March 6, 2014
Our second place youth winner, Jabari Jefferson, is Senior at Phelps ACE High School. His piece describes his fears about moving from his beloved old neighborhood to historic Anacostia, and how he came to love his new, big yellow house.
OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW
Moving from my old home to a new area was a major culture shock for me. My parents explained to me that it was a way to start a new, but I wasn’t finished with the old. All my memories lied in the pavement of the very neighborhood that taught me everything I know. Why is it that the neighborhood that influences us most, influence us in a way not easily quantified? Getting use to a new environment is hard, but with time comes acceptance. Little did I know that the change can help my understanding of life and the past. This I believe.
My old neighborhood was very dear to me. It was convenient, quiet and peaceful environment; with everything I
could possibly need. A reliable grocery store was around the corner, three busses that stopped right in front of my house (that traveled through The District) and a library resided two blocks away from me. My neighbors were tight knit and engaging. Although I was enjoying my neighborhood, my parents had another plan in mind. They wanted to relocate into The Historic District of Anacostia which they saw mass potential in. I was not sure if I was going to like my new neighborhood. Leaving an old lifestyle cuts deep and I know its the type of wound that never heals.
When I first laid eyes on the big, bright yellow and abandoned house, I excoriated all my interest of ever wanting to live there. It was a 1903 Queen Anne styled house that needed a lot of work and love. The first month there was cantankerous and I was homesick. When my parents asked if I liked it, I would feign to be excited. The nearest store was four blocks away, the bus stop was six blocks away and the nearest library was a mile away. I had a lot to adjust to.
On my way towards the bus stop, I noticed a strange old house that rested on a nearby hill. I read the sign that was sealed on its gate and it read, “Welcome to The Home of Frederick Douglas.” I was astonished that I lived close to the home of a famous African American abolitionist. Not only did Frederick Douglass live here, but other historic figures and landmarks like, The Anacostia River and The Big Chair, the world’s largest chair, reside in my neighborhood; which have shaped The District of Columbia. Although, my old neighborhood was a haven to me, my new neighborhood holds historic significance, with qualities of security, reliability and warmth.
Despite what I thought appealed to me at first, I soon realized the interesting things of my new neighborhood. I may not have the conveniences I use to have, but the history in more important to me. So many residents have tales and have experienced things from the early 1900s. I recently visited my old neighborhood a year later realizing that it wasn’t as exciting as it was a year ago when I lived there. That big yellow house has truly grown on me and has really become my home. I learned the importance and history of life rather than its luxuries.
March 3, 2014
Samar Chatterjee is our third place adult winner for the Home is Where the Heart is writing competition. In his piece, he explains that a home provides shelter to protect both the body and the heart from suffering and calls on America to recognize the right of everyone to have a home.
HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS
Though the heart lives in the body; but the heart is not at all happy if its body is always exposed to the vagaries of the nature around us. By nature, we mean our planet earth that is always surrounded by the changing weather patterns like extreme cold, extreme heat, extreme wind, rain, snow, extreme light, extreme darkness, earthquakes and other calamities inflicted on us by nature.
These natural vagaries inflict serious pain and suffering to our bodies that the heart is compelled to suffer. To avoid these cruel torture of nature, our hearts seek a HOME that will provide the necessary shelter against these extreme conditions that inflict pain and suffering to our BODY and hence to our HEART. Thus, our body and heart together work very very hard to develop a suitable permanent shelter to live in, which we humans like to call our HOME.
Thus, it is this Home where the Heart always is. It is the heart that tells us what kind of a home we want to live in, what do we want in the home, and who do we want in our home. It is the heart that propels us to build and equip our home, so that it feels the peace and serenity it rightly deserves. Hence, it is the home where the heart is, and will always want to be.
Clearly, if America seeks to be a truly democratic nation, we should honestly proclaim the constitutional right of every human being to have a home where his heart is. It should be our solemn duty to provide a home for every human heart to live freely on this land of the brave and free, of course without any more wars. I sincerely hope that you will all agree with me.
