“Inner City Blues”: The Dual Reality of Building a Safer, Stronger DC

By Manon P. Matchett, Community Investment Officer, Greater Washington Community Foundation

As a proud and happy resident of the Hillsdale community for the past 15+ years, I have dutifully crossed the Anacostia River every day to travel to work. Most of that time has been spent working in philanthropy. The landscape has changed significantly these last few years.    

The optics of my commute change as I travel downtown. As I exit the Frederick Douglass bridge and drive past the new DC United Audi and the Washington Nationals stadiums on each side of me, I am reminded of how change has come, slowly and sometimes painfully. Neighborhoods that were crime-ridden and desolate are now thriving communities with quaint restaurants, trendy boutiques and high-rise luxury apartments. Streets have awoken from their coma with a promise never to sleep again. This is a new city hustle and bustle, that is energizing, even calming. Yet, not all communities are experiencing the region’s progress and prosperity in the same way.

The reality of the work that I do at The Community Foundation and how our focus on improving our communities personally affects me and my family has hit home in recent weeks. Within the last month, yellow crime tape has decorated my street. Shots were fired. On the street where my family lives. The most frightening experience was watching Metropolitan Police officers canvassing my block for bullet casings. I walked away after the twelfth marker was placed on the street. Last Sunday, a young man, with a bright future was gunned down on his way home from the corner store. I purposely drive in the opposite direction, so I do not have to see his deathbed – a small plot of bloodstained grass.

As a community leader, funder, convener and advocate, The Community Foundation has a long history of responding to urgent and emerging community challenges by addressing both short-term needs and creating long-term solutions. Most recently as the number of violent crimes committed in the District has surged, particularly in communities like mine which are located East of the River, I have participated in conversations with the philanthropic community, community-based organizations, and the District Government to identify ways we can contribute to and accelerate various violence prevention strategies. As a result of these conversations, The Community Foundation has mobilized the generosity of local funders to support the implementation of a pilot program that targets a small set of District neighborhoods using the Cure Violence methodology. While this program is just beginning to launch, I am heartened by the ongoing work of local community groups who are already offering a range of solutions to address violence prevention in our homes, in our schools, and in our communities.

In 2016, the Greater Washington Community Foundation assumed grantmaking for Mayor Bowser’s Safer, Stronger DC initiative. This was a targeted, place-based approach to meet the unique and varying needs of high crime neighborhoods. Since then, we have successfully conducted three grant rounds totaling $4 million to 95 organizations serving 13 Police Service Areas in Wards 1, 5, 7, and 8. I am immensely proud of what this portfolio of organizations is achieving.

Over the next few weeks, grantees from the City Fund Safer, Stronger DC portfolio will share their stories of how their respective organizations provide necessary safety-net, violence prevention and violence intervention services to some of the most vulnerable populations and under-resourced communities in the District. None of them will tell how grueling and sometimes discouraging their work can be. Many mask the pain of being unable to help everyone. Quite a few are still grieving the loss of life and potential of those they have served. Yet, all of them wake anew each day ready to start all over again filled with hope and courage.

My own commuting mentality is evolving. On good days, I am not just crossing the river, I am crossing a bridge. I am coming home to new residences, redeveloping commercial corridors and more options for shopping and dining. Despite all this, I make the journey home filled with anxiety and trepidation because I do not know what to expect. To ease my spirit, I hum the lyrics to “Inner City Blues” from the iconic and native Washingtonian Marvin Gaye. Some days “it makes me wanna holler and throw up both my hands.” My heart calms as I turn onto my street and see an MPD cruiser parked nearby. It is temporary solace knowing that my community has one more night of peace.


 

A Safer, Stronger DC Blog Series

 

Fund Combats Domestic Violence in Prince George's County

 Photo provided by Community Advocates for Family & Youth

Photo provided by Community Advocates for Family & Youth

“We have seen a dramatic reduction in crime in Prince George’s County over the last decade, but some of the most horrific violent crimes that have occurred in recent years stem from domestic violence,” said Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III.

That is why in March 2017 the County Executive established the Domestic Violence Community Assistance Grant Fund to assist nonprofit organizations who are working on the front line to protect women and men from domestic violence.

