We couldn't do this critical work without your help and continued support for our homeless clients. We will be sharing stories that resonate with our clients, staff, and volunteers though our Stories of Hope via e-mail and on the blog. Cayley, our Development Intern, sat down with Nick Rosenbach to learn more about why he continues to be a steadfast supporter of all things Thrive DC!
I was the breakfast program manager and also a former board member.
I think I started around the beginning of 2010.
I had been volunteering at Miriam’s Kitchen and Charlie’s Place, which are both similar organizations to Thrive. It was through their network that I heard there was a staff position open here. I had been volunteering at both places for a long time and loved it so much that I thought that I should be doing this for a living.
I guess it was the clients, I was already sort of familiar with the struggles our clients already had. I had some experience in dealing with that and I thought that I could focus and as a staff member I would have more resources to assist people.
Overall, incredibly positive. I recommend to all my friends to either donate or volunteer.
Just how thoughtful and caring the staff members are and the lengths they will go to help clients.
I don’t know if I have just one. There has been a number of clients that have passed away that bothered me because they ended up dying on the street and was a horrible way to go. There is always joy when we are able to find somebody a home or apartment. The best part is when we get to take a picture of them holding up their keys. To me, that is the real success, moving people off the street.
I don’t know if I can pull out one single instance so I will give a general. Everytime I am here, or everytime I leave, I feel like I have made a difference in some small way. Whether it is helping people be fed, or helping someone fill out their SNAP form, connecting someone to housing.
We have expanded our job core program. It’s not enough just to feed people or connect them with temporary shelter, what we really need to do is get them back on their feet. That comes with a paying job. We have now some funders who are underwriting two staff members to help people with resumes and job searches. So, that is where we have expanded since I have been here.
I am repeating myself, but this a message to someone who is thinking of volunteering. If you really want to make a difference, really want to help people, really want to help improve the community; Thrive is a great place to start.
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.
CasA Crestwood Homes Tour To Benefit Thrive DC
This Sunday, get an inside look at six stunning homes and one historic church in Washington, D.C.’s Crestwood neighborhood.
A few of the most notable sites that will be included on the tour, known as known as CasA Crestwood, is The Mathewson House, which is described as “part art museum, part home.” The architecture firm behind the property, Shinberg.Levinas, describes the white stucco abode as having dark flooring, a cantilevered open stair, and a skylight.
It was previously featured in the Washington Post for being an “ultramodern house in the trees.”
The church that will be featured is the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, located at 4001 17th Street NW. Constructed in 1958, this church offers gilded domes, murals, and a four-tiered iconostasis.
The event starts at 2 p.m. and ends at 6 p.m. Tickets start at $20 for tickets bought in advance and raise to $25 per person at the door. 100 percent of the proceeds from this year’s event go to Thrive D.C., a 1979-founded nonprofit dedicated to ending homelessness in the District.
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.
In response to the daunting problem of affordable housing in DC, our Mayor has mounted an admirable 82.2 million dollar effort to preserve and create approximately 804 units of affordable housing. This housing is designed for residents making between 30-80% below the area median income.
The Mayor’s plan is certainly better than nothing and will help those who are lucky enough to be first in line and eligible for the housing offered. However, many, many more will be left behind without even the hope of being able to work their way out of their circumstances.
For example, the city’s Point In Time count of homelessness in 2015 estimated 6,500 people who were currently homeless. While we applaud the effort to increase affordable housing for even one family, we have to understand that these housing units represent a mere drop in the bucket of required assistance.
Even if every unit of new housing established by the city were dedicated to the homeless community, this would only help 12% percent of the identified homeless persons in DC.
In other news, a new study published by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) shows it is impossible for an individual working full-time at minimum wage to rent even a basic apartment. The NLIHC found that individuals working in the District of Columbia would need to make $23.65/hour to afford a one bedroom. Someone making our current minimum wage at $10.50/hour would need to work two full time jobs just keep a roof over their heads.
For poor individuals, let alone single mothers with children, it is simply not possible to work hard enough to afford adequate housing.