God Bless America!
February 28, 2014
At the Housing for All NOW Rally, we asked DC residents to tell us their personal stories of housing struggles or affordable housing successes. Others told us why they needed affordable housing now. Check out their stories and answers in this video:
February 27, 2014
Our second place adult winner for the Home is Where the Heart is writing competition, Judith Overbey tells us that home is more than just where the heart is:
HOME IS LOVE
To me, home is where you find love. It’s where you go whenever you need to know that you are safe. It is family, it is warmth in the winter and comfort in the summer. It is holidays full of laughter and stories about the past and loved ones gone on.
Home is not just the building but all that it holds. It’s brick and mortar, siding, carpet and tile. It’s community, yards where children play, sidewalks where people stop to say hello. Home is important to me because it holds all that I hold dear, my family, my son, daughter, daughter-in-law and baby grandson. Together we are happy, we feel safe and we know that there is hope for the future. Home is hope for better tomorrows and a chance to share dreams. Housing should be a right not a privilege and should be available to everyone.
Home is love.
February 19, 2014
Our 2014 writing competition asked DC residents what “Home is Where the Heart Is” means to them. Our adult first place winner, Elsie Collins, describes how finding a communal home at Calvary Women’s Services allowed her to take the risk of coming home to DC …
HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS
A home should radiate security, warmth, love, and be welcoming. It should have the aesthetics of a Picasso, the music and song of
Josh Brolin. It should represent the competitive spirit of its inhabitants. A home’s construction and foundation should depict the strength and courage it took to plan and save for its creation.
A home swaths you in its tenderness as found within its cherished occupants. It is not the cost of the home that matters. It is not the good judgment and sacrifice of its residents; it takes to make a lifetime purchase of such meaningful consequence.
A home grounds us! It is what we yearn for. It protects us; it gives us privacy and confidentiality while granting us a purpose in life. It allows us to grow with it. We become part of a village – a community. We are the home – the home is us!
Where I live today is a transitional housing program. It is, also, communal living. Its name is Calvary Women’s Services. I receive meals, showers, social services, job assistance, counseling, life skills programs and support groups. Although part of a community, it represents family to me, as it is to many homeless women. I learn crafts, nutrition and food, computer skills, money smart application, and more.
I was linked to outside service providers to further my individual needs. I have learned meditation through yoga methods. Controlling one’s breathing is both, artful and significant in reducing stress. Education and self-development does not stop with age. Where there is a need, there is love, bestowed from the heart by trained staff and volunteers. Home is a combination of the above. A home is what you make it! We enjoy ours! I am pleased to share it with you today.
Washington, D.C. stands as my place of birth, but is, also, the nation’s Capital city. There is much to love about my home town. Challenging as politics are, there is no other global entity to compare with its dynasty of power. Washington, D. C. is a hub of world negotiations. It is, also, home to me!
I claim my home and federal city as one of a kind. I say it best: I am grateful to the fathers and forefathers; the sisterhood, found at Calvary, for granting me shelter and safety of a home to return to. I’ve been away for several years. Housing prices, in general, have escalated beyond my limited social security retirement income. I took a risk on returning home! Affordable housing options are necessary to protect D.C.’s families and their relationship to home. Today we live in a depressed housing market, where the cost-of-living is higher than most states. Calvary allows poorer citizens a vehicle, through processes, toward finding independent housing.
Thank you ALL for allowing me the spirit to continue with my dreams; the courage and determination to “Come Home!”
February 18, 2014
Alaya Barnett is the first place winner in our youth category for the Home is Where the Heart is writing competition. Her poem captures the little things that make up:
THE HOUSE OF MY DREAMS
The house of my dreams
Is not a Palace
It isn’t a Mansion
It isn’t a Castle
The house of my dreams is an affordable cozy little place
That my family can call home and be safe from harm
It can be a Cottage
It can be an apartment
It can be a Condo
As long as I can have a home I can afford
Weather my family grows from two to three or five
I want to have a home that’s mine
Trimming the Christmas tree waiting for Old Saint Nick
All of these memories made
In the home that fit my needs
The House of my dreams
February 4, 2014
“Affordable housing helps kids like me reach our goals. … I hope to go to college one day too. Without affordable housing that would not be possible for me.”