“The effects of domestic violence are deep and long lasting,” said Jackie Rhone, Division Manager of the Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking Division of the County’s Department of Family Services. “When we know better we do better; through education, prevention and partnership we can end the cycle of abuse.”

Since its creation, the division has been working to address domestic violence in multiple ways – from education and prevention to direct services for survivors. For instance, says Rhone, her office implemented an evidence-based curriculum called “Safe Dates” that has been used in County middle schools, sponsored a series of men’s conferences on domestic violence and developed a partnership with House of Ruth Maryland and other nonprofits in the County.

The County’s Domestic Violence Community Assistance Fund was established at the Greater Washington Community Foundation with an initial contribution of $250,000 to provide annual grants and capacity building support to nonprofits to support enhanced services for individuals and families directly affected by domestic violence. The goal is to help families achieve a greater level of independence, strengthen families’ ability to cope with healing, and rebuild the family unit by helping to remove challenges to gaining self-sufficiency – such as providing legal services, counseling services, support groups, employment, training and housing.

“We are passionate about our work, but we quickly realized government can’t do this work alone,” said Elana Belon-Butler, Director of the Department of Family Services. “That’s why we collaborate with others such as the Greater Washington Community Foundation. The Community Foundation is a great partner because of their knowledge of both domestic violence and of our community needs. They also share our sense of urgency, accountability, follow through and reporting. These are things that can’t be minimalized.”

In 2017, some of the critical services that the Domestic Violence Community Assistance Fund supported included: public awareness campaigns that targeted certain areas heavily impacted by domestic violence; services to individuals and families directly affected by domestic violence; legal issues (protective orders), counseling and family services; emergency and basic needs to survivors as well as other kinds of wraparound supports. In 2018, the Domestic Violence Community Assistance Fund will include support for survivors of human trafficking. 

“Domestic violence can affect anyone – regardless of income, background or location,” says CAFY CEO Arleen Joell, who received a grant in the amount of $75,000 from the fund.

Community Advocates for Family & Youth (CAFY) supports victims of crimes in Prince George’s County – from those affected by breaking and entering crimes to family members who have lost a loved one to homicide. But the largest percentage of their clients – 52 percent – are victims of domestic violence. Those clients face multiple challenges. Thanks to the Domestic Violence Community Assistance Fund, nonprofits like CAFY are increasingly able to address those challenges with wraparound services such as legal and mental health services, security deposits, first month’s rent and transportation assistance.

For instance, CAFY recently helped a client who had a protective order and was in the process of moving to another city by putting her up in a hotel for several nights, paying to store her worldly possessions until she found a new job and place to live, and covering the cost of a U-Haul when she was ready to relocate. When another woman with a protective order needed her locks changed, CAFY took care of that critical need for her. They also provided legal counsel, so she could file for child custody and begin divorce proceedings. The client would not have been able to afford these costs on her own.

Desiree Griffin-Moore, Executive Director of The Community Foundation in Prince George’s County, points out that this is not the first time the Community Foundation has partnered with the County. The Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative Fund was established at The Community Foundation in 2014 by The Office of the Prince George's County Executive and Prince George’s County Public Schools to support community-based organizations providing quality free and/or affordable out-of-school time programming for youth and families. “We have a longstanding relationship with the County which has always valued our transparent, equitable process and our knowledge of the community,” she said.

Adds Jackie Rhone: “The work is easier when we don’t have to educate someone about the County and its demographics.”

“This is hands down one of the best partnerships Prince George’s County government has entered into,” adds Belon-Butler. 

Join us for a screening and discussion of America to Me on September 27 at 6 pm

The Greater Washington Community Foundation has partnered with Education Forward DC and the DC Public Education Fund to host a citywide screening and panel discussion of America to Me, a ten-part docu-series about race and equity in America’s public schools commissioned by Participant Media. Directed by Academy-Award nominee Steve James (Hoop Dreams, Life Itself, The Interrupters), the series follows a year in the life of students, teachers, and administrators at Oak Park and River Forest High School, a racially integrated high school near Chicago. 

