Greater Greater Washington

Posts about Poverty

Poverty


Topic of the week: Giving

The holiday season as well as the end of they year will soon be upon us and that gets lots of people thinking about giving to worthy organizations. We asked our contributors for their favorite organizations that they are donating to this year. Can you add your support?


Photo by Julie on Flickr.

David Alpert: The Coalition for Smarter Growth does the hard work, day in and day out, of advocating for the issues most of us support here at Greater Greater Washington. They mobilized a lot of people (including many of you) to show up in person to testify for the zoning update in DC, Bus Rapid Transit in Montgomery County, and better land use and transportation plans in Prince George's and Northern Virginia.

Online, we talk about these issues and help educate many people about what's going on in their communities, but success also requires on-the-ground organizing. Please support CSG's great work.

We also talk about bicycling a lot here on Greater Greater Washington, and no organization is doing more to push for safer streets, better bike infrastructure, trails, CaBi, bike racks, driver and cyclist education, and so much more than the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA). They made a list of amazing projects that they'd like to do, and would help bicycling in DC, but can't do without money. Why not help pay for a "traffic garden" where kids can learn to ride safely, or a fellow to compile and analyze crash statistics? Donate to them here.

Ben Ross: The Action Committee for Transit is Montgomery County's grass-roots advocate for better transit and better communities. Please join us (or renew early for next year) and support our activism by choosing whatever dues level you can afford between $10 and $100.

Canaan Merchant: Two organizations that I've volunteered for and have grown to admire are Food and Friends and DC Central Kitchen. Food and Friends delivers meals to people with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other illnesses. DC Central Kitchen provides meals for the homeless and is a culinary training program for them and others as well. Both the sick and the homeless are too often invisible parts of our urban landscape and these organizations have earned a lot of recognition for their ability to provide. I'd encourage anyone looking for ways to give locally to consider these two organizations.

Aimee Custis: Two organizations on my giving list this year are Smart Growth America and Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling. Smart Growth America advocates on the national level for people who want to live and work in great neighborhoods, but their office is here in DC, and their staff are an active part of our region's smart growth community. There are so many great local bike advocacy groups, but Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling is one of my favorites. A volunteer-run local affiliate of WABA, they're on the front lines of advancing cycling in Fairfax County, which certainly isn't easy.

Dan Reed: IMPACT Silver Spring is a great organization that embodies the adage "Teach a man to fish, and he'll eat for a lifetime." They ensure the long-term health of immigrant, minority, and low-income communities in Montgomery County through organizing, community engagement, and leadership training, empowering people to advocate for themselves both economically and politically. Montgomery Housing Partnership not only builds affordable housing, they help their residents build better lives and neighborhoods through job training and community-building events.

Both groups make Silver Spring and Montgomery County better places to live, and their staffs are some of the most talented, hardworking people I know. I've had the pleasure of working with both of them over the past year on the Flower Theatre Project, and they definitely deserve your support.

Michael Perkins: Bread for the City provides a wide variety of services - not just food and clothing, but also legal advice, dental care, and medical care. They get a regular donation from me. Also, Arlington Streetcar Now!, which is an advocacy organization that's organizing support to continue the plan to build a streetcar in Arlington.

Malcolm Kenton: Although I may not be working for them for much longer, I will add my endorsement for giving to the National Association of Railroad Passengers if you support an expanded and improved national passenger train network plus enhanced transit and commuter rail and multi-modal connectivity. I also give to two local water quality & conservation organizations: Rock Creek Conservancy and the Anacostia Watershed Society.

Elizabeth Falcon: The Diverse City Fund is a project to locally source money to fund grassroots projects in DC. All of the board members who determine grants are longtime DC organizers and activists, and the money goes to small projects that many larger foundations won't fund.

Jim Titus: And don't forget your local house of worship, which probably looks out for people in your neighborhood who have fallen on hard times and may well operate a food pantry.

Jacques Arsenault: A couple of other great organizations that touch on homeless and housing work are the Arlington Street People's Assistance Network (A-SPAN) and Central Union Mission, who just moved from 14th Street NW to near Union Station. And two organizations that provide critical services for under served or disconnected youth in the community are the Latin American Youth Center and DC Lawyers for Youth.

Veronica O. Davis: Food & Friends prepares and delivers healthy meals to terminally ill residents in the region.

Jaime Fearer: I serve on the board of Fihankra Akoma Ntoaso, or FAN, a local nonprofit organization based in Anacostia that serves foster youth throughout the District. More specifically, FAN aims to support teens in foster care by filling the gaps in their social, emotional, and educational lives as they face aging out of the foster care system. Please watch our 7-minute video and join me in building a bridge for some of our most vulnerable youth.

