202-737-9311 | info@thrivedc.org

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!

Mr. Jones and I spent 20 minutes painstakingly filling out an job application online. He listed every past employer in his life (which totaled only two, because he’d worked for his family business for forty years until the store was forced to close).

There was just one last question that stood between him and stocking pet food in the middle of the night: “Can we check your credit history?” The question made him hesitate, because past medical expenses had ruined Mr. Jones’s credit and he was afraid this would make him a weak candidate.

He clicked “No” and was immediately kicked out of the application process.

To say that applying for a minimum wage job is tedious and personally invasive is an understatement. I have been shocked at how much sensitive information is being asked of Thrive DC’s clients. They frequently have to give their social security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, reference phone numbers and more, just to add their resume to the countless other resumes these chain companies receive for each opening.

But the most frustrating part of volunteering with the employment program is knowing that nearly all of these men have a strong work ethic and employment history; their greatest obstacle is simply their lack of computer skills.

There are virtually no jobs today that one can apply for without a computer. The absence of computer skills means it generally takes a client almost twice as long as someone else to apply online. Not owning a computer also means that clients have to use public computer labs: which is helpful and frustrating at the same time since they’re often limited to just an hour each session.

In addition to struggling with technology and invasive questions, there are simple logistics Thrive DC’s clients have to overcome that make it really hard to work, such as: a lack of transportation, a lack of a professional wardrobe, lack of child care, and especially lack of a college degree.

Nearly every employer wants their employees to have a college degree regardless of the skill level needed to perform the job.

Despite the long odds, I’m happy to have been a part of many success stories with the employment program. At least half of the clients ultimately find employment thanks to the support of their case manager and the other volunteers in the computer lab.

Besides – it’s all worth it when a client tells you with a BIG smile that he’s finally got a new job!

Angel had second thoughts the first time he walked into Thrive DC.

“Initially, I thought Thrive DC was too rough for me. I didn’t feel like someone who belonged here. But then a staff member came over to welcome me and gave me a sandwich. He actually ended up giving me three sandwiches so I would be OK after I left.

“That sandwich meant everything to me. I had no money and no place to go. That sandwich said ‘don’t give up, stay strong.’”

Angel needed help finding employment. He was living in a friend’s closet paying $200/month just to have someplace to sleep at night. But Thrive DC was able help him out with a job right away. Less than a week after Angel came looking for help he was set up with a job at a local grocery store.

“At first it was very good, easy work with a lot of hours. Then they started giving me less, first 30, then 20 hours. And you can’t live on that.”

Angel respectfully let Thrive DC know that he was going to quit his job, and went to a friend with a painting company for work. When there was work to do it was a good arrangement; but every day was a risk that he might not get a call, or the job wouldn’t be big enough to pay his bills.

Eventually he ran out of options and came back to Thrive DC.

This time things were different. Angel came looking for help right when a position was opening up at the International Monetary Fund for cleaning work. The Thrive DC staff was impressed with Angel’s drive and demeanor, and immediately recommended him for the position. After a formal interview process and background check Angel was hired!

“I made so many mistakes, so many. But now I have this chance and am going to do the right thing.”

Angel’s just started his new job and will be making $15/hr with benefits. He plans to stay in the small one-bedroom apartment he’s been renting now for a year and save up money. Angel has a plan, and never wants to worry about becoming homeless ever again.

“I am grateful to Thrive DC so much. The staff here is very open with me, very clear about what I need to do to get a job. I am so thankful to everyone I worked with, and I would tell anyone who needs help to come here, to people who really care about you and can help you.”

Charlie's Story

When Charlie lost his job he knew exactly where to go.

Charlie was born and raised in the District, and he’s known about Thrive DC ever since it was called the “9:30 Club” downtown because it served breakfast at 9:30 AM. Whenever he was down, hungry, or lost his ID, Thrive DC was there as a place he could count on.

This time was no different.

The day after he lost his job Charlie was at Thrive DC asking about the employment program. He was there every day working with our job coaches to set up an email and rebuild his resume.

While he was here, Thrive DC’s emergency services kept him going. Services like meals and grocery bags helped him stretch out a thin budget until he could get back to work.

“You know, tomorrow’s not promised to anyone. When I lost my job I never missed a beat, I was always at Thrive DC...It’s real frustrating not to be working, but I told myself I’m just going to do the best I can today. I’m too hungry; I’m going to do whatever it takes to get back on top.”

Between Charlie’s determination and his job coaches at Thrive DC, the hard work paid off. Less than two months after losing his job Charlie was hired full-time for his first ever supervisor position! Not only did Charlie bounce back from unemployment, he’s now doing better than ever.

