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When the heat index reaches 95 degrees outside or hotter, the District issues a Heat Alert.

During a Heat Alert, the District’s top advice is to:

This is impossible for many in our homeless community. We’ve talked before about how extreme heat can be just as or more dangerous than extreme cold.

With conditions becoming riskier for people forced to stay outside, we need everyone’s help to look out for our vulnerable neighbors. Here are 5 things you can do to help the homeless during a heat emergency.

Know What To Look For

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are the most serious conditions than can result from overexposure.

The symptoms of heat exhaustion to look out for are: dark colored urine, pale skin, profuse sweating, rapid heartbeat, muscle or abdominal cramps, dizziness, confusion, and fainting.

If left unaddressed, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke.

Heat stroke is a medical emergency. Symptoms include throbbing headaches, red, hot, and dry skin, lack of sweating despite the heat, muscle weakness or cramps, rapid heartbeat, rapid, shallow breathing, seizures, and unconsciousness.

Don’t Ignore Someone

If you think that someone is having a hard time, ask how they’re doing!

Introduce yourself and ask their name, and see when the last time they had water was. Have a conversation around how their feeling, and see if they are experiencing any of the symptoms above. If they are, show them where to go! DC has lots of options to escape the heat, see the map below for places in your area.

If someone is thirsty, offer water. Staying hydrated is one of the most important things to do in the heat, and you can make a big difference in someone’s day with $1.50 bottle of water.

If you run into someone who looks passed out in the heat, check to see if they’re ok. If they look like they’re sleeping then let them be, but if they’re unresponsive, remember your Red Cross training and call 911 immediately.

Who You Gonna’ Call?

If someone needs help getting out of the heat, call the hyperthermia hotline at 1-800-535-7252. The United Planning Organization (UPO) will send a van and can provide water and transport to the nearest cooling station.

In the event of a heat stroke or if a person is unconscious, call 911 immediately.

Know Your Options

Like DC says at the top of the page, the best way to avoid suffering from the heat is to stay inside as much as possible. As the map to the right illustrates, there are many resources available for the homeless to take refuge in and escape the heat.

Click on the slider in the upper left of the map to see more options.

Know the resources in your area, and be prepared to direct someone to their nearest cooling shelter, library, spray park, or shelter.

Go Beyond The Crisis

At Thrive DC, we are on the front lines helping individuals without homes to have the resources they need to survive their situation, like helping them out water bottles, sunscreen, emergency clothing, hats or bug spray.

Whether or not we have these items depends on the generosity of our donors. You can help us by donating these items either in person or through our Amazon Wishlist.

There are other ways to help out too. Supporting Thrive DC financially helps us have the resources we need to help our clients, and volunteering with us gives our staff the chance to work more closely with our clients. The more people we have helping, the more one-on-one attention we can give.

To learn more about DC’s Heat Emergency Plan, click here.

At Thrive DC we offer internship opportunities that vary from social service focused to development focused. Meet Zach, our intern who does both! He's been with us since September, and has a lot to share about his time at Thrive DC

Tell me a little about yourself

I am a Senior at St. Xavier University in Chicago, Illinois, where I study Criminal Justice. I had two credits left to complete my undergraduate degree, so I decided to fill the credits through an internship program. I found a program called the Washington Internship Institute (WII), which helps you find internships in DC. The internship is paired with two classes and also helps you find housing in DC, so it's a really great program.

How did you find Thrive DC?

Thrive DC was one of three internships that accepted me through WII, and after some thought, I chose Thrive DC. I knew that I have the ability to make an impact at a place like Thrive DC, even if it's just a small impact. I had a professor in college who had written an ordinance for something she wanted change in her local community. It was such a small thing, but it mattered to her, had a positive impact on the community, and brought about change; that's what I want to do and that's why I chose Thrive DC. Even if I'm just sorting through mail, I'm bringing a small, impactful change to the clients at Thrive DC who need that mail. I'm very comfortable with my decision and glad I chose Thrive DC.

How has your experience at Thrive DC been?

I felt very welcomed here from the start. The staff were so warm and immediately brought me in and made me feel like a part of the team. I have a few different roles here, but I have mostly been sorting through the mail. At the moment, there are around 1,200 people who send their mail to Thrive DC, and with the pandemic, we had a large back stock of unsorted mail. For the first few weeks at Thrive DC, I spent the majority of my time going through the mail, but I also helped out wherever I was needed. Whatever I end up doing that day, I always enjoy. There has never been a time at Thrive DC that I have walked out at the end of the day and felt like I wasn't happy with how the day went. I always leave smiling and happy, knowing I made a difference.