“Permanent Supportive Housing provides stability and has saved my family from homelessness.”
“The house of my dreams is not a mansion; it’s a cozy little place where my family is safe from harm.”
“A home grounds us. It is what we yearn for…We are the home. The home is us.”
These were some of the amazing voices we heard on Saturday, February 1, 2014, when a record crowd participated in the Housing For All NOW rally! Elected officials joined us, including Mayor Gray and Councilmembers Bonds, Bowser, Evans, Graham, and Wells, as did two agency directors.
Father John Adams of SOME welcomed all the participants, noting the recent successes in gaining funding for housing and exhorting the crowd to “Remove the yoke of injustice!” Our fabulous MC of the day, Renise Walker of Jubilee Housing, kept the program moving and the energy high, getting some special help from Housing For All Resident Team Leaders Tom Wilson and Venus Little who truly revved up the event. With their incredible passion, we got on the same page with Who We Are & What We Want. Read the ask here.
LaToya Thomas, Weincek + Associates, Architects + Planners, presented the winners of the writing competition: Home is Where the Heart Is. In the upcoming week, we’ll be posting the winning essays and poems; those who attended got to hear many of the winners’ heart-felt submissions first-hand. Two of the winners this year are with Calvary Women’s Services, affiliated with the church hosting us – purely a coincidence! [Pictured: youth category winners - Alaya Barnett, Jabari Jefferson, Gabriel Merino; adult category-Elsie Collins, Judith Overbey; not pictured -Samar Chatterjee]
And the incredible stories continued – with testimony from residents who have benefited from the housing programs we fight for.Directors Michael Kelly, Department of Housing and Community Development and Adrianne Todman, DC Housing Authority shared their support and enthusiasm, with Director Kelly saying “Like air, water and food, housing is critical! …We need permanent, sustainable funding” and Director Todman urging residents to not give up, saying “I need your voices and passion so we can house you, and your neighbors!”
Anthony Davis, there with his six year old son and his son’s mother to related their multi-year struggle with homelessness and their path to THC’s Permanent Supportive Housing program where they now thrive in a ”safe, affordable and stable home”
Gabriel Merino, just 11 years old, told how the Local Rent Supplement Program helps his family and how much Jubilee Youth Services has helped him. “With it as cold as it has been lately, we are thankful that we have an apartment with heat that my mom can afford.”
Renee Sumbly on behalf of Manna, Inc. gave testimony on her experience with the Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP). Ms. Sumbly spoke of how important it was for her to return to the District, as a homeowner, the place where her family was from. “If it were not for HPAP, I would not be living here.”
Margarita Menhibar, speaking through a Spanish interpreter, relayed how the Housing Production Trust Fund and the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act are enabling her tenants association to purchase the building after suffering through horrible conditions for years. [Feb 10 they will sign the paperwork to officially purchase and become a cooperative.] “We know there will be no better owners than us!”
The Elected Officials – Where Do they Stand on Housing?
The Mayor answered questions collected from the audience after speaking for several minutes about affordable housing. Each of the Councilmembers present then gave short statements about affordable housing, followed by a Q& A session. Each segment was moderated expertly by MC Renise. What follows is a selection of highlights; the recording can be found here and the transcript will follow.
Mayor Gray spoke about the DC Housing Plan that commits to creating 10,000 affordable homes by 2020. To help reach that goal, he shared the agreement reached the day before with Councilmember McDuffie (who had previously introduced a bill on funding the Trust Fund) and Council Chair Mendelson that 50% of the unencumbered budget surplus would go to affordable housing via the Trust Fund.
Councilmember Evans offered that the Housing Trust Fund, is “I truly believe, the best vehicle we’ve ever had that produces affordable housing.” He cited the incredible prosperity of the City but that the prosperity comes at a cost of keeping housing affordable.
