Volunteer Spotlight: Tobie Smith

Quote: “It gives us volunteers a chance to break down barriers to communicate with community members we may not normally interact with, breaking down biases and understanding that everyone rightly deserves to enjoy all that our wonderful Capitol Hill community offers.”

Dr. Tobie Smith is one of our longest serving and most active volunteers with Everyone Home DC’s Homeless Assistance Response Team (HART). She brings an incredible amount of knowledge, experience, and passion to this work because, when she is not volunteering with HART, she serves as the Medical Director at Health Care for the Homeless, Baltimore County. We are so grateful that Tobie chooses to spend her time outside of work with Everyone Home DC and are excited to highlight her work with our team!

Everyone Home DC’s HART volunteers are an extension of our Street Outreach Team. We train members of the community to check in on our unhoused neighbors at night, offer them snacks and shelter on hypothermia alert nights, and in extreme circumstances, call for emergency services.

Tobie became a HART volunteer because she realized that, while she is very active in homeless services in Baltimore, she wasn’t engaged in issues related to homelessness in her own community here in DC. Tobie’s professional background makes her an extra special HART volunteer. While out on shift, she is able to flag common health conditions for our outreach staff who are then able to follow-up and ensure our homeless neighbors receive the care they need.

For Tobie, one of the highlights of volunteering with Everyone Home DC is the “opportunity to work with other volunteers who are learning about homelessness.” Volunteering with HART also helps her to “better address the concerns of the rest of our community and to know how to encourage others to advocate and alleviate the issues facing the homeless population.”

Breaking down Government Funded Housing Interventions

The goal of Everyone Home DC’s Street Outreach team is to connect people experiencing homelessness to housing. In order to do this, we rely on government funded housing interventions like Permanent Supportive Housing, Rapid Rehousing, and Targeted Affordable Housing. Permanent Supportive Housing is the most intensive housing intervention and is designed to support individuals who have the greatest vulnerabilities by providing long term housing subsidies coupled with intensive case management. Rapid Rehousing is intended for people with fewer vulnerabilities by providing short term support through time-limited subsidies and case management. Targeted Affordable Housing is a relatively new intervention that provides a permanent housing subsidy with light touch case management and it is making a difference!

According to the 2017 Point In Time Data, of the 3,578 individuals experiencing homelessness, 1,729 of them are over the age of 50. People above retirement age are less likely to acquire reliable, sustainable income, and are therefore less likely to afford market rent. An inability to afford to pay rent does not necessitate a need for intensive services that come with Permanent Supportive Housing, so having an option midway between Rapid Rehousing and Permanent Supportive Housing can be incredibly useful. Targeted Affordable Housing can also be used as a step down tool for people who have been in Permanent Supportive Housing for years and are no longer in need of the robust case management associated with the program, or conversely, it can be used as a step up tool for folks who are in Rapid Rehousing and are unable to increase their income and will need long term affordability.

Our Street Outreach Team is excited to have ended homelessness for a few individuals experiencing homelessness through Targeted Affordable Housing. One individual in particular, “Elliot” had been living outside for almost four years before our team was able to connect him with Targeted Affordable Housing through the city’s homeless services system. “Elliot” is in his 60s and has minimal income, so renting an apartment was not feasible. He had put his name on waiting lists for low-income senior housing, but the lists are long and his name never came up. Now, because of Target Affordable Housing, he doesn’t have to worry about waiting lists, and “Elliot” was able to choose his own apartment in a building he likes that is full of amenities including granite countertops, a fitness center, and a short walk to the Metro!

An End In Sight for DC General Family Shelter

This week, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that the city will be closing the DC General Family Shelter by the end of 2018. This is earlier than expected as the previous iteration of the plan would have kept the shelter open until 2020 when all of the new Short-term Transitional Housing facilities would be operational. (Three of the new shelters – in Wards 4, 7 & 8 – are slated to open by the end of this year.) According to the Washington Post, the District will stop placing families in DC General in May and will start deconstructing one of the vacant buildings on the DC General campus this coming April. The rest of the DC General buildings will be taken down by the end of the year.