Geoffrey Hatchard: I'll be one to add an ask for Casey Trees. Casey's mission is simple: to restore, enhance, and protect the tree canopy of the nation's capital. I've been volunteering for Casey Trees for 9 years now, and I've found every minute of it to be fulfilling and worthwhile. They've expanded their reach recently to include plantings in Prince George's County, Montgomery County, and Arlington County. With more funds, they'll be able to invest in more staff to help plan and lead more projects in the future.

Poverty


Workforce development can solve poverty in DC

The challenge of poverty in DC can feel overwhelming. What can any one person do? Experts largely agree that workforce development is the solution, and the good news is that you can have a big impact.


Photo by mnd.ctrl on Flickr.

Workforce development is the systematic removal of barriers to employment, whatever they may be, that jobless residents face. There are many stereotypes about the causes of poverty in DC. Examining the true causes of poverty shows why workforce development matters so much, and why it deserves far more attention than it gets.

The initially-apparent causes of poverty are unemployment and underemployment. But what personal or systematic barriers to employment do jobless people face? You may be surprised to learn what they are.

The root problems of poverty may not be what you think

Joblessness in DC is due to poor workforce readiness, not lack of jobs. Martha Ross, a Brookings Institute fellow who leads research on DC, notes that the city has more jobs than residents and is located in an economically strong region. That means our primary lever to reduce unemployment and poverty isn't adding more jobs, it's workforce development.

"We're in a relatively fortunate position: we have jobs to connect people to or train them for," says Ross. "We're not like other cities or regions that are hemorrhaging jobs."

Despite this, elected officials talk about creating jobs for DC residents far more than they talk about workforce development. We could do so much to improve our broken workforce development system if we only had the will to do it.

So, what needs fixing? Some people assume that the issue is those who provide workforce training, but that's not true. If a lack of skills were the only barrier to employment faced by poor people, DC would not have a poverty crisis.

Most jobless and underemployed residents have more obstacles to full employment than occupational skills. Major obstacles to employment are lack of child care, lack of literacy and basic adult education, soft skills, lack of transportation, addiction issues, and barriers to hiring citizens returning from prison.

Unemployment is an assault on one's dignity. All of these barriers may cause unemployed people to lose their sense of agency and empowerment, something that most working residents take for granted. This creates the greatest challenge to public policy, but it is one for which there are proven solutions.

How can workforce development help?

It's understandable that we would want to focus on helping the unemployed who are motivated to help themselves. The reality, though, is that doing so won't solve the crisis of poverty. But there are proven solutions to addressing the poverty of hope that holds back those with multiple barriers to employment.

  1. Integrating literacy, basic education with skills training
  2. Literacy and adult basic education are usually considered prerequisites to occupational skills training. Not surprisingly, completion rates for literacy and basic education courses are low. They take a long time to complete, and people struggling with a loss of empowerment may be reluctant to put in the effort.

    There is a better way. In 2004, Washington state piloted a new model: integrated basic education and occupational skills training. It's more expensive, because it requires two instructors. Literacy and basic education are taught in the context of a specific occupation. But it works.

    The program, called I-BEST, greatly improved completion rates for basic education and was expanded statewide in 2006. Many states have created their own I-BEST programs, which are often provided through community colleges. In Maryland, both Montgomery College and Prince George's Community College have successful I-BEST programs.

    Meanwhile, the University of the District of Columbia Community College (UDC-CC) still provides separate basic education and occupational skills training according to the old model. And literacy services, which are contracted by DC's State Superintendent of Education, are also disconnected from occupational training.

  3. Pre- and post-employment wraparound services
  4. DC agencies offer many services to address obstacles to employment, like childcare, literacy, transportation, and skills training. Unfortunately, they are often hard to find, require repeated visits at all hours to offices around town, and require providing duplicate paperwork that is sometimes lost. As a result, these services often go to the jobless who need them the least because they possess the drive to navigate this system.

    The unemployed poor need a one-stop delivery model of wraparound services. Federal law requires every state to establish One-Stop centers to disribute federal training grants to the unemployed. But DC's One-Stops are in desperate need of reform.

    Numerous studies point to long waiting times for services at DC's One-Stop centers. And a report leaked earlier this year showed the consequences: lots of jobless come to the One-Stops for help, but very few receive services.

    "Effective One-Stop centers often have strong partnerships with social service providers", according to Brooke DeRenzis of DC Appleseed, who led a study of DC's One-Stops this year. "In some cases, partner organizations that provide services like public assistance or housing may even locate staff at the One-Stop center", an arrangement that doesn't exist in DC's One-Stops.

    In addition, UDC-CC has been unwilling to provide any user-friendly wraparound services. The UDC-CC president actually told a Council hearing last month that "job placement is not part of our mission". Unfortunately, even their core services of class registration have proven inaccessible, with reports of lost paperwork and long waiting periods.

