volunteered, donated, and became a supporter of Thrive last year. We can’t wait for you to learn how you impacted our community.
The 2017 Year-End Impact Report details Thrive’s services and the impact your support has had on our clients.
See below for highlights!
Community Relations Manager Greg Rockwell recently sat down with Pam, Thrive DC's Re-Entry Program Manager, to talk about what it's really like for men and women after prison.
My name is Pam Pyles-Walker and I am the Re-entry Program Manager. I oversee our New Directions program.
New Directions is our program to support returning citizens. There are two parts: one is open to all returning citizens (someone who has been charged and convicted with a crime) and one that focuses on women.
Women have a lot of additional needs and barriers after incarceration. Usually, they are the primary caretakers of children, and many have experienced domestic violence or sexual abuse.
Not that those things don’t happen to men as well – but it’s much more prevalent among female returning citizens.
Forgiving themselves. There’s a lot of regret over the heartbreak they caused, the family members who had to visit them behind bars, and the crimes that they committed.
Especially if they’re a parent – for many of our clients the time that they lost with their kids is a big hole in their lives, and getting their kids to forgive them is really important.
Specifically for women, there’s a cultural expectation of them as caregivers and being the family’s center. For them, to reintegrate with their families after having “failed” in that role, and having someone else raise their kids – there’s a lot of anxiety that they’re dealing with.
With New Directions we spend the first six weeks focusing on life skills – Interpersonal Relationships, Communications Skills, Expressing Emotions, and Making Connections and Staying Healthy.
Being able to say thank you is a big one. We work on saying thank you to the people and organizations who are supporting our clients because none of this is owed to them. Helping returning citizens be grateful gives them a sense of community and helps them understand that it’s not them against the world – they’re a part of something.
I also spend a lot of time with our clients helping them focus on taking care of themselves. It’s like they tell you on the airplane – first put the oxygen mask on yourself and then focus on others.
A lot of our clients come in with expectations from their family that they’re immediately going to pitch in and help – that they’ll walk out of prison and immediately have a job, that they’ll have money to share, that they’ll have all the time in the world…but the reality is that they have court-ordered obligations and varying skill sets and barriers that may make it hard to get employed.
They can choose a training program: Real Opportunity Training Program, Customer Service, or Customer Service – Front of the House.
The goal is to give our returning citizens practical, useful training in jobs that they can immediately get and that we have connections in. It’s easier to get a job when you have a job – and our clients do better when they have momentum in their lives and structure. It’s incredible. Once our clients start seeing success, they want more of it.
All of our clients have access to Thrive DC’s emergency food program, substance abuse counseling, employment assistance, and referrals to our nonprofit network.
Someone who is tired of their old lifestyle, and is ready to change.
Someone who accepts that they deserve a second chance.
And someone who is willing to demand both change and success from themselves.
The person who isn’t doing it for themselves. If a client is in our program because someone else said to do it – whether it’s a corrections officer, a parent, a friend – there will come a point where it gets hard.
And if they don’t have the drive to push through then they won’t.
Another barrier for our clients is distraction. It’s really easy to fall back into old habits, old hangouts, old friends…the same things that got you into trouble in the first place. If you can’t avoid those distractions, or find a way to manage them, it makes this process much, much harder.
Besides themselves – getting society to forgive them, and a lack of a whole lot of things: education, work experience, support, and knowledge of the resources available to them.
Money is a big one. Without money, our returning citizens can’t get housing, can’t eat, can’t take the bus or clothe themselves. They can’t participate in anything because of costs.
Oddly enough, not knowing how to spend their leisure time is a significant problem for returning citizens. Because of their barriers and distractions, there is a whole lot we tell them they can’t do – can’t go to the bar, can’t hang out with friends – so what are they supposed to do?
That’s why we also do assessments to figure out what their interests are and what hobbies they might enjoy. We want to replace negative behaviors with positive ones.
We need to remember that they are humans. They are adult human beings who have paid their debts to society. And they really come out of prison full of hope.
I’m a senior at American University studying international relations and law. I’m hoping to go to law school next year and pursue human rights law.
I was looking for a new place to volunteer regularly, and I felt that Thrive was the perfect place to give back to a city that’s provided me with so many amazing experiences over the years.
I love Thrive! I really enjoy the time I spend there each week. I feel like I tell everyone I know about how much I love volunteering there. I’ve even gotten some of my friends from school to volunteer with me!
I love getting to know the clients. It’s a great feeling when they recognize you and you start to really get to know them beyond “hello.”
I’ve had a few long talks with one of our regular clients who is in her 80’s. I look forward to her visits as she often shares intimate stories with me, and offers advice. She has an amazing life story and it’s really hard to see all the difficulties she’s facing so late in life. But her positivity and light-hearted attitude is truly inspiring. She’s always making me laugh.
I’m very impressed with the variety of comprehensive services that Thrive offers given their relatively small staff, and limited space.
I think Thrive’s Real Opps program is phenomenal. It’s a great way for those with large gaps in their employment history to get back into the workforce, something that really isn’t easy to do.
I would like to see Thrive offer a more comprehensive substance abuse recovery program.
I would like for DC to offer more services and outreach for those who are both homeless and struggling with mental illness.
My son is turning 5 next month and since he was three he always gave away his old toys and clothes to those less fortunate than. Well this year he is having a block party and has asked others to join in his passion to give back.
We are very interested in donating to Thrive, how do we go about doing that?
This was the message we got from Akeem, letting us know that his son Aiden is our new favorite superhero. We let Akeem know that it was summer and our clients were desperately in need of things to help them beat the heat.
Aiden's birthday is today, so we want to wish him a very happy birthday and the best of luck in your birthday donor drive!
If you want to be like Aiden and be a superhero to the homeless, you can use our Wish List for Thrive DC to host your own birthday donation drive.
Contact Greg at (202) 503-1528 or email@example.com to see what the needs are for the homeless around your birthday.