Councilmember Bonds urged advocacy for seniors, noting the older population of the city, and that rent control isn’t enough. She told the audience that “the day has come when you know your elected officials have heard you and are working with you.”
Councilmember Graham spoke of the continuum of housing, and how we have to think about extremely low-income persons and those with no income and no place to go, particularly those with families. “You can’t raise a child in a stairwell; you can’t raise a child in a bus station …” He also noted the crucial role of activists & resident advocacy.
Councilmember Bowser spoke of the affordable housing crisis, noting progress in getting some funding but that we can’t be satisfied and need to hold officials accountable for real, intentional policies. She said “we talk about affordable housing, but the question is affordable for whom?”
Councilmember Wells told the crowd “These are your victories!” [related to increased attention and funding for affordable housing]. He raised the importance of how the money is spent, saying “Housing First works and it needs to be expanded.”
Next Steps and Closing
Elizabeth Falcon, Housing For All Campaign Organizer exhorts all of us the crowd to stay involved, and invites participation in upcoming Advocacy training sessions, one series in NW and another in SE.
Finally, with urgent oratory using imagery of a raging river, David Bowers of Enterprise Community Partners (pictured right) made sure we ended the rally feeling invigorated and knowing that our efforts must continue: Our neighbors are drowning – reach your hand out to help!
January 31, 2014
On Thursday, January 23, 2014, DC Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie introduced the Housing Production Trust Fund Supplemental Funding Act of 2014. Co-introducing the legislation were Councilmembers Muriel Bowser and Jack Evans, joined by co-sponsors Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Mary Cheh, Jim Graham, Vincent Orange and Tommy Wells. Read CNHED’s press release.
UPDATE: On Friday, January 31, 2014 Mayor Gray, Chairman Mendelson & Councilmember McDuffie announced an agreement to boost funding for affordable housing – 50% of future unreserved surplus will be dedicated to the District’s Housing Production Trust Fund. Housing For All Campaign organizer Elizabeth Falcon is quoted in the City Paper’s article “Affordable Housing Could Be the Big Winner in D.C.’s Budget Boom.” This agreement follows introduction of legislation on Jan. 23, 2014, by Councilmember McDuffie; see above.
January 28, 2014
The Housing For All NOW Rally will be held Saturday, February 1 from 1:00 – 4:00 PM at Calvary Baptist Church (755 8th St NW). Childcare and Spanish interpretation provided. See more details and RSVP.
The Housing For All NOW Rally is coming up this Saturday. It’s the biggest housing event of the year, and I could tell you lots of reasons to come. I could give you 7 reasons – that’s how many elected officials have said they will attend: Mayor Gray, Chairman Mendelson, and five Councilmembers. But maybe you want more. Here are 7,000 reasons to come – that’s how many people were homeless in DC last winter. Or 70,000 reasons to come – that’s how many families have applied for affordable housing with the DC Housing Authority.
Don’t take it from me. Hear what other people have to say about why you should come:
I’m going to the rally on Saturday to show my support for affordable housing and to help end homelessness in DC. Last year’s rally was important because we brought attention to Council members around the issue of affordable housing and homelessness in DC. We showed, by the attendance of over 300 people, that affordable housing is important to the residents of DC and it showed the mayor that it was important to put $100 million into the Housing Production Trust Fund. By having the rally we were able to win that. We need to come out Saturday so that DC Mayor and the City Council hear us.
Juanita McKenzie, 930-940-960 Randolph Street Tenant Association
As a newcomer in DC, I’m concerned that lower-income long-term residents are being displaced to make room for people like me. I want DC’s leaders to know that I support investments that will allow everyone who wants to stay and prosper here.
Rob Wohl, Housing For All Volunteer
The Housing For All NOW Rally is a chance for us to shape the housing conversation in DC. Housing For All has had huge wins by showing that District residents demand affordable housing. I’ll be there because affordable housing is important to me, and the rally is an important way for us to make change.