Please join us on September 27 for the screening followed by a discussion with former U.S. Secretary of Education and CEO of Ed Trust, John King; Interim Chancellor of District of Columbia Public Schools, Amanda Alexander; former Washington, DC Deputy Mayor for Education, Abigail Smith; and series-featured student, Jada Buford.
 
You can find more information in the invitation below. Please RSVP by clicking here.

Remembering 9/11

On the 17th anniversary of September 11, 2001, we honor and remember the innocent people who lost their lives in the horrific terrorist attacks carried out on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a crash site in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. We mark this tragedy by finding hope in the response of our community which came together to help victims and their families during a time of immense devastation and loss. Following the attack on the Pentagon—which claimed the lives of 184 innocent people and directly affected thousands of other individuals and families—the Survivors’ Fund was established at The Community Foundation to direct the charitable response and caring spirit of some 12,000 donors, including families who sponsored lemonade stands and bake sales to major corporations and foundations contributing millions of dollars. Their generosity and care amounted to a $25 million fund, the largest dedicated solely to the Pentagon attack, which aided 1,051 victims and their families by providing access to both financial support and case management services needed to achieve long-term financial and emotional stability. Donors’ contributions, compassion and hope helped to sustain the Fund and, in turn, survivors of that terrible day, for nearly seven years (from 2001-2008). As our country reflects on these tragic events, we find inspiration from the stories of the individuals and families helped by the Fund and the generous contributions of our community. You can read more about the Fund and the people it served in a final report to the community released in 2008.

A Framework for Building Thriving Communities

Dear friends and community members,

As a community foundation, having a finger on the pulse of our community is central to who we are and our ability to make a difference in the lives of those who call our region their home. Last year, in partnership with Urban Institute, we launched Voices of the Community: DC, MD, VA (VoicesDMV) to connect directly with the people and communities we serve and understand our neighbors’ experiences in their neighborhoods, jobs, schools, with local government, and with each other — and to identify the role philanthropy can play in enhancing or improving those experiences.

VoicesDMV revealed a region in which, while separated by income, education or geographic boundaries, all of us share similar hopes and dreams. We all want a better overall quality of life for ourselves and our families, including the opportunity to live in a safe and welcoming environment, obtain a quality education, earn a living wage, and build assets for a secure future. And yet, as prosperous as our region is, our survey found that deep disparities in income and opportunity persist and the gap continues to widen, preventing many of our neighbors, particularly people of color due to historical discrimination, from accessing the region’s economic growth and prosperity.

A decade ago, our Economic Security Framework was created as a direct response to the economic crisis and its impact on the region, with a focus on workforce development, safety-net services, and education. But the nature of today’s challenges requires a different approach, one that goes deeper toward addressing systemic issues to improve the economic and social well-being of people and communities who have long been marginalized, particularly communities of color. While economic security will remain part of our work going forward, we have taken this opportunity to refresh our focus areas to fully capture the range of efforts that are critical to building thriving communities. Our new Building Thriving Communities Framework will broaden our work with donors and partners across the region to disrupt poverty, deepen human connection, and prepare for the future of work.

With this refresh, we seek to deepen and expand existing work by leveraging new tools, prioritizing strategic partnerships across sectors, and developing innovative approaches to addressing the region’s most pressing challenges. This includes a new partnership with the District of Columbia Interagency Council on Homelessness to launch a broader public-private partnership that will build off the District’s plans to make homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring by making critical investments to accelerate our community’s response.

We are also deliberately centering racial equity and community voice in our community leadership efforts and in our grantmaking. For example, as our Workforce Development Collaborative celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, the focus will remain on supporting programs and policies which help workers advance their skills and credentials, but with a special emphasis on eliminating inequities based on race, ethnicity or gender and providing new career pathways and wealth-building opportunities.

We hope you see a connection between our Building Thriving Communities Framework and your own charitable giving plans. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss how The Community Foundation can support your broader interests. You can also make an unrestricted gift to the Fund for Greater Washington to support our ongoing community change work across the region. Your continued partnership and support are crucial as we seek to build thriving communities today and for generations to come.