“Ya’ll are a great organization,” Charlie said when asked about Thrive DC. “If you need real, true help…Thrive DC got it.”

Eight months ago Antoinette moved from New York City to Washington, DC to be with her boyfriend. But life here was difficult without a job and without any prospects to get a job.

She went to Skyland Workforce Center hoping to get help, and that’s where she found Thrive DC. With encouragement from Thrive DC’s Employment Specialist, Antoinette applied for the Real Opportunity program and was accepted.

Antoinette enjoyed everything about the program, which gave her extra incentive to get up early each day so she could make the trip from Anacostia.

The Real Opportunity Training Program was a great learning experience for Antoinette, exposing her to new cooking techniques and practices she’d never considered, everything from managing a pantry and rotating stock to the different kinds of cuts for meat. But what she learned most was to have patience…with others and with herself.

Antoinette drew strength from the people around her – the Thrive DC staff, her instructors, and her fellow program participants. The spirit of cooperation and respect was something she hadn’t planned on, but was incredibly thankful for.

Once Antoinette was placed at Dos Gringos for her externship, her learning continued. From chopping ingredients to stocking shelves and washing dishes, Antoinette gained experience in all aspects of the kitchen. She impressed her manager at the restaurant so much that once her externship was over she was asked to continue – as a paid employee!

Antoinette now feels more stable and looks forward to someday becoming a chef and perhaps owning her own business. She hopes to one day help others who are in situations similar to hers because: “If you’re going to take, you’ve got to be willing to give.”

A Job Training Program That Works

Want more information on Thrive DC's Real Opportunity Training Program? Click the link to learn more about our comprehensive program supporting people out of homelessness.

More Stories of Hope

If you like this story, you might also enjoy reading about Dalton and Jeffrey.

Dalton liked to cook. That’s why he was so excited to hear about culinary training programs that could help him get back on his feet.

After leaving incarceration three years ago, Dalton struggled with homelessness and finding a job. He tried everything but kept running into a wall. What kept him going, however, was six words:

“Change I must, or die I will.”

“I just had to hold it together,” he said. “Lots of prayer.”

Dalton had heard about two programs he could try: one at Central Union Mission and the other at Thrive DC. He didn’t know which one he wanted to do, but he decided that he would choose based on how the food was at each place.

He went to Central Union Mission and thought their food was OK. But when he came to Thrive DC he thought: “Wow. They were working hard.”

Dalton was blown away by how full Thrive DC was all the time and how much people kept coming back for the food. He knew he wanted to go where people took pride in the work they were doing.

“I haven’t had people like Chef Terrence in my life. I made a good, conscious decision to pursue my career here and I’m so thankful of that.”

Thrive DC’s Real Opportunity Training Program is six months long and hard work, but Dalton was glad to be working. It helped keep him busy, helped him not to focus on his past incarceration or not having a home of his own to go back to.

“I ended up here as a result of committing to change. I really wanted to learn what these people had to offer, and I think I accomplished that.”

After six months, Dalton finally graduated. He took with him a great reference from his externship at Amsterdam Falafel, and is currently looking forward to passing his SafeServ certification and getting his Culinary Arts degree from Stratford University.

“I’m not quite finished yet. This is my new start!”

A Job Training Program That Works

Want more information on Thrive DC's Real Opportunity Training Program? Click the link to learn more about our comprehensive program supporting people out of homelessness.

More Stories of Hope

Enjoyed reading about Dalton's success? You might also like Jeffrey's and Antoinette's story.

Jeffrey was homeless and needed help when he heard about Thrive DC. He needed a place that would enhance his skill set and give him a real chance at steady employment - something that would not just to sustain him but also help him reach his ambitions to be a manager.

He needed a place that would take the time to invest in him. There were lots of programs that were 6 – 8 weeks long, but it seemed like as soon as you started you were walking out the door.

That’s when Jeffrey heard about Thrive DC.

He was at Bread for the City when they gave him a referral to our Real Opportunity Training Program. At first he was unsure; while he wanted a better training program, Thrive DC’s was six months long and much more dense and challenging.

Ultimately though, the program was everything he was looking for:

“When I first came to Thrive DC, I was uncertain because I didn’t know a lot about the program. Now, Thrive DC is a place I would recommend. All the different programs Thrive DC has to enhance lifestyles are great and the staff is really professional. This has been an intense and gratifying program.”

Jeffrey is currently finishing his externship at Open City in Woodley Park and is under consideration for employment there. But after his time in the Real Opp program, Jeffrey also has a new dream.

“I want to return the favor for what Thrive DC has done for me. I’m working on getting my business license so that I can teach others about sanitation, knife work, and all of the skills you need when working in this industry. I want to be a food service consultant and train people in the private sector.”

