On March 30, we gathered with Major Donors and Board Members to share our 2022-2024 Strategic Plan at Thrive DC! We have so many exciting things planned, and we can't wait for you to join us on the journey.
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:
You can read the full plan here.
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.
Idea + Passion = Impact
Read below for an interview between Bobby Olejarczyk and Greg Rockwell, Thrive DC's Director of Development, about what can happen when you let your passion for a cause drive you to action. The interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
Greg: So you just did something really cool. How about telling us who you are and what you just did?
Bobby: Of course! My name is Bobby Olejarczyk, I'm a current third year at Bentley University, right outside of Boston, studying public policy and business studies. But right now I'm in Washington, DC as an intern for the US Department of Education.
This past weekend I ran the virtual 125th Boston Marathon, right through the streets of DC. And in doing that, I raised over a thousand dollars for Thrive DC, an organization that I very much have come to support and find very much in tied to my values and passions.
Greg: That's so cool. Thank you so much.! That's an amazing amount raised for our clients. Why Thrive?
Bobby: Yeah. So in coming to DC, I saw that while it's big problem everywhere, homelessness is chronic here, and very, very much a part of the culture here that has given me so much. But because I don't always have that dollar or that meal that I can give folks, I wanted to do something a little bit more.
I saw Thrive DC as a great way to do that because your organization focuses very much on vulnerable populations, ones that have been disadvantaged from their lived experiences, such as formerly incarcerated folks, or women, or other marginalized communities. That Thrive understands these groups and is actively working to help them and support them from a lens of equity was a mission that I very much agreed with and wanted to support, as I just see the problems and the systemic problems that exist and want to try to remedy those to whatever extent I as a 20 year old, can.
Greg: Awesome. Thank you so much! There's going to be people who listen to this who are also really passionate about the causes that they believe in and are really intimidated to do something, or don't know how to do something. As someone who just ran a race and raised a thousand dollars in a week, what advice do you have for people?
Bobby: For sure. I'd just say let ambition and drive you, and don't be fearful of failure because of course that's when you win best.
But over this past summer, I started small and raised $500 for UNICEF. And then from there, I've been able to grow that to a thousand dollars. And I'm just building this track record of say, effective fundraising. And so you're just learn over time about what engages folks, what makes people want to really give to a cause that you are fundraising money for.
And I always find that it's good to explain why are you passionate about this certain cause and giving back to this certain cause. And from there, people resonate with that. And no matter who it is, whether it's a friend, a coworker, a partner, whoever it is, they can resonate with it as well. And if they do, they are most likely willing to give whatever it is.
And I also found with this, be accepting to anything whether it's $1, $5, $10, whatever it may be, the collective effort will bring you to where you want to be. I am confident about it.
Moderated by Aja Beckham, the conversation between Aaliyah Polite, Jameon Gray, and Margaret LaPell covered how the stigma of their conviction shadowed how they made friends and applied for work, how to build trust between NIMBY advocates and returning citizens, and wanting to be judged by who they are now and not the mistakes in their past.
Returning citizens are just looking for a chance to thrive. But the stigma of their incarceration doesn't give them a real second chance. 80% of people coming home experience prejudice based on their status. And that's not fair.
A Chance To Thrive is a campaign to destigmatize returning citizens and get neighbors, employers, and friends to see them as the people they are and not the label they've been given. Please take time to watch the video below of our conversation, and if you're inspired, visit www.AChanceToThrive.com to see how you can get involved.
As authorities work to address this unprecedented public health crisis, everyone is frightened and unsure in their heart. Those of us who have the security of jobs, health insurance, homes, friends, and family can rest a bit more assured knowing that these blessings can help us stay buoyed. But, imagine if your life was already in a state of chaos; if you did not have a safety net to draw upon; and you if felt things spiraling out of control as those services that were keeping you afloat began to gradually disappear.
The place where you would usually go to take a shower and do a load of laundry is now closed. The dining hall where you could have a hot meal is no longer serving food. The office where your case manager or mental health worker would normally meet with you is shut down until further notice. The place where you would collect your mail, make a phone call and use the computer now has a sign that reads, “Closed Due to Corona Virus.”
This is not fictional. This is what our clients are already experiencing across the nation’s capital and the country. As I watch the disoriented faces of our client community today, my heart aches. I see fear in their eyes as they feel the only rug under their feet is being snatched away. Some are dazed and moving around aimlessly. Others are asking a million questions that we don't have answers to. I am getting e-mails where people are saying, "I just don't know what to do!"
Several weeks ago, when things still seemed normal, a gentleman we will call Jack came into Thrive DC. He was about to lose his housing. He needed to work and wanted to work. We enrolled him in our Job Readiness program. We helped strengthen his resume and do a targeted job search. To our delight, he got two offers: one part-time job in a restaurant kitchen and one as a full-time bartender. We got him shoes, pants, and a white shirt. We provided transportation for his first few weeks until he got paid. He was thrilled to have things going in his favor. He completed his training for the full-time position last week only to find out that there is no more bar service now and that the restaurant is putting all new hires on hold. In one day, both of his job prospects were gone. They vanished. A week ago Jack’s life was full of hope, positive things were happening. Jack felt like he was finally breaking through a dark place and seeing the light. Now, through no fault of his own, he is back in the dark.
This is just one of the thousands of stories that homeless people and those with unstable housing are experiencing at the moment. As one of the most disadvantaged, overlooked, belittled and vulnerable communities, their fear and anxiety are palpable. And rightfully so. We cannot just do the right thing for the most wealthy and visible. What about those who live on the margins of society? Our current response for this incredibly vulnerable community is to herd them into shelters and wait for the worst to happen. There are no effective policies or real plans for those with the least among us. One client told me," I am just waiting, waiting for this thing to knock me over and drag me through the S*&%$. I know it is coming.” My heart sank.
Despite our best intentions, I feel like we have failed a huge segment of our society. Affordable housing has continued to diminish. At the same time, over-incarceration, unemployment, and broken systems (i.e., mental health services) have fueled a miasma of social ills that have penned people to a life of poverty that may even cost them their lives. Last month, when I felt like there was nothing else I could do for a client, at the very least I could at least offer them a hug. Now, in the era of social distancing, I can't even do that. When we come up for air and this tragic time is behind us, I hope that we can do the hard work to create a proper safety net for the most vulnerable. Our national lack of planning, resource allocation and adequate response will hopefully spur new levels of action so that we can be better prepared to protect the lives of the most vulnerable during the next crisis.
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:
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 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.
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.
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:
Here at Thrive DC, we believe re-entry programs are vital to helping individuals get back on their feet—especially 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:
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.
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.
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.
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
A lot has happened in the first few months of 2018. We're helping more clients get hired than ever before, and our first New Directions class has graduated!
Despite the challenges of 2017, we're committed to helping our clients take their next steps out of homelessness. Thanks to your support real change is happening.
Below is our 2018 Spring Impact Report. Read on to see the good work you're doing!