What have been some of your favorite moments at Thrive DC?

I really enjoy talking to Thrive DC clients who are part of the Real Opps job training program. They all have very interesting stories to tell and are always looking to share their stories with others, so it's fun to talk to them. Really any interaction with people has been great. I enjoy talking to staff as well and volunteers and clients outside of Real Opps. Everyone is so friendly and you feel safe and supported here.

What advice would you give someone just starting out at Thrive DC?

I would say take your time; there's no rush. When sorting through mail, mistakes can matter a lot more than you would think, so it's important that you don't rush through any of the tasks you're given. I would also say try to make it interesting and fun. I've never been bored sorting through mail because I've found ways to make it more entertaining. There's never a dull day at Thrive DC, so enjoy it and make the most of it.

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!

“What’s my favorite thing in my new house? It’s me!”

Brad isn’t what you typically think of when you picture the homeless. He’s never even spent a night sleeping on the ground or a bench outside.

That doesn’t mean he didn’t spend his time in the trenches.

Eight years ago Brad got divorced, and then soon after lost his house and everything he owned in a fire. Next he lost his job as a home health aide. Within a year Brad went from having a steady job with a wife and a house to losing everything, and turned to drugs and alcohol to dull the pain he was going through.

Fortunately he still had friends and family in the city, and was able to stay with people off and on while he struggled with homelessness and living in shelters.

“I’m really thankful I stayed connected with my family. A lot of my friends who are still homeless only know people going through the same stuff. They don’t have anyone else to go to, and that’s a hurtful feeling.”

While he was homeless, Brad learned the hard way where real help was available, and where it was just wishful thinking. With some programs, he would have to fight through crowds just to get a meal or attention from a case manager.

Finding A Community

That’s why when Brad learned about Thrive DC, he was excited to find a place that could help him in lots of ways and give him personal attention.

“There are more resources on this side of town than in Southeast where the [801 East men’s] shelter is. At Thrive DC, this program is a lot – there’s the substance abuse group, job help, computer lab…getting the help you need is different here.”

They also say ‘Good morning!’ when you walk in the door. That’s big. Having someone tell you good morning makes a big difference. Most places don’t do that for us.”

The substance abuse program was where Brad really started turning his life around. Dealing with addiction is a daily struggle, and he appreciated that Thrive DC’s program gave him options and didn’t just tell him what to do. He appreciated that someone like Gabriel, Thrive DC’s Substance Abuse Counselor, was on his side no matter what and offered him a safe place where he could get away from his addiction.

“Drugs and alcohol are the worst parts of living in a shelter. There are dealers and people using drugs right in front of the door so you can’t avoid it, coming or going.

A lot of people can’t resist that temptation, and that’s what keeps them addicted. Then they come in to the shelter drunk or high and that’s what starts the stealing.”

Thrive DC offered Brad a place to escape during the day from the drugs and alcohol around him, and the substance abuse program became a supportive environment to get him back on his feet. About 9 months after he started coming to Thrive DC he finally got into housing.

Being Home

“Being able to cook and clean for myself is the best thing about being in a home. I’m a neat freak! I love being able to choose what I cook and keeping my space tidy just the way I like it.”

Right now, Brad is focused on getting his life back together. Now that he has a house, the next thing is getting re-certified as a home health aide and paying his own way. After relying on his friends and family for so long, he’s looking forward to being independent again.

“If I could say one thing to all the people who support Thrive DC, I would say ‘thank you.’ You really don’t know how much you are helping. You don’t see the progress, but if you help one of us you help all of us. Everyone is looking for a miracle, but they don’t come around every day.”

“But I got mine!”

How You Can Help

It took Brad nine months with Thrive DC to get sober and get out of homelessness. For many clients it takes even longer than that.

Change takes time.

To support our clients and give them the time it takes to change, consider joining our Next Step Team as a monthly donor. Not only will your donations be easy and automatic, but the steady gift each month will give our clients a firm foundation to build from.

Join our team, and help clients like Brad take their next step out of homelessness.

“The most important thing is that I wanted change.”

Cornell is 57 and lucky to be alive.

He got into drugs by smoking weed when he was just 13 years old; as he got older he moved onto harder things. His parents both did drugs, not that Cornell uses that as an excuse; but he recognizes that it was his environment that helped shape who he is.

That’s why he’s determined to change his environment now.

Cornell has been coming to Thrive DC since it opened in Columbia Heights, almost 10 years ago. He’s been homeless for even longer than that, bouncing between family members, shelters, and sleeping outside during the summer.