When asked what he had learned through the Real Opp program, Jeffrey had just one thing to say:

“I have learned that you can always get what you want through hard work. You’re going to have challenges, but you have to work through them.”

“It was worth it.”

A Job Training Program That Works

Want more information on Thrive DC's Real Opportunity Training Program? Click the link to learn more about our comprehensive program supporting people out of homelessness.

More Stories of Hope

If you like this story, you might also enjoy reading about Dalton and Antionette.

“I’d never actually completed anything in my life before.”

The deck was stacked against Roxann. A high school dropout, she had turned to drugs and had spent time in prison. She found herself in transitional housing with no job – or prospects for a job. She wanted to get her life back on track, but the odds weren’t in her favor.

Fortunately, Roxann’s case manager knew about Thrive DC and suggested that she check out our Real Opportunity culinary arts training program. The thought of an intensive six-month program was daunting though: “I’d never actually completed anything in my life before" said Roxann.

It wasn’t easy for Roxann, beginning with creating her resume. “I never learned how to use a computer. It was so frustrating.” But Thrive DC’s staff helped her every step of the way. Learning skills in our kitchen was easier for Roxann, and at times more meaningful.

When the Real Opportunity participants helped serve the breakfast they’d just prepared, Roxann would look at who she was serving and think, “It wasn’t long ago that that was me.”

Finally, Roxann’s externship at Open City made her feel good about getting up and going to work. It gave her a sense of purpose, especially since she hadn’t held a job in over 15 years. The Open City staff welcomed her with open arms. She felt supported. And when Roxann, who is also a breast cancer survivor, needed time off for doctors appointments, Open City’s Chef Carlos made sure she could take the time.

Roxann has been drug free for three years and has high hopes for the future. When asked at her Real Opportunity graduation ceremony what was next for her, she took the question quite literally and said, “I’m leaving here to go enroll in night school to finish high school.” After that, Roxann plans to give back, to help those who are homeless and struggling just like she was.

Our Morning Program is aimed at providing our clients with fresh food, emergency groceries, personal care items, showers, laundry and mail.

Recently, American University students conducted an assessment on our male clients to get a better grasp of their needs and backgrounds. Not only has this report helped our team to further understand our clients but it has created a better awareness of DC homelessness for everyone.

To help you get a sense of who we work with, here are 5 things you should know about our clients.

1. About 1/3 of Our Homeless Speak Spanish

We are located in Columbia Heights, a region with a large Spanish population often overlooked when it comes to Spanish programs.

Wanting to address this growing issue, our bilingual Job Developer David Vicenty has implemented a Spanish Employment Workshops to help our Hispanic clients.

Twice a week, we provide two hours of working one-on-one with them to improve resumes, look for jobs online, and assist with completing job applications.

2. Almost Half Have Lived 5+ Years in DC

Despite DC being internationally recognized as a city with opportunities, DC’s homeless are growing and many are staying homeless.

Though we do provide a variety of programs to all of our clients, our mission is to prevent and end homelessness. That being said, this study is proving just how important it is to continue addressing an often neglected population.

3. Not All of Our Clients are Homeless

Actually, more than 30% are low-income individuals who are struggling to keep afloat. This can be especially difficult when buying groceries since healthy alternatives are often expensive.

Luckily, our Fresh Food Fridays provide a free farmer’s market for all of our clients. Therefore our place becomes a haven for many wanting vegetables, fruits, pasta and much more!

4. Our Clients KNOW They Have the Skills for a Job

In fact, 80% of our clients believe they have what it takes to land a job. However, many of them are currently not working yet and are looking for jobs.

We understand just how essential jobs are and help through our Employment Support and Real Opportunity Training Program. It’s through these programs that our clients are able to make a real change in their lives.

If you're interested in helping people find jobs, contact the Employment Specialist Jemahl Nixon at (202) 503-1521 or jemahl@thrivedc.org.

5. 60% of Our Clients Cannot Afford Public Transportation

Not being able to pay for transportation can be very hard to our clients since this often means they miss major appointments like going to the doctor or job interviews.

However, over one-third of our clients use tokens which allow for a free pass to board the Metro or Metrobus. Yet this continues to be an important issue. In order to help prevent homelessness, we have to provide those who cannot afford to use the Metro or bus the opportunities to get to job interviews.

How You Can Make a Difference

If you enjoyed getting an insightful look into who we serve and how we help, join the Thrive DC team either through volunteering or donating. To get started, contact our Community Relations Manager Greg Rockwell at 202-503-1528 or greg@thrivedc.org.

Click here to read more about the assessment.

