Final Thought: Sip and Savor 2019

On Saturday, September 14, Everyone Home DC’s 4th Annual Sip and Savor welcomed more than 400 foodies, friends, and supporters to experience three hours of unlimited tastings from 25 local restaurants, breweries, and beverage vendors while enjoying music and friendship. The signature fundraiser raised nearly $90,000 in support of Everyone Home DC’s homelessness prevention, housing, street outreach, drop-in day center, and supportive services for Washington D.C.’s individuals and families at risk of or experiencing homelessness. WUSA9 Get Up DC host, Reese Waters, stopped by in support of the festivities and shared this “Final Thought” with those in attendance before he departed.

For my final thought this evening I would like to talk a little bit about the hashtag #HousingEndHomelessness. It seems obvious doesn’t It? Just as food ends hunger, Housing ends homelessness, and yet tonight, in this city, the capitol of our nation, over 6000 souls, adult and child, will be going to bed without a home to call their own.

How did we get here? How does a city, how does a nation, as wealthy as ours, end up in this place?

The first impulse of most is victim blaming.“It’s their own fault.” “They don’t work hard enough.” “They shouldn’t abuse themselves with drugs.”

They need to pull themselves up by the what? Bootstraps.

“If they would just work harder, get better educated, have both parents in the home, then everything would be fine.”

What they always conveniently leave out is the greed that has put affordable housing out of the reach of working people and families, predominately Black, in DC. In order to live in a one-bedroom apartment, one bedroom, a minimum waged person would need to work 80 hours in a single week, to meet the price of the average DC rent. 80 hours! Got a family? Want to live in a two bedroom? Well get ready, because you need to make about 32 dollars an hour, if you want to live any kind of life. That’s 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, every year. The denied generational wealth due to the legacies of racist policies as well as a lack of resources to turn to forces me to ask,

How does one pull their bootstraps up, when one’s boots are being yanked off their feet at the same time?

There is a solution, and it’s right here in this room……it’s community.

This community has already demonstrated that it can do great things. Since the launch of the Districts strategic plan to end homelessness, over 5,000 people have moved off the streets, out of shelters and into housing. Over 90% of folks who go into permanent supportive housing with wrap around services, do not return to homelessness within 1 year.

These numbers are fantastic, but we mustn’t allow them to make us complacent. If we want to end this problem, if we want to end homelessness in the district then we must keep working, keep striving. We must keep pressure on our elected officials, making sure that they are as invested, monetarily and spiritual, into programs like this one and others, as we are. And we must make sure that they are working to level playing fields put in place by age old systemic policies.

Most importantly, we must learn that they, are us. We must see the homeless for who they are; our neighbors, our family, our people, and we must treat them with the dignity that they deserve.

Let’s Continue this Conversation Online. Tell me what personal commitment you will make to support our shared goal of ending homelessness, and let’s get the hashtag housing ends homelessness popping……Get Up Everyone Home DC!

Lessons Learned | A Yearlong Reflection

Three times a week, I attend the breakfast program “Our Daily Bread” at Capitol Hill United Methodist Church where housed and unhoused neighbors join together to start their morning. As a part of Everyone Home DC’s Street Outreach team, my goal is to build and maintain relationships with our chronically homeless neighbors. Maybe that’s not a common thing to do for a German high school graduate. How did I get here?

My name is Max, I am 19 years old, and I am from Darmstadt, Germany. I am doing a voluntary service year with a German organization called Action Reconciliation Service for Peace (ARSP) that places volunteers in nonprofit organizations in Europe, Israel, and the United States. When founded in 1958, ARSP called upon the Germans to seek forgiveness and to practice reconciliation for the crimes Germany had committed during the reign of the National Socialists.

Many ARSP volunteers work in communities which have been persecuted by the National Socialists. Among those communities are survivors of the NS-persecution and their descendants, Jewish organizations, people with disabilities, and also people experiencing homelessness. About 10.000 people experiencing homelessness whom the Nazis called “asocial” were forcibly put in concentration camps.

Together with 23 other volunteers, I arrived in the US in September. Being here for the first time, I had a lot of new experiences: peanut butter Oreos became my favorite snack, I endured DC’s humidity for the first time, and I learned to live with American bread (which Germans love to complain about).

I work part-time for Everyone Home DC and part-time for another organization. Being on the Street Outreach team gave me the opportunity to get to know many great people and to learn a lot about homelessness. By building relationships with many friendly and welcoming people, I was taught to overcome my prejudices and to be open to everyone despite the burdens one might carry.

I learned that homelessness isn’t something that defines you as a person, but that it is a traumatic experience people are going through.

I also got to know the struggles people experiencing homelessness are going through and I saw what problems keep people from thriving in their communities. It is shocking for me that so many people are living in poverty in a city as wealthy as Washington, D.C. I was also surprised to find out how disproportionately ethnic minorities are affected by homelessness.

As I am wrapping up my service, I look back on a year full of great memories and intense experiences. I am grateful to Everyone Home DC for giving me the opportunity to work here for a year. I am sad to leave the organization, my co-workers, and the people I’ve met through my work as I am going back to Germany to start college there.