Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The release of Solid Foundations DC and our latest Youth Homelessness Issue Brief

On Monday of this week, we joined community partners at the Hill Center for the release of Solid Foundations DC, a Comprehensive Plan to End Youth Homelessness in the Distrcit by 2022.


We were thrilled to help provide logistics support for this joint event, presented by the Community Foundation of the National Capital Region and the District Interagency Council on Homelessness. The event was kicked off by remarks from Bruce McNamer, President and CEO of the Community Foundation, and HyeSook Chung, the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services.


Kristy Greenwalt, Director of the District ICH, then walked us through highlights from the plan, from the research that informed it to the strategies developed to execute it. She reiterated that this plan was the culmination of an inter sector collaborative effort and data-driven priorities.


Director Greenwalt's presentation was followed by a panel with Maggie Riden, DCAYA's Executive Director, moderating. The panel included both youth served by and providers working at the Department of Human ServicesCasa RubyHIPS DC, the Latin American Youth Center, and Sasha Bruce Youthworks.


The event was well attended with many individuals across various sectors who are all invested in ending youth homelessness in the District. And we look forward to supporting the work of the plan, by doing what we do best and ensuring that legislation, policy, and funding over the next 5 years keeps our youth a priority, particularly those experiecning homelesness, in adequately and appropriately implementing this plan.

Today at noon, Council held a joint Public Oversight Roundtable on Solid Foundations DC. Today, we've also released our latest Youth Homelessness Issue Brief. We hope you check it out and share it, and continue to join us in making sure youth homelesness is a rare occurence by 2022.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Empowering the youth of DC

This month, as the school year winds down and summer is just around the corner, we have a guest blog post from Laura Irene, a board member and overall rock star volunteer with Girls Rock! DC.

The youth have a lot to teach us, it’s up to us as adults to listen and figure out ways to give them the tools they need to realize their power.  At Girls Rock! DC (GR!DC) that is exactly what we aim to do.  As a board member, events coordinator and dj instructor/coach for GR!DC I have been given an opportunity to create, build and support our youth by building positive outlets and encouraging creative spaces for youth.  With a base in music education, Girls Rock! DC aims to create a supportive, inclusive, and creative space for girls, and non-binary, and trans youth of varying racial, ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds; abilities; identities; and experiences to develop their self-confidence, build community, stand up, and rock out!

I first discovered GR!DC as a journalist with The Vinyl District. I visited the camp during the 2013 summer and interviewed some of the instructors and the youth.  It was in that experience that I really fell in love with the organization and yearned to be a part of it.  I joined leadership a year later and feel that I have been able to add my unique voice as a women of color to the table alongside those that started the organization 10 years ago.  Which speaking of, this year is our 10th anniversary! While I have not been with GR!DC for all ten years, I am grateful to those that came before me that laid the groundwork for this organization to exist in DC.  We meet every other week throughout the year, which can be a thankless and laborious task as it takes a lot to keep such an organization alive.  None of us would dedicate our time to this organization if we didn’t feel it was worth it, and what is worth it, are the youth we serve.  They are the most amazing little and semi-big humans on this planet! We keep going for them.

I have the honor of getting to know our campers as they develop their instrumental abilities, which is always exciting.  As a dj coach and instructor, it is really funny when the campers discover a vinyl record.  One the first day of camp we take a trip to the record store and have them shop for a couple of records to use in their sets.  We take a while in the store as they try out their records.  One of my favorite memories of shopping at the record store was with my youngest camper, an eight year old.  She would listen to a record (mind you, she just discovered what a record was) and in a matter of seconds decide whether or not she liked it.  When she didn’t like one, her facial expression told us all it would go in the NO WAY pile.  She ended up playing all of the records at the fastest speed, which really hyped her and her fellow djs up. I love how their sense of music and how they like it played comes out as they prepare their sets.  It was so exciting to see this 8 year old hang and keep up with the older kids, she was just as capable.  That’s the amazing part, no matter your age, you have the ability to rise to any level you want if you put in the work.

The accumulation of their hard work is seen at the showcase at the 9:30 Club every year, which is such an exciting time for everyone involved.  Our campers are nervous in the day leading up to their showcase but once they get there and are on stage they are literally professionals.  As a dj coach, it is really special to see the djs entertain the crowd with their new skills.  I feel like a proud mom on the sidelines! Haha, and every year I cry at their talent. But most of all seeing them become fierce and unafraid is so special.  Not only have they mastered their techniques but their self-confidence beams from their faces as they perform. It’s the best experience to see them all feel like stars on the stage and see what everyone else sees in them every day.