On Thursday, May 25th, Alicia Horton is presenting testimony to the Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs in support of raising the minimum wage to $15/hr, as they hear testimony on B21-712, the "Fair Shot Minimum Wage Amendment Act of 2016."

Thrive DC supports creating sustainable pathways out of homelessness. Raising the minimum wage is a necessary, but not sufficient, part of the solution. But raising the minimum wage is a great first step, and we look forward to greater opportunities for our clients as a result of DC City Council taking action.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Committee,

Without a sustainable minimum wage our clients do not have a realistic path out of homelessness. They will never be able to achieve their goals of housing stability, food security and self sufficiency.

My name is Alicia Horton, and I am the Executive Director of Thrive DC. I have been the Executive Director for eight years, and Thrive DC has been serving our city’s low income and homeless community for the past 37 years, ever since we were the Dinner Program for Homeless Women at First Congregational Church. We moved to Columbia Heights 7 years ago and now provide wraparound services to people who are homeless and those on the edge of homelessness.

\We provide over 137,000 meals a year, see more than 250 people a day, and are just one of six places where our clients outside of a shelter can get both free showers and free laundry.

We have job assistance AND job training, and a new program called WIND that supports women leaving incarceration with comprehensive support, transportation…and a stipend.

Even with all those services, our clients continue to struggle.

Because when you are trying to escape what can become an endless loop of homelessness, you start with nothing except expenses and challenges.

Our clients have all the expenses you and I do: transportation, clothing, medical co-pays, food, etc, in addition to the costs associated with being homeless, like the price of a cup of coffee to use a restaurant’s bathroom, the cost of replacing a bag with all your belongings that was stolen at the shelter, or the cost of buying a pair of shoes at Salvation Army because yours are worn out.

When we meet someone ready to turn their life around, we are there to help them every step of the way. We help them search for jobs and get substance abuse counseling. We work with them one-on-one on foundational skills. We make available employment readiness support as well as a 6 month job training program where 90% of our graduates have found sustainable careers.

Once our client has a job, we can connect them with a work shelter that gives them temporary housing for up to six months. In a work shelter, half of their earned income the shelter puts in escrow, saving it for when their time is up at the shelter and they can use the money for housing.

Securing a part-time job is usually the first concrete step out of homelessness for our clients, and at $10.50/hr (this summer’s wage increase) it is not enough to cover expenses AND save enough money for housing. Many of our clients are limited in their employment opportunities. Many have big gaps in their employment history, are held back by a criminal record, and lack the skills to skills to immediately secure a full-time position.

So an individual makes 10.50/week for 20 hours/week or $840/month. But with taxes they only take home $673 and $336 is immediately put away as savings. That leaves $336 to live on for an individual and quite possibly a family.

How would you live on $336 a month?

The expenses I mentioned earlier don’t go away when our clients start working, but sometimes increase. We’re talking about $336/month to buy food, pay a phone bill, take the bus to work and back, buy clothes, medicine…and the list goes on. But that’s the best case scenario. Few of our clients are able to work a full 20 hours/week, and hours get cut or they don’t work at all.

Also remember that our clients can only work between 6 AM and 5 PM in order to have any chance of claiming a bed at a shelter, which significantly limits their opportunities and eliminates their ability to be flexible or accept additional hours without risking their bed for the night.

Conversely, if our client could work 20/week at $15/hr, their take home pay at the end of the month would be $895. With half going into savings for housing, that’s $447 to live on for a month, or $111 more in our client’s pocket.

Our clients can do a lot with an extra $111 a month.

That money means a few more meals, an extra trip to the Laundromat, a necessary prescription…it means a few more critical expenses to make it through the month.  This small but important increase could help provide the resources necessary to actually help someone claw their way out of homelessness.

Our clients deserve a better minimum wage so that they have a fighting chance at building stability by earning a wage that can actually support someone in this city, in this economy.  Without an increase our clients will continue on an unending treadmill where self sufficiency, independence, and security will continue to be fleeting and unobtainable dreams.

We cannot continue to blame, point fingers and judge the poor.  We must create viable pathways out of poverty, accessible strategies for achieving financial health and wellbeing. Raising the minimum wage isn’t a panacea.  But it does provide greater opportunity, a fighting chance.

Every one of the people we serve deserves this chance!

Ladies and gentlemen, I ask that you reaffirm your commitment to ending homelessness by raising the minimum wage to $15/hour, and providing a financially sustainable path for our clients out of homelessness.

Thank you.

Alicia Horton
Executive Director
Thrive DC

1525 Newton St NW
Washington, DC 20010
(202) 737-9311

Client Hours:
Tuesday - Friday
10:00 AM - 12:00 PM | 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM

Staff Hours: 
Monday – Friday
8:30 AM – 5:00 PM
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