This study represents a very sad truth that even 82 million dollars is not enough to solve our housing problems. The approach to solving housing instability has to be multifaceted and include elements which allow individuals the ability to become self sufficient.
First, we as a city (and country!) must decide that people deserve to earn a living wage. We must also commit to creating ample opportunities to earn that living wage, and we must insure that there are sufficient affordable and decent dwellings in which to live.
Finally, we must provide the necessary and consistent supports for people to achieve and maintain their lives. It makes no sense to provide a person transitioning from homelessness or housing instability a beautiful new home if they do not have what they need to maintain it. These kinds of support range from ongoing case management, to accommodations for physical disabilities, to job development and more.
Thrive DC believes that every individual deserves a safe place to sleep at night, employment that allows them to afford that place, and external support to help when times get rough. The District’s new commitment to affordable housing is commendable, but will be ultimately insufficient without broader systemic change.
Life in the city, booming with business and opportunities, is becoming a luxury unavailable to our blue collar community. For too many in the District, mere survival has become an all-consuming struggle. At Thrive DC, we see families and individuals from Ward 1 and beyond who work hard to simply make rent, and use our services as a last ditch effort to keep from falling off the edge of survival and into poverty and homelessness.
Unfortunately many do fall, and we are here to provide assistance.
Families who have lived in the nation’s capital for generations are no longer able to afford the high cost of living that has come to earmark the District of Columbia. Half the apartments that rent for $800 or less have disappeared since 2002; among DC’s lowest income residents, 64% spend half or more of their income on housing.
I am talking about the working poor. I am talking about those who labor in low wage jobs, the same jobs that keep this city running, but who can never make ends meet. Those who are committed to working hard and supporting themselves but depend on service agencies to survive.
It should not take free groceries from Thrive DC to put food on your family’s table each week.
The minimum wage in DC is now $10.50/hour, or an annual salary of $21, 840 (before taxes). Our new minimum wage, the highest in the country, still does not even cover the cost of rent – much less anything else. With the average one bedroom apartment costing $1,741/month, DC residents can expect to pay $20,892/year just to have a place to sleep at night.
I believe that the average citizen of DC overwhelmingly supports a living wage. The clients who come to Thrive DC don’t want charity; they want good jobs in their own city. The question is: how do we get there?
The answer is simple: more affordable housing throughout the city and a wage that promotes opportunity, not dependence. This combination creates mixed-income communities that thrive because everyone is able to afford the cost of living. The alternative is a DC immersed in the kind of economic disparity that breeds polarization and dangerous animosity.
We are the fourth most expensive rental market behind New York, San Francisco, and Boston. If DC refuses to address the inequity created when people cannot afford to live where they work, we rob the city of its history, its diversity, and risk becoming a dangerous monolith that only supports a select few. This is not the kind of community to which this city’s smart, progressive, and remarkable residents aspire.
I challenge the District of Columbia, the Nation’s Capital, to lead by example and create a diverse city that values and supports all residents. I support working toward a living wage of $15, and the chance for our poorest neighbors to find stability and security.
-Alicia Horton, Executive Director of Thrive DC
We can't paint the solutions for homelessness with one magic brush stroke. Homelessness is the result of a broken system that sets up our community's most vulnerable individuals and families for continued failure. The issues that surround homelessness are complex - as are the solutions.
Of course, the most immediate answer is to find everyone without a home a place to live. This would answer the most immediate and obvious need; however, the reasons people fall victim to homelessness are not addressed in the "give them a place to live solution."
Until we can develop a system that effectively addresses the underlying causes of homelessness, we are simply putting a band-aid on a much larger issue and sweeping the remnants of a broken system under the rug.
Housing individuals and families without a place to live is a step in the right direction, but it falls far short of the full answer to eradicating homelessness. An effective long-term plan to end homelessness will incorporate strong preventative measures that support self-sufficiency as well as programs that respond rapidly to people in crisis. Visit www.thrivedc.org to learn more about our efforts to end homelessness in DC.