While this is a music camp, we also make sure to have workshops that will hopefully get the youth to think more about their roles on this planet. Last year we had a workshop on the School to Prison pipeline given by OnRae LaTeal of Aflocentric. During her talk with our teen youth, she asked everyone to step in the middle of the room if they felt safe at their schools.  Only 2 of the youth stepped forward.  She then she asked them to step in the middle of the room if they felt safe at camp and all of them stepped forward.  That was chilling moment for me.  It’s hard for me to know that so many of our youth feel unsafe in their schools. at the same time, it was extremely moving to know that we create a safe space for them during that week of camp.  It makes me emotional to think about it.  That’s why no matter how hard the administrative and planning can get, it is always worth it.  It’s not about us it is only about the youth.

A brief history of Girls Rock! DC, following in the footsteps of girls rock camps across the United States, Girls Rock! DC was founded in October 2007 by an all-volunteer collective of DC metro area musicians, teachers, artists and community organizers.  We build upon our diverse musical backgrounds, connections to local youth, and approaches to grassroots organizing to create a week-long day camp for Washington, D.C. area youth ages 8-18.  During the week, campers receive small-group instruction on electric guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, turntables, digital music, or vocals; form bands, and collaborate to write an original song or DJ set, which they perform at a showcase at the end of the week.  This year our summer camp runs from June 26 – Friday, June 30 with our FANTASTIC Camper Showcase on Saturday, July 1st! Please be on the lookout for the announcement on our facebook page and website.


A really cool addition to our summer camp and one that I am not sure a lot of people know of is our afterschool program called GR!ASP (Girls Rock! After School Program).  It is as equally amazing as our summer camp and there are a few volunteers who basically run it year round.  It is typically run at a DC school that hosts it and we then bring our gear and instructors to their school to run it.   The GRASP showcase is another tear jerker! June 4th is the date for that showcase at Comet Ping Pong, which we hope to sell out! Our GRASP campers recently had the opportunity to open for the band Diet Cig at the Rock and Roll Hotel last month, so they are more than ready to rock the stage in a couple of weeks!

Laura Irene board member, events coordinator and dj instructor/coach for GR!DC. She can be reached at laurairene@girlsrockdc.org.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The DC Budget Squeeze, a post from DC Fiscal Policy Institute

This week, we are featuring a blog post from DC Fiscal Policy Institute, with their permission. While we've spent the past month highlighting various FY2018 Budget asks that are backed by sound research and community input, we wanted to raise up what could be a quintessential piece of the funding pie, regarding tax cuts whose postponement could be key to insuring we make the investments we need to, so that we continue to make progress on supporting some of our most underserved.

The DC Budget Squeeze: Tax Cuts and Key Spending Demands Left No Room for Other Progress

May 3rd, 2017

The District is enjoying tremendous prosperity, yet there isn’t enough money in the proposed DC budget to support schools adequately or to make meaningful progress on ending chronic homelessness. In fact, funding for most parts of the budget will be smaller next year than this year.

How can that be?

One factor is beyond DC policymakers’ control: A lot of money will be sucked up next year by rising school enrollment, Metro’s woes, and a few other needs. But the other factor is something Mayor Bowser and the Council fully control: tax cuts. The proposed budget allows $100 million in tax cuts to go forward—triggered by a policy set three years ago—which left no room for things that matter a lot to DC residents and our economy.

With the budget now in the hands of the DC Council, they can choose to hold off on tax cuts so that badly needed investments can be made. In particular, the Council should reconsider plans to eliminate taxes on estates worth $5.5 million and to cut taxes on business benefiting from DC’s prosperity. Both the estate tax and business income tax have already been cut in recent years, by the way.

Read the rest of this blog by Ed Lazere here.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

DCAYA Budget Advocacy Day on May 11


The District's proposed FY2018 budget leaves significant funding gaps for a number of key programs that could better address the needs of the children and youth we serve every day.

Call to Action: we invite all our members and youth-serving organizations from throughout the District to join us at the Wilson Building on Thursday, May 11 to meet with Councilmembers and staff to advocate for a more youth-friendly District budget for FY2018!

Council markup on the mayor's proposed budget is scheduled for May 16-18, so May 11 is a critical time to reach out to members and remind them of the importance of our budget asks for DC's youth, which include:

  • Transportation: $2 million to extend transportation subsidies to adult and alternative learners through the School Transit Subsidy Program
  • Youth Homelessness: Up to $3.3 million more to fully fund the Year One objectives of the Comprehensive Plan to End Youth Homelessness
  • Expanded Learning: An additional $5.1 million to fund the new Office of Out-of-School Time Grants and Youth Outcomes and better meet the need for quality youth development programming
  • Youth Workforce Development: A comprehensive implementation plan for coordinating and funding youth workforce development initiatives to build on the progress of DC’s WIOA State Plan
  • Per-Pupil Funding: A 3.5% increase in per-pupil funding in the FY18 budget to bring DCPS closer to an adequate standard for education funding next school year
  • Proposed Tax Cuts: Ensure revenue is available to fund these and other critical priorities by delaying the $40 million in estate tax and business tax cuts slated for 2018

On Advocacy Day, we'll walk around the Wilson Building and visit Councilmember offices in teams. A DCAYA staff member will join each team to help support messaging and follow-up.