He wanted to live with family members, but didn’t for two reasons: he didn’t want to expose his nieces and nephews to his lifestyle, and his family wouldn’t put up with his drugs and joblessness.

“They didn’t put me in this position; I put myself in this position. I respect what they’re doing. I don’t want to be a burden, and I’m trying to change that.”

But things didn’t start changing until he joined Thrive DC’s Substance Abuse group.

There he met Gabriel Fabre, the Substance Abuse Counselor. Gabriel accepted Cornell for who he was without judgment, but never stopped encouraging him to be better. And eventually, it was that combination of acceptance and encouragement that got through to him.

However, it still took months for Cornell to be ready for sobriety; before this he had lived in a fog for years, and was nervous about what it would mean to make a clean break from everything. Cornell had a long relationship with drugs and couldn’t envision life without them.

In fact, the first time Thrive DC offered him a chance at rehab he turned it down.

Finally, though, he was just too tired.

“I’d sit in the park and watch life go by. When I finally made the choice to go to rehab I remember thinking:

 ‘I’m too old for this. Do I want to be this way until I die?’”

The second time Cornell had the chance for rehab he was bound and determined to make it happen. He called the facility for three days straight to make sure he could get in as quickly as possible.

“I thought: ‘I’m helping myself and people are helping me. This is an opportunity I just can’t pass up.’”

Cornell graduated from his drug program January 4th, just in time for the New Year. For the first time in a long time he can think clearly. And since he’s been out, Cornell has been going to every meeting he can find, at Thrive and outside Thrive, to keep himself focused and away from the life he’s known for 44 years.

“I thank God for allowing me to reach 57. I’m still young enough for a second chance, to get a job and put a roof over my head.”

Want to learn more about how we offer a second chance after addiction? Click here.

Our Substance Abuse Program is available in both English and Spanish. Along with educational presentations about the effects of substance abuse, it also offers a safe place for people with addiction to talk about their struggles with a supportive community.

Why do you volunteer?

We sat down with Denise Woods, one of our long-time volunteers, to see what got her involved with our homeless clients, what has been a powerful moment for her, and what she is most proud of. Read on to see her answers!

What is your background outside of Thrive DC?

I am an activist, advocate, consultant, mother, baker, interior designer and more. Did you notice yet that I hate boxes?

What got you interested in volunteering?

A neighbor told me about Thrive DC. For a long time I had wanted to volunteer with an organization that supports people in homelessness; when I found out I could bring my kids here I thought “Bingo!”

I wanted to make sure my that daughters experienced life outside our bubble and learned empathy for the people who don’t share our economic circumstances. Ever since I noticed that their first reaction to seeing homeless people on the street was fear, it’s been my goal to humanize our neighbors living on the edge.

I felt that Thrive DC could be transformative if my girls learned their stories and understood that people are so much more than their circumstances.

How has your experience been?

Terrible. Just kidding! I have volunteered with similar organizations and couldn’t leave quickly enough. At Thrive I feel like I leave better than when I enter.

I might come to Thrive in a bad mood, worried about the world’s problems or frustrated with my family, but I leave encouraged and emboldened by the hugs I receive and the conversations I have.

The people here show me the strength of the human spirit and I know my frustrations are tiny by comparison.

A powerful moment I've had here was when a client told me she spends three hours a day on the bus to eat at Thrive DC. She said this is the only place she knows where she will be seen and treated as a whole human being.

What do you like best about volunteering with Thrive DC?

Toss up between staff and clients! The clients have often given me great advice about how to handle a family situation they themselves have faced, and the staff could not make this a more welcoming place to volunteer. Seriously!

From Alicia, who is as real as an Executive Director comes, to all the staff who treat their clients like they truly matter – not only do they make what could be an embarrassing and humiliating experience for the clients enjoyable and affirming, they also make sure to know all the clients names and mine.

What has been a funny moment that stood out to you?

I walked up to Thrive recently and one of the clients who I know and admire was outside.

As I walked up he began to sing about letting go of stress and finding the blessings in life while playing air guitar, and I couldn’t help but laugh and join in!

I wanted to make sure my that daughters experienced life outside our bubble and learned empathy for the people who don’t share our economic circumstances. Ever since I noticed that their first reaction to seeing homeless people on the street was fear, it’s been my goal to humanize our neighbors living on the edge.

I felt that Thrive DC could be transformative if my girls learned their stories and understood that people are so much more than their circumstances.

What has been an emotional moment that stood out to you?

We had a fire drill one cold day and we all ran outside without our coats – except for those who hadn’t taken them off yet – and I started talking to one of the clients and complaining about the temperatures. To my surprise she immediately opened her coat and let me get inside!