Sincerely,

 
 Bruce McNamer, President and CEO

Bruce McNamer, President and CEO

 Tonia Wellons, VP of Community Investment

Tonia Wellons, VP of Community Investment

 

Building Thriving Communities

The Greater Washington Community Foundation has three focus areas which guide our interconnected and strategic approach to Building Thriving Communities. These focus areas represent the range of efforts that The Community Foundation, our donors, and partners individually and collectively undertake to strengthen our region and create a brighter future for our most vulnerable neighbors. Through support for direct services as well as research, advocacy, and grassroots community engagement, we are contributing to systems change in the following areas: 

Poverty

Approach: Respond to the multi-dimensional nature of poverty by addressing basic needs – food, shelter, education, health – while also working on systemic approaches to dismantling its impact.

The Community Foundation has long advocated for and supported education and safety-net services as part of our economic security framework. But the persistence of poverty—often predicted by zip code and race or ethnicity—remains one of the biggest challenges affecting families across the region. We are committed to addressing inequities and helping our most vulnerable neighbors—people experiencing homelessness, unstable housing, or underemployment—find pathways out of poverty by supporting both direct services and systems-level interventions.

Related Funds and Initiatives:

  • Fund for Greater Washington
  • Partnership to End Homelessness in DC
  • Children’s Opportunity Fund (Montgomery County)
  • Sharing Funds
  • Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative
    Prince George’s County)
  • Fund for Children, Youth and Families
  • Raise DC
  • Scholarship funds
  • Neighbors in Need Montgomery Fund

Broader Foundation and Donor Interests:

  • Safety-net services
  • Affordable housing
  • Homelessness
  • Hunger
  • Education and scholarships
  • Economic development
  • Public Health
  • Early Childhood Development
     

Culture and Human Connection

Approach: Foster diverse and inclusive connections by promoting philanthropy and civic engagement, supporting arts and culture, and advocating for equity, inclusion, and justice.

Our region is one of the most culturally, ethnically, geographically, and economically diverse areas in the country. Yet underlying discrimination and disparities based on race, income or gender continue to threaten community cohesion. We can enhance community well-being by celebrating our region’s diversity and the economic and social benefits therein, facilitating civic participation by all and advocating for more just policies and investments that support members of our community who are economically and/or socially marginalized.

Related Funds and Initiatives:

  • Fund for Greater Washington
  • VoicesDMV
  • Resilience Fund
  • Sharing Funds
  • Celebration of Philanthropy, Celebration of
    Giving, and Civic Leadership Awards
  • Spring Creek Environmental Fund
  • Corporate disaster relief funds and other
    responsive funds

Broader Foundation and Donor Interests:

  • Race equity and inclusion
  • Social justice
  • Civic engagement
  • Disaster Relief
  • Arts and Culture
  • Environment
  • Human rights
  • Criminal justice reform
  • Public spaces

The Future of Work

Approach: Prepare workers and entrepreneurs to build the skills and resources they need to succeed in our region’s changing economy.

As our region grows and adapts to a changing global economy, local employers increasingly demand a higher level of skill and knowledge from workers. Thousands in our region are unemployed, under-employed, or stuck in low-wage employment because they lack the tools and training. We will continue our work to eliminate income gaps, especially those based on race or ethnicity, and advocate for fair wages, portable benefits, and state of the art workforce systems. Ultimately, we aim to connect workers to career pathways and industry-recognized credentials to help them enter and advance in their careers, build skills, and increase wages.

Related Funds and Initiatives:

  • The Catalyst Fund
  • Workforce Development Collaborative
    • Greater Washington Works: IT and
      Health Careers with Promise
  • Sharing Funds

 

 

Broader Foundation and Donor Interests:

  • Career pathways
    and advancement opportunities
  • Adult education, training
    and credentials
  • Income inequality
  • Workforce development programs
  • Wealth-building, entrepreneurship and small business
  • Portable benefits
  • Research and advocacy

Centering Race Equity and Inclusion at The Community Foundation

The Community Foundation is building on a rich history of social justice grantmaking and community leadership initiatives—including funding collaboratives such as the Washington Area Partnership for Immigrants and the Common Ground Fund, which originated our acclaimed “Putting Race on the Table” discussion series—as we renew our institutional commitment to race, equity and inclusion. Our priority is to ensure that our leadership team and staff have a full appreciation for what it means to apply a racial equity lens to our day-to-day work. This includes revisiting our internal processes and institutional infrastructure to make sure they reflect our values for racial equity in pay, voice, contracting, hiring, governance, and in our grantmaking process. Similarly, we look to achieve racial equity in our programmatic and community leadership work by explicitly acknowledging systems and policies that have led to disproportionate negative outcomes for people of color, and by disaggregating data as we consider current and future programmatic interventions. We seek to center racial equity at The Community Foundation by actively engaging people and communities most impacted, particularly as we pursue solutions and investments.

