At Thrive DC, our primary strategy to prevent and end homelessness in DC is providing clients with the ability to meet all of their basic needs in the form of a “one-stop shop.” This is a big mission - we could not exist without partners who support us and increase our capacity to serve. Capital Area Food Bank is one of those partners, helping address our clients' needs of hunger and health.
With a mission to help their neighbors thrive by creating more equitable access to food, CAFB has been a consistent partner of Thrive DC since the beginning of the pandemic. Their strategy has three main pillars: gathering food donations from their community, organizing and preparing these donations in their distribution center, and utilizing both their own food programs, as well as other nonprofit food assistance partners, to ensure that food gets to where the community needs it most.
Before COVID-19, food insecurity in DC was less an issue of coverage and more an issue of alignment. CAFB and organizations like it weren’t necessarily focused on acquiring enough food, but ensuring that the food gets to where it needs to go.
That changed in March 2020. All of a sudden food insecurity became a huge concern for families who had been living on the edge and were now uncertain how they were going to make it. Thrive DC began seeing hundreds of people lining up for groceries outside of our door as people all across the region were unsure where their next meal would come from.
In response, CAFB pivoted their strategy and began packaging emergency boxes containing enough shelf-stable food to feed a family of four for up to 5 days. At the same time, Thrive DC began their partnership with CAFB in an emergency effort to distribute these boxes to members of the community as quickly and safely as possible.
Now, two years later, Thrive DC is meeting a critical need of CAFB's as a sub-distribution center.
Because many smaller organizations in the district don’t have the proper facilities to receive donations from CAFB, Thrive DC acts as a “middle man” of sorts. Each week. CAFB drops off hundreds of emergency boxes that Thrive then distributes to smaller nonprofits, allowing healthy food to penetrate the communities that need them most. At the height of the pandemic, Thrive DC was serving thousands of people this way with over a dozen small group community groups like Ward 1’s Mutual Aid Society, the Alliance for Concerned Men, and Blessed Sacrament.
This partnership not only allows a greater linkage between community-based organizations in DC, but it ensures that there is better alignment of resources to the neighborhoods that are in the greatest need.
[Our] partnership with Thrive DC is extremely important to our neighbors in Ward 1. Thrive has also become a hotspot to immigrant families to secure their groceries. They continuously up their numbers to feed more and more families every single day. We’re grateful and appreciate our partnership. - CAFB.
CAFB shares a similar mission as Thrive DC: to see community members flourish. The pandemic may have brought challenges, but it has also encouraged organizations to find common ground, partner up, and help each other fill gaps. As the old adage goes, two is better than one!
“Period poverty” is an important issue - did you know many women don’t have access to safe, hygienic sanitary products or awareness of where to go for help?
Statistics from a Harvard University study show that there are nearly 22 million women living in poverty in the US that can’t afford items like pads or tampons. These individuals are first concerned with living day to day, and worrying about where they're going to sleep and eat; the problem of how they’re going to manage their period and bodily fluids is something they don’t have the convenience of preparing for until it happens.
It’s important for everyone to understand that menstrual hygiene products are a necessity, not a luxury. When we think of menstrual health equality, we also have to take into consideration that homeless women of older age who no longer have periods sometimes have to rely on adult diapers, because they don’t have access to public restrooms and rely on diapers to take care of all of their bodily fluids. A new bill was recently proposed in Washington, DC to create public bathrooms within the city limits that are accessible in multiple areas to those in need.
I have witnessed many women rely solely on Thrive DC’s menstrual products; however, two individuals stick out the most. Both individuals were/are chronically homeless, meaning sleeping in places not meant for habitation.
During our Dinner Program one would come in with soiled adult diapers because she relied on them for all of her bodily needs during her time on the streets where bathrooms were not accessible or available because she looked a certain way, or could not afford to patronize a business to have access to their bathroom. This individual would come into the women’s program to eat a hot meal and shower and request adult diapers. Sometimes, she would not come in for a few days and then we would discover she was wearing the same diaper she received from us days prior and it was heavily soiled.
I offered assistance with creating a hygiene kit “to go” but she would always refuse, telling me that she couldn’t carry the items along with her other belongings. The solution was that she’d promise me to come in daily to get fresh diapers and she agreed. The fact that this individual know that there is an organization in her community like Thrive DC that she can come in and take care of her hygiene is what I want the entire homeless community to be informed and aware of, they may not come in today or tomorrow, but by informing them we are here is what matters.
If individuals can’t take care of their basic needs it’s hard for them to think about bigger goals like finding housing or getting a job. A stepping stone to ending and preventing period poverty is that some states and cities across the nation including Washington, DC have made purchasing of menstrual products tax free, a right step in the right direction.
I have witnessed many women rely solely on Thrive DC’s menstrual products. One individual would come into Thrive DC every month to retrieve feminine hygiene items, but she wasn’t interested in any other services despite us repeatedly offering them to her. She came in three months in a row until she finally asked “Can you help me obtain an ID?”
She was hesitant to ask because she was living day to day, wondering where she would eat and sleep. However, once she felt that her basic needs were being met consistently, it was one less thing she had to worry about and she felt able to begin tackling her longer term goals. We hope that telling these stories will give others hope, knowing that they can walk in during business hours on any given day to receive these items and support at no cost with no judgements.