DC General is frequently referred to as a dilapidated shelter with a plethora of problems ranging from a rodent infestation to a lack of hot water. City officials have said that any family still living in DC General when it is ready to be razed will be moved to another shelter placement, though details about how this will happen without the completion of all the new facilities have not yet been shared. Read here for more information on the closure of DC General in the Washington Post and WAMU.

The Legacy of Bill Phillips

In November of 2017, Everyone Home DC was thrilled and honored to be awarded the inaugural Bill Phillips Grant by the Capitol Hill Community Foundation for our Homeless Street Outreach Program. Bill Phillips, a longtime Capitol Hill resident and friend to Everyone Home DC, passed away suddenly in December of 2016. This grant is underwritten by Bill’s dear friend,
Sue Carlton, to continue his legacy of caring for the Hill’s most vulnerable residents. The funding from this grant will help us continue our work with individuals experiencing homelessness on the Hill.

Everyone Home DC’s Street Outreach Team works with chronically homeless individuals living in Ward 6 and utilizes a person-centered approach to meet clients where they are and connect them to community resources with an end goal of moving them off the streets and into permanent housing. In 2017, our Street Outreach team helped 10 chronically homeless individuals move into their own homes.

Everyone Home DC is grateful to the Capitol Hill Community Foundation for its ongoing support of our Street Outreach Program, Homeless Assistance Response Team (HART), Parenting,Wellness, & Recovery Support Group, and Life Skills Workshops.

Home for the Holidays: Daniel’s Story

Daniel is an Everyone Home DC client whose life was transformed this year through his engagement with our Street and Medical Outreach Program. We helped him go from never visiting a doctor or hospital, no matter how much he was suffering, to welcoming weekly medical outreach visits and even attending appointments with specialists.

We were thankful that Daniel was finally getting the regular medical care he needed to enjoy a better quality of life in his senior years. His positive experience with our Street and Medical Outreach Program made him more receptive to other services, and we became hopeful that he might one day accept an offer of permanent supportive housing. A few weeks ago, he did just that — Daniel moved into an apartment of his very own just before Thanksgiving! He loves his new home and we are all overjoyed!

This is why we do this work. We do it because we believe everyone deserves the safety and dignity of a home. We do it because we believe we can end homelessness. And we do it because we believe no one is beyond help, that if we design our services to meet people’s needs rather than expecting them to conform themselves to fit our services, we can change lives.

Just before he moved into his new place, Daniel was hospitalized for several days due to an open wound that had become infected and was worsening rapidly. Had we not helped him secure housing, Daniel likely would have continued to suffer increasingly serious health problems as he aged, and those problems would have been significantly exacerbated by his homelessness.

Instead, Daniel looks forward to a brighter and healthier future. We will not worry about Daniel dying from hypothermia this winter. For the first time in many years, Daniel will have a safe, warm home with a real bed and covers to snuggle under when it snows. He will have plenty to eat and can even cook his favorite meals in his very own kitchen. He can shower whenever he wants and binge watch every episode of CSI Las Vegas, Miami, and New York! He will be home. Because of your support for our work, Daniel will be home for the holidays this year.

CHGM Participates in The Way Home Campaign’s Advocacy Day

[On Thursday, May 7th, Capitol Hill Group Ministry participated in The Way Home Campaign’s Advocacy Day. Over 120 members of the community gathered at the Wilson Building to ask members of the DC council to support the campaign to end DC Homelessness by 2017. Participants were split into different groups, each to visit with their specific city council member or their staff. The groups presented vital statistics about the state of homelessness in DC, emphasizing the steep ethical and financial costs of homelessness. Some advocates also shared personal stories of their own experiences with homelessness. We all expressed our deep conviction that ending chronic homelessness in DC is a top priority for DC voters, less costly than our current state, and–most importantly–absolutely possible. At the close of the day, participants reported back on their meetings. Many shared hopeful feedback that ending homelessness is a top priority for the council members and staff with whom they met. Email advocate@chgm.net if you would like to join our Advocacy List serve in order to receive information about future advocacy opportunities.