This is a work in progress, but our commitment to this work remains steadfast.

Amazon HQ2 journey exposes region's challenges

In a new op-ed for the Washington Business Journal, Bruce McNamer and Sarah Rosen Wartell from Urban Institute discuss how racial and economic inequities that have long plagued our area could threaten our progress, and they offer 3 strategies to get the region on a path for inclusive growth.

New Investments in Job Training to Benefit More than 100 District Residents

The Greater Washington Workforce Development Collaborative, an initiative of the Greater Washington Community Foundation, today announced new investments in five local community-based organizations designed to help DC residents get the skills and training they need to gain employment. The funded programs will offer training in a host of industries including hospitality, IT, healthcare, education, and the construction trades.

These investments are the result of a philanthropic partnership between the Workforce Collaborative and the developers of a new mixed-use property at 965 Florida Avenue NW in the District, a joint venture between MRP Realty, JBG Smith, and Ellis Development. As a part of the Planned Unit Development for this 10-story mixed use project, the developers have worked in partnership with The Community Foundation to establish the 965 Florida Avenue NW Job Training Grant Program, administered by the Workforce Collaborative.

The Workforce Collaborative is a partnership comprised of local foundations, philanthropists, and business. Its investments help workers acquire the skills and credentials they need to launch successful, family-sustaining careers, and help businesses attract, retain, and advance the skilled workforce they need to provide critical services to our community and remain globally competitive.

All five funded projects were asked to propose work that will specifically focus on residents living within one mile of the 965 Florida Avenue NW development.

The 965 Florida Avenue project will help prepare local residents with the workplace skills and training they need…" said MRP Realty Vice President for Development Michael Skena, "…it is this type of public-private partnership between business, philanthropy, and the nonprofit sector that will provide high quality career opportunities for residents in our neighborhood."

Partnering Together for Community Benefit

The developers worked alongside The Community Foundation and the Workforce Collaborative to develop a targeted grantmaking approach to ensure residents have access to a wide-range of services and opportunities to learn new skills and launch living-wage careers in industry sectors primed for growth. The Community Foundation developed its Request for Proposals and vetted applications from local training providers in lockstep with representatives of ANC 1B, the ANC in which the 965 Florida Avenue NW development sits.

“The process that The Community Foundation developed was inclusive and took into consideration the needs of our local community,” noted James A. Turner, Chairman of ANC1B. “We are thrilled to have been able to help drive the process that has yielded grants to these five great local nonprofits.”

Funded partnerships include:

Academy of Hope Adult Public Charter School will serve 25 residents of the target area through their integrated Adult Basic Education, Adult Secondary Education and Career Pathways program. Their goal is to help each adult learner attain a high school credential and enter post-secondary workforce training or higher education. Academy of Hope focuses its efforts in the area of hospitality, healthcare and IT careers for adult literacy learners.

Community Services Agency of Metro Council AFL_CIO will provide construction pre-apprenticeship training, case management and job placement services to 20 low-income residents of the target geographic area to be served.

Literacy Lab will build capacity to recruit ten young men of color from DC public high schools in Ward 1 to participate in the Leading Men Fellowship, a program to increase workforce readiness by engaging young men of color in careers in early childhood education.

Literacy Volunteers and Advocates will create a program for 30 adults with an interest in obtaining a job in the technology field who need to improve their basic skills in order to become employment ready. The development of the AT Work! (Adults, Trained and Working) program will focus on integrating adult basic literacy skills with Information Technology skills, with a specific focus on preparing these adults for entry level administrative or help desk positions.