I felt like she was a mother duck sheltering her duckling, even though I was 20 years older than her. And even though she is black and I am white there was no hesitancy at all in her generosity.

Another powerful moment was when a client told me that she spends three hours a day on the bus to eat at Thrive DC every day. She told me this is the only place she knows where she will be seen and treated as a whole human being.

I was floored, and it made me realize just how significant Thrive is for her and many others.

What service or program are you most proud of Thrive DC providing?

I am so proud of all of the above and Thrive DC's capacity to connect clients with housing resources. When someone has a home it means their life can be moved from the edges to a stable foundation.

 Is there anything you wish the city was doing differently for the homeless now that you’ve been working with them?

Funding for families. Funding for crisis services. Funding for affordable housing. Need I say more?

Volunteer With Your Family

Would you also like your family to volunteer with the homeless?

Thrive DC accepts youth as young as 15 to serve in our Morning Program, and as young as 10 to serve in our Dinner Program.

To get started, sign up for a Volunteer Orientation using the button below; you can also contact our Volunteer Coordinator directly at volunteer@thrivedc.org or 202-503-1533.

1.The official number of homeless people in the US is over 500,000. But experts believe the real number is closer to 3 million.

According to the US State of Homelessness report, 564,708 people experience homelessness on any given night—meaning they sleep outside or in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program.

Amongst 32 of the largest US cities, DC has the highest homelessness rate with over 8,000 homeless individuals, or 124  homeless people for every 10,000 residents in the general population.

The rate in DC is almost double the national average.

2. The average age of a homeless person is 9 years old.

The face of homelessness is not an old man-- it’s actually a young child. HUD reports that on any given night, over 138,000 of the homeless in the US are children under the age of 18.

In our nation’s capital, families make up 52% of the homeless community.

3. The main cause of homelessness isn’t drugs or alcohol - it’s a lack of affordable housing.

With rent prices soaring across US cities, many low-income people turn to subsidized housing for a place to sleep.

But in recent years, HUD’s budget has been slashed by over 50%, resulting in the loss of 10,000 units of subsidized low-income housing each and every year.

4. For women, the main cause of homelessness is domestic abuse.

Over 90% of homeless women are victims of severe physical or sexual abuse, and escaping that abuse is a leading cause of their homelessness.

Slipping in and out of homelessness, studies find DC women stay in a low-barrier shelter a median number of 27 nights.

5. You can do a LOT to help.

Many homeless people rely on non-profits like Thrive DC for daily hot meals and showers. But with government funding cuts, these organizations need your help fundraising and donating.

Just $26 provides organizations like Thrive DC with a full month of hot showers for their homeless clients. You can also see your donations in action by volunteering with Thrive DC.

And if you encounter a homeless person on the street and want to help right then and there, print out or pick up these cards that include info about how to get any sort of help they may need.

Consider helping out your community today

It’s not his first time being homeless. But he’s determined to make it his last.

Andre moved to DC last year in November from Tampa, FL. He had heard about a good job and had a friend he could stay with for a little while until he got on his feet.

But when he got here, both the job and the friend fell through.

That was hard.

Andre became homeless with no friends, no money, and no prospects for a job. He got involved with drugs while struggling to cope with his situation, but they only helped him sink further into frustration and depression.

Fortunately, it was some of those friends he was getting high with that told him about Thrive DC. Normally reserved and quiet, Andre checked out a few places before settling on Thrive DC.

He didn’t talk to anyone at first, but the hospitality of volunteers and staff drew him out bit by bit. He finally started opening up to Gabriel, the Morning Program Coordinator & Substance Abuse Counselor, and Gabriel encouraged him to come to group therapy.

"The staff here goes out of their way to help us."

It took a while for what Gabriel was saying during group to sink in. But Andre kept coming back to Thrive DC because of the encouraging staff and how helpful the services were.

This was the only place he could take a shower or do laundry.

This became the place he checked his mail.

The food here was good and plentiful.

One day Andre looked up in Gabriel’s substance abuse group and realized he didn’t want to get high anymore. He wanted to get clean, and he wanted to finish his college degree as a PC specialist!

Andre is still living in a shelter, but he’s attending school and will finish his degree next year. He’s been working on computers since he was 14; his dream is to one day own his own business and help customers with designing web pages.

He’s been clean now for four months. Andre is still coming to Thrive DC for services, and uses the computer lab to do his homework. For the first time in a long time, he’s excited about his future.

“Thrive DC is great, I don’t know what to say. Everyone should come to Thrive.”

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.

- Curbed DC

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

Client Hours:
Monday - Thursday
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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