In order to make the most of your time as we reach out to Council staff, we ask that you RSVP for multiple time slots throughout the day on DCAYA Budget Advocacy Day. After you RSVP, you will also receive an invite to join us on an optional strategy call at 11am on Tuesday, May 9.

Thank you for all you do and we hope to see you on May 11!

And in case you missed it, check out our Actions for Budget Advocacy - Week 4 email.

Monday, April 24, 2017

#DCFY18 Budget Advocacy: Up to $5.7 million Toward Ending Youth Homelessness

Throughout budget season, we’ll be sharing talking points around the #DCFY18 Budget as it relates to our asks of Council and the Mayor for DCAYA’s key issue areas, which have included spotlights on Expanded Learning and Disconnected Youth. We conclude this week with Youth Homelessness.

THE ASK: Up to $3.3 million in additional funding to fully fund Year 1 of the Comprehensive Plan to End Youth Homelessness

The DC Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH) approved the Comprehensive Plan to End Youth Homelessness in December 2016, and the plan includes a five-year projection for scaling services to youth experiencing homelessness. The plan proposes expanding existing services (transitional housing, crisis beds, PSH) as well as bringing new services for youth online (youth rapid re-housing, aftercare) in the first year, the cost of which we estimate to be $5.7 million.

Funding in the mayor's proposed budget for FY18 falls short of that mark, at just $2.4 million, meaning we'll need to work through Council to get to the investment we know is needed if we are serious about ensuring that by the end of 2022, homelessness among people age 24 is a rare, brief and non-recurring experience.

NOW: What are the needed program enhancements and what can be accomplished in the next year?

  • Aftercare and Prevention Services: We presently do not have an aftercare support system in place for youth who have experienced homelessness, meaning that a key service for preventing returns to homelessness is not being met. While the Plan calls for an upfront and full-scale investment to fund more than 60 aftercare slots in its first year, the budget as proposed only funds 20 of these slots.
  • Youth Shelter Beds: While it is understood that a bed in a shelter setting is not an acceptable replacement for a home, the annual census of youth experiencing homelessness reveals a present and persistent need for more safe and low-barrier access to beds for young people in crisis. The Plan calls for increasing our present capacity by 32 beds in its first year and then adding steadily and as needed in future years, but the budget as proposed funds just 20 additional beds.
  • Transitional Housing: Transitional living programs remain a vital intervention in the current system, and those that serve youth in a developmentally appropriate and culturally competent setting are all the more important given the need. They offer a more structured placement than shelter beds, and the Plan calls for 15 new units in its first year with a steady increase in future years to reach full scale by year five; the budget as proposed funds 10 additional units.
  • Permanent Supportive Housing: There are relatively few PSH units set aside for youth in the current system, and as we scale up other housing intervention programs for youth, it is important that PSH keeps pace to ensure that young people in those programs who are found to need ongoing case management and mental health supports have a place to go. The Plan calls for 16 new units in its first year; the budget as proposed funds 10 additional units.
  • Rapid Re-Housing for Youth: Beginning in FY18, DC will bring online a rent-subsidized housing program specifically for youth. While this is an exciting development, and the Plan calls for an ambitious scale in its first and future years, we also recognize that Youth Rapid Re-Housing programs are an option among a diverse array of programs in the District which will need to grow and evolve with our young people. With that in mind, we see the 20 units as proposed in the budget as a good start, and would encourage DHS to pursue efficiency and frequent program evaluation to maximize the impact of funding allotted for this program in its initial year.

Current performance indicates that DHS is poised to work with youth providers to meet the objectives of Year 1 of the Plan by deploying the funds for launching and enhancing the above programs.

For the current fiscal year, $2.3 million in new investments were committed in the FY17 budget to serve more youth experiencing homelessness. With those funds, DHS has to date:

  • Funded a new LGBTQ transitional housing site-based program at SMYAL (8 beds)
  • Funded a new LGBTQ transitional housing apartment-based program at the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) (6 beds)
  • Extended low-barrier crisis beds at Casa Ruby beyond hypothermia season through the end of this fiscal year (14 beds)
  • Supported additional staff at youth drop-in centers at Sasha Bruce Youthwork and LAYC
  • Increased youth street outreach support at Friendship Place
  • Set up a 6-person youth homelessness prevention team at DHS

HOW: Help advocate for funding toward ending youth homelessness in the #DCFY18 Budget

  • Please sign up to testify at the Budget Hearing for the Department of Human Services on Wednesday, May 3, 2017 at 10 am in Room 500 of the John A. Wilson Building at 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
  • To sign up to testify, you can email humanservices@dccouncil.us, or call the Committee on Human Services at 202-724-8170.

NEXT: Please sign up for updates from DCAYA to stay informed about our budget advocacy and our upcoming Youth Advocacy Day on May 11!

And in case you missed it, check out our Actions for Budget Advocacy - Week 3 email.