New Futures will provide comprehensive services to 15 low-income, first generation young adults pursuing degrees in IT and healthcare, including scholarships, post-secondary persistence and completion support, and career planning, skill-building, and preparation programs—all in service of launching high-growth careers that lead to financial stability.

A Win for Workers, Employers, and Our Community

Greater Washington is home to hundreds of thousands of working age adults who lack a post-secondary credential, most of whom currently work in front-line or entry-level jobs in every sector. Despite our region’s return to historically low unemployment rates, stubborn pockets of un- and under-employment persist. Initiatives like the 965 Florida Avenue Job Training Grant Program will target investments to those who need assistance most.

The Workforce Collaborative has a long history of supporting job training grantmaking as a component of community benefit agreements for clients including Hines, Walmart, and Trammel Crow.

“Supporting local business and employers to meet their philanthropic goals is core to our mission at the Greater Washington Community Foundation,” notes Benton Murphy, Senior Director of Community Investment at The Community Foundation. “We are proud to partner with ANC 1B, MRP Realty, JBG Smith, and Ellis Development on this project that will directly impact the lives of local residents.”

More information on the Workforce Collaborative is available online at www.gwwdc.org.  

A Partnership to End Homelessness in DC

Washington, DC, like every major city across America, faces an affordable housing crisis. Housing plays a critical role in disrupting poverty, providing stability and creating a foundation for success in life. Yet a growing number of DC residents are experiencing housing instability and homelessness as a result of loss of affordable housing stock, major rent increases and low wages. According to the District’s recent Point-in-Time (PIT) Count, approximately 6,900 people at any given point in time are literally homeless—living on the streets or in the city's emergency shelters. Lack of stable housing makes it difficult for people to obtain or maintain employment, address health needs and keep families together.   

The Community Foundation, in partnership with the District of Columbia Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH), is preparing to launch a public-private partnership focused on ending homelessness in the District by ensuring that homelessness is a rare, brief, and non-recurring event. Spurred in part by the District Government’s own plans* to address homelessness, we believe there is an immediate opportunity to align public and private sector resources and strategies to tackle this persistent challenge with renewed vigor and innovative solutions. Leveraging our experience as a convener, funder, community leader and advocate, we will bring together key public and private sector partners as we identify gaps and leverage points in the District’s plan in order to pinpoint how the private sector can make critical investments to accelerate our community’s response.

We seek to:

  • Support homeless individuals, families, and youth to exit homelessness and obtain stable housing; 
  • Leverage and align public and private philanthropic resources, leading to more strategic investments; 
  • Accelerate the implementation of the District’s strategy to end homelessness in DC, as laid out in Homeward DC (focused on single adults and families) and Solid Foundations DC (addressing unaccompanied youth); and
  • Address key recommendations of The Community Foundation’s 2014 Housing Security Study.

The Community Foundation is laying the groundwork for the launch of this partnership and currently engaged in the next phase of program design and fundraising planning. As a starting point, we are focused on our most vulnerable neighbors, those who have no or extremely low/very low income (0-50% AMI). Our approach will focus on expanding the supply of supportive housing more quickly and supporting nonprofit provider capacity to serve people exiting homelessness more efficiently and effectively.

The Community Foundation has a long history of making investments to help people meet basic needs for shelter and housing. In 2008, we galvanized the generosity of our community to establish the Neighbors in Need Fund which raised $5 million in aid for neighbors hit hardest by the economic crisis and to support advocacy and systems change. In 2014, we commissioned the study, Housing Security in Greater Washington, the first of its kind to quantify the need for shelter and housing across a range of income levels and inform strategic investments by the private and public sector. Many of our donors have given significantly in this area for the past 40+ years, including millions of dollars for the preservation of affordable housing in the District in addition to housing advocacy and community organizing. And in the past two years, our Fund for Children, Youth and Families has awarded over $2 million for Stable Homes/Stable Families in the region.

We are excited by the opportunity to refresh our commitment in this space and lay the groundwork to launch a new public-private partnership focused on ending homelessness in Washington, DC. If you are a funder or donor and are interested in learning more about our partnership to end homelessness in DC, please complete this brief form and we will follow up with you.

 
Fill out my online form.
 

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