Thrive is always looking for menstrual pads and adult diapers. If you or anyone you know feels inspired to help by donating these types of products, or has an idea to help in another way, please reach out to our In-Kind Donations Coordinator, Rose Osburn through email email@example.com or call at 202-503-1533.
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.
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.
Over the last few weeks, Thrive DC staff has worked tirelessly to provide food and emergency services to our client community. In this last week, we have exhausted our supply of food and cleaning products and we don't feel we can continue to operate safely under the current circumstances.
As of Monday, March 23rd, Thrive DC will suspend all operations at our service center and to all outreach sites. On March 23rd, 2020 Thrive DC staff will begin teleworking. During this time, Thrive DC staff will be available and in communication with our partners and clients via e-mail, phone, text, and social media.
Our primary concern is the safety and welfare of our clients, staff, and volunteers during this unprecedented public health emergency. While our service center is closed, we will work hard to continue to provide every means of support possible, including continuing to monitor, inform, support and uplift our clients during this emergency. We will also be working on strategies to offer, what we know will be, much need assistance after this is over.
Over the last few weeks, we have seen an outpouring of kindness, courage, and service. We are so incredibly grateful to our volunteers, donors, friends and colleagues who have continued to work on behalf of our client community.
We know you will stand with us as we work through these challenging times and will continue to work with us to help rebuild our community when this crisis has passed. We send our heartfelt wishes to everyone to stay safe and healthy.
Please check our website and social media platforms for updates. If you have specific questions please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Note to our clients: Thrive DC’s mail services will not be available during the shutdown period. If you require any mail sent to you during the next couple of weeks and have an alternative address, please contact the sender to let them know.
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.
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:
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
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.
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 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.
The Ward 1 Non-Profit Networking Group is a way to gather, network, and bring in any service providing non-profits in the Ward 1 area. Non-profits can be headquartered in or providing services to clients in Ward 1.
Thrive DC’s Communications Coordinator Mariah sat down with Kira, Development Manager, to talk more about her vision for the group and the goals as we move forward into action planning through working groups and strengthen connects between non-profit service providers.
What are the goals of the getting non-profits together in Ward 1 and how will it build bridges between service providers?
On the surface, it’s networking and meeting people who are all working in client services in this area. It’s important for nonprofits to network in order to decrease duplication of services and learn what other people are doing to expand ideas. Meeting together helps us to make sure we see who already has a voice at the table and ensures we are actively working on bringing in groups and voices missing from the conversation. The important outcome is that it allows us to bring together a variety of expertise and experiences in a way one organization would never be able to do on their own.
What Goals do you have for the year?
Basic networking for non-profit employees and for the non-profits themselves. Professional and personal development helps decrease burnout and increase the likelihood that someone will stay in their role or bring great skills elsewhere in the nonprofit sector, which in turn helps our clients succeed.
Building shareable resources and group support of clients. We can work together to share or promote resources so that clients know what’s going on across the Ward, whether that’s a reading program or emergency food services. The group collectively decided that a main resource guide would be beneficial because it would allow all of the organizations to get their services out and accessible for clients.
Group Advocacy. Working as a group of nonprofits allows us to strengthen our voice for policy advocacy and client support. Every nonprofit shows up in some way to advocate for their clients, whether that’s through public statements about government policy or using their social media to ask for support on important issues. As a Ward 1 non-profits collective, our can voices are much stronger when voiced together.
Data collection is huge. There are ways we can identify trends and see what is happening across the Ward. I think we can get some really smart results out of simply coming together and discussing what types of data would improve our services and our ability to advocate for our clients. If we are able to work together to get a better understanding of issues across the Ward, that will begin to influence programs and services to reflect what is needed.
Tell me more about the sub committees and what they’ll be working on.
Our new subcommittees will allow people from different types of organizations to tackle some of our goals for the year, and ensure that we have a wide selection of voices on each issue. We’ll still meet quarterly as a group to check on progress and see where different subcommittees need help.
The subcommittees are currently: Professional Development/Workshops, Networking, Group Projects, and Data Collection and Analysis.
If you are a Ward 1 nonprofit, contact Kira at Kira@thrivedc.org to get more information on the Ward 1 Nonprofit Networking Group.
Participating non-profits in the Ward 1 networking Group are:
Urban Village Tenant Association
For a long time we've only had two showers. That means two showers for up to 200 people in our Morning Program, and two showers for up to 80 women in our Dinner Program.
That's not nearly enough.
But now, thanks to a very special angel donor we have doubled our shower capacity! We're thrilled to offer twice the capacity to our clients, who are so happy that twice as many people can shower in each program.
Two years ago Kennie Brown’s father passed away, and then he lost his job. He was staying with his cousin, but after Kennie started spiraling downwards his cousin kicked him out. He became homeless.
“He saw me drinking all the time, doing drugs, and he wasn’t having it. He kicked me out when he saw I wasn’t serious about getting my life together.”