Farah Fosse, Director of Housing Preservation, Latino Economic Development Center
And, once more reason from me. Come to the Housing For All NOW Rally to help us add 500+ voices to one message: We need affordable housing NOW.
What does that look like? It means we need to invest in the housing programs that allow renters to become homeowners, make rent affordable, help tenants purchase, and provide homes for the homeless. It means making a plan and sticking to it: the DC Interagency Council on Homelessness has a plan to end chronic homelessness by 2020. DC government needs to follow the plan and make long-term homelessness history. And it means ensuring there’s $100 million for the Housing Production Trust Fund every year. The Trust Fund is used to build new affordable housing, keep low-cost housing in neighborhoods across the District, and allows tenants to become the collective owners of their buildings. A strong Trust Fund equals strong neighborhoods.
That’s the message at the Housing For All NOW Rally. It’s going to take all of us to make sure our elected officials hear it loud and clear. Join us on this Saturday, call for Housing For All NOW.
Elizabeth Falcon, Campaign Organizer
Video from last year’s Housing For All Rally.
January 15, 2014
This post was written by Sonya Hochevar, based on her remarks at the Ward 3 Housing Town Hall, November 22, 2013.
I have lived and worked in Ward 3 for about 8 years and am now also the Tenant Association President for my building as we go through the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) process.
I work for Community Preservation and Development Corporation (CPDC), a not for profit housing developer that preserves, renovates, and owns housing for low- and moderate- income households in addition to providing Resident Services. The Housing Production Trust Fund, which the Housing For All Campaign is fighting to sustain and increase, is a crucial tool that allows us to do our work in DC.
But tonight I want to talk with you from my perspective as a Ward 3 resident and address the question that some people asked when this event was planned: Why would you do an affordable housing Town Hall in Ward 3?
We’ve all heard the phrase “It takes a Village to raise a child.” Well really, it takes a village to do everything that’s makes a community successful. Yes, it takes the doctors and lawyers, businesspeople and investors, but it also takes:
- the staff who clean our doctors’ and lawyers’ offices each night
- the baristas making our coffee in the morning
- the caretakers of our children and our elders and people living with disabilities
- the servers, dishwashers and line cooks at our neighborhood restaurants, fast food joints, and school cafeterias
- cashiers, bank tellers, administrative assistants
- bus drivers, security guards, and firefighters
- teachers, nurses and EMTs
- the construction crews who work on our roads and buildings
- retirees on fixed incomes and veterans
You get the picture, and the list goes on…
So I really want us to think about that village. Our village. And what it means when we have people on all parts of the income spectrum who have and are contributing to the growth and success of the village but a majority of whom cannot actually afford to live in the village or take advantage of the resources that they’re helping to provide.
This reality just doesn’t make sense from a lot of angles. It doesn’t make logical sense, it doesn’t make moral sense, and it doesn’t make sense for business owners who have a workforce that spends so much of their free time and money on transportation and are stressed due to their housing situation.
It also doesn’t make sense for decreasing poverty. In addition to residents in particularly low-paying jobs, we’re talking about our brothers and sisters who are homeless or are not working and need housing assistance to get on their feet. For instance, returning citizens who come out of prison will tell you about the sentence they serve in jail, and then the extended sentence that society deals them when they get out, as they are denied housing, jobs and other resources.
Finally, unattainable housing in the village doesn’t makes political sense. We keep hearing our politicians talk about one city, an inclusive city. So if being an excluding and segregating city–by income, ethnicity, or race–is not actually our goal, then we should not be implying that it is with our status quo.
This village approach obviously applies to DC as a whole, but I want us to really think critically about Ward 3, and how we create a range of affordable opportunities right here where there are currently slim to none. The idea that Ward 3 is a “lost-cause” or altogether exempt from even a discussion about housing affordability is unacceptable. Our village needs to bury the “Not in my backyard” (NIMBY) mentality. And this involves changing attitudes and stereotypes, which is something each of us can be a part of. Not only will our children, and our village as a whole, be better for it—our very survival and success depends on it!