CHGM Community Night Highlights Youth Homelessness

CHGM‘s May Community Night focused on how youth in our area are impacted by homelessness. The first part of the evening showcased projects created by the Capitol Hill Day School’s middle school class, who spent this past semester learning about the impact of homelessness in DC through work with CHGM. They used what they learned to emphasize how important it is to acknowledge our homeless neighbors, instead of perpetuating their invisibility.
Sasha Bruce Youthwork presented for the second half of the evening. Sasha Bruce is a DC-based non-profit that works directly with students and youth who are experiencing homelessness, or come from unsafe homes. Their programs help youth create safe communities for themselves.

The evening’s discussion elucidated the particular challenges of homeless youth and demonstrated the importance of ensuring that strategies to end homelessness account for needs of people of all ages, and their diverse backgrounds and experiences.

Volunteers Wrap up another Successful Tax Clinic

CHGM‘s 42nd Annual Free Tax Clinic was held every Thursday evening from mid-February through Tax Day in April. Volunteers, Mike Ambrose, Rick Halberstein, Martha Huizenga, and Christine Hoffman served approximately 43 people with their taxes this year.

With most clients needing to file federal and one or more local returns, our dedicated volunteers prepared close to 100 returns, half of which were filed electronically. Despite the drastic change in how taxes are filed since the tax clinic’s conception, our volunteers continue to ensure effective tax preparations for all of our community members in need.

We are so grateful to our dedicated volunteers for their service to the Capitol Hill Community, and to the Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church Church for hosting the clinic in its space. We can only imagine the vast amount of frustration and anxiety you prevent clinic participants from having to experience each year. Thank you!

Spotlight and Appeal for CHGM Client, Danielle Johnson

CHGM is thrilled to announce the upcoming college graduation of Danielle Johnson, the eldest child in one of the families in CHGM‘s Shelter Plus Care Permanent Supportive Housing Program. CHGM staff watched Danielle grow up in our program and head off to college. She is now a senior at Virginia University & Lynchburg College, where she is majoring in business and playing varsity basketball.

Danielle’s mother, Florence, is wheelchair-bound and unable to talk after suffering from a stroke years ago. As the oldest of three children, Danielle has handled her home responsibilities with maturity and grace, often returning home from school to support her father, Danny, who became a home health aide in order to care for Florence. Danielle has beautifully juggled her familial obligations with school and basketball, maintaining a 3.0 GPA.

CHGM could not be more proud of Danielle’s hard work and commitment to her family, and is looking forward to celebrating her graduation in less than a month. As a congratulatory gift, we hope to provide Danielle with a new laptop, which will be incredibly useful as she enters the professional world. If you would like to contribute to this gift, please donate by credit card here and indicate “graduation gift” in the “add special instructions” box on the second page where you confirm your payment, or send a check to CHGM, 421 Seward Square SE, Washington, DC 20003.

CHGM Hosts HUD Secretary Donovan During Annual Point In Time Count

On January 29, 2014, over 200 volunteers joined members of homeless services organizations from all over the city to perform DC’s eighth annual Point In Time Count. The count is a census of the homeless population that takes place, nationwide, in the last week of January every year. This year, CHGM served on the Point In Time coordinating committee, which entailed recruiting, area mapping, and volunteer training. We also were honored to have the Secretary of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, Shaun Donovan, join CHGM staff to canvass a portion of Capitol Hill in search of unsheltered homeless neighbors. The group also surveyed the individuals taking advantage of one of the city’s new warming buses, parked in front of Union Station. The night of the Point In Time Count started early this year with a kick-off event to launch the Way Home Campaign, an initiative to end chronic homelessness in DC by 2017. Volunteers then listened to words of thanks and encouragement from DC Mayor, Vincent Grey, U.S. Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs, Eric Shinseki, and U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Shaun Donovan before bundling up and deploying in small groups across the city. From 10:00pm to 2:00am, volunteers canvassed streets, sidewalks, buildings, bridges, and back alleyways looking for our homeless neighbors, many of whom have no choice but to live in our public spaces. The data collected from this year’s Point in Time Count will provide critical information to service providers and policy makers concerning where to focus city and federal dollars in the on-going struggle to prevent and end homelessness. CHGM is sincerely thankful to the many dedicated volunteers who assisted in the count and to the city organizers and HUD staff who worked hard to ensure the count’s success.