It was a year of staying in and out of the 801 East homeless shelter before Kennie heard about Thrive DC. A friend of his at the shelter told him about the Real Opportunity program, how Thrive DC would pay a small stipend while they trained you to be a chef.
At first Kennie was only interested in the money part, but once he got in the program he started to see the kind of opportunity it was.
“Seeing how serious everyone else was made me serious. At first I wanted to be a part of the program for the money, but after I saw how valuable the experience could be I wanted the program for myself.”
Kennie was just one of three Real Opp trainees to make it through a grueling six month program. But it paid off. He now has a full-time job at Jamba Juice, has a steady place to stay with his brother and a friend, is living clean, and is less than two months away from having enough saved up to move into a place of his own and being financially sustainable.
“The more serious I got, the more people wanted to help me. My advice to people who want to join the Real Opp program is to take everything seriously. This program can make or break you, but if you can do it the right way, you can be a success story.”
Columbia Heights is an amazing, diverse, densely populated, and economically layered community. We’ve come a long way from the riots of 1968 – while our neighborhood was effectively ignored and avoided for decades by city planners, the neighborhood has witnessed an extraordinary revitalization since the Metro stop was installed in 1999 and DC USA was established in 2008.
This is why it’s amazing to me that some community members look at Columbia Heights and see a neighborhood “in decline.” There is no comparison to our community now and what it was like 10 or even 5 years ago. Businesses are thriving, people are competing to live here, and we even have America’s #2 Best New Restaurant! Our community has changed dramatically, and mostly for the better.
Unfortunately, the blessings of community revitalization have historically run “downhill.” What has generally been positive change has ended in a sporadic drip of benefits for long term residents. These changes are perceived as encroachment, because the changes are not for them but are geared toward supporting the “New Community.”
This visibly translates into a disparity within the community that begins to look like a line between the “Haves” and the “Have Nots.”
What is happening here is not unique to Columbia Heights. As newcomers enter an established community and work to make that community their own, they often aren’t aware of those they are displacing or the long term residents they will now be calling neighbors. But it is particularly dramatic here. From 2000 – 2010 the black population in Columbia Heights dropped 13%, while the white population increased 18%. And it’s only continued in that direction since then.
As long-term residents watch their neighborhood undergo dramatic change, what they see are affluent new people who are able to come in and make substantial changes: upgrading their property, buying out neighbors, closing or replacing the local corner store, and changing traffic patterns.
This progress clearly isn’t meant for long-term residents. They have been here for decades without change, but all of a sudden it is the new comers who get to dictate and direct the transformation of their community.
For example, one Saturday morning a neighborhood in DC woke to the bustling hum of a new farmer's market. The farmers had their trucks out and were busy setting up tables and cordoning off the area. The neighborhood soon learned that the market was to be a regular staple in the area from 10 AM – 2 PM every Saturday going forward. What a surprise this was!
What was also surprising is that no one knew that this was happening, not the home owners and residents who regularly parked their cars in what was now a restricted area, not the local corner market that would now be losing business to the incoming vendors. No one informed the ladies who regularly sat in the small park adjacent to the new market on Saturday mornings to enjoy the quiet setting.
At the next ANC meeting the “newcomers,” young white couples with toddlers at their sides and million dollar investments in their new homes, faced off against the “long-termers:” African American residents who had raised their children, grandchildren and great grands in homes they had occupied for most of their lives.
“Why would anyone oppose a farmers market?” the newcomers asked. “This is good for everyone!” What the market planners failed to understand was the importance of the process, the necessity of inclusion, the expectation of respect for the existing community. The market had drawn a line in the sand and brought to bear the real questions that typify the problems of a transitioning community:
"Whose community is this? Who gets to decide what “we” want? Does my voice matter? Is your voice more important than mine?"
The community of Columbia Heights is currently weathering this storm of transition. As a community changes it is the responsibility and duty of the designers of change to foresee the pitfalls of transition and work to address, if not prevent the inevitable ill winds.
Crime is one of those inevitable ills that result when parts of a community are left out of the prosperity equation.
While no one is opposed to growth and success, everyone must have a stake in progress and a viable chance to grow with the community. Real opportunities for participation in the “New Community” have to be within the reach of long term residents.
These opportunities include things like easy micro loans for home improvement, accessible job opportunities, training programs, homeownership, affordable housing, etc. Without these kinds of supports, feelings of resentment and exclusion fester as people who have the most to lose in our community are left behind or shoved aside.
City Planners, politicians, community advocates and members must continuously seek to engage strategies that create an inclusive community that promotes both the old and the new. Failure to do so will only breed the kind of contempt that results in a disregard for all things, including the community that no longer feels like home.
While Thrive DC is located in Columbia Heights and primarily serves the homeless of DC, a large part of our work is also homelessness prevention. More than 200 families a week come to Thrive DC for emergency groceries, or for fresh fruits and vegetables from our free farmer’s market, or simply to bring their children in for a free meal.
We are doing what we can to provide job assistance and job training for individuals who want to participate in our community. We even have a re-entry program for women coming home from incarceration that offers support while helping them get back on their feet.
However, these solutions will have limited effectiveness until our city and community leaders plan for a future that includes both the old and the new communities they serve.