  5. Outcomes reporting
  6. There are dozens of workforce development programs spread across 13 DC agencies, but little reporting on the outcomes of those programs. Reliable reporting would expose the ineffectiveness of isolated point programs that don't follow the models described above.

    Outcomes reporting should focus not in individual job training programs, but on the One-Stops and UDC Community College. (See Update below for UDC-CC reports.) That's because these are the agencies that should coordinate training with other services to help jobless overcome all barriers to employment.

    The lack of outcomes reporting is particularly tragic given how readily available it is. The employment status and salary of every employed DC resident is easily accessible in DC's unemployment insurance database, which is integrated with those of neighboring states.

What you can do

How can you take effective action to help solve poverty in DC? For starters, you can volunteer with organizations that use best practices. Look for organizations that provide integrated basic education and skills training, wraparound services, and report their outcomes.

One example is So Others Might Eat, or SOME. This organization uses the I-BEST co-teaching model in their Center for Employment Training, and provides wraparound services to clients and tracking of graduates for reporting purposes.

You can also advocate for reform of OSSE literacy services, UDC Community College, One-Stops and our outcomes reporting system at many venues. You can email your councilmember or testify at one of several hearings each year on workforce development and adult education.

The next hearing, on September 27, concerns UDC. Come testify about the urgency of reforming the UDC Community College as described above. You can follow DC Council hearings on their online calendar, or email me and I'll keep you informed of upcoming hearings on workforce development where you can testify.

Update: While UDC-CC is not required to produce outcomes reporting, it turns out that they do anyway and, to their great credit, posted the reports to their site yesterday.

Development


Watch poverty suburbanize in Montgomery County

As Montgomery County has become more diverse, it also faces new challenges with poverty. A new mapping tool shows just how much the county's changed over the past 30 years.


Where poverty is in Montgomery County. Each dot represents 20 low-income people. Blue dots are whites, yellow dots are blacks, green dots are Hispanics, and red dots are Asians. Original image from the Urban Institute.

The Urban Institute, a DC-based think tank that looks at social and economic issues, made this awesome mapping tool that shows where very low-income people lived between 1980 to 2010. The Atlantic Cities notes that the maps show dramatic demographic shifts across the country, notably the suburbanization of poverty.

That's especially evident here in Montgomery County. 30 years ago, the county's only significant concentration of poverty was around close-in Langley Park and Long Branch, which had established themselves as immigrant gateways by the late 1970s.

But today, you can also find clusters of poverty throughout East County and the Upcounty, in Wheaton and Aspen Hill, in White Oak and Briggs Chaney, and even along I-270 in Gaithersburg and Germantown. Many of them have only emerged within the past decade.

Meanwhile, communities that have historically been affluent, like Bethesda or Olney, appear to have stayed the same. The area along Rockville Pike between Rockville Town Center and White Flint, where a considerable amount of new, high-end development is happening, seems to have actually become less poor.

We know that people increasingly desire urban neighborhoods, whether that's places like Columbia Heights in DC or downtown Silver Spring. But the flip side of that revitalization is that the poor often move or are pushed out into suburban areas. While these communities offer more space or better public services, they aren't always well-equipped to help low-income people.

Groups like IMPACT Silver Spring, which helps low-income people and immigrants connect with community groups and social services, began working in and around downtown Silver Spring in the 1990s. Today, IMPACT does outreach at garden apartment complexes in Gaithersburg and Briggs Chaney. Unlike close-in Silver Spring or Long Branch, these areas don't have easy access to shopping, jobs, public services or transit.

Here, fears of crime mean parents won't let their kids play outside. Even walking to the bus stop can be dangerous due to roads designed for speeding cars.


A family tries to cross busy Columbia Pike in White Oak. Photo by the author.

Instead of working to combat the problem, more affluent neighbors fight any attempts at change or build fences in a lame attempt at keeping "undesirables" out. Meanwhile, kids growing up in these neighborhoods are often blocked from the high-quality public schools Montgomery County is known for.

The challenges that suburban poor face aren't necessarily different than those of their inner-city counterparts. But they're compounded by the built form of suburbia, which was designed under the assumption that everyone would have money and a car and does little to accommodate those who lack both.

Initiatives like the county's BRT plan or the White Oak Science Gateway will help bring transit, jobs and other amenities to these neighborhoods and improve residents' quality of life. But it'll be important to ensure that they aren't pushed out again into even more remote areas.

Bicycling


Bike sharing systems push to reach underrepresented groups

Bike sharing has been a huge success in many cities and received many well-deserved plaudits, but some have criticized bike sharing for not necessarily serving all segments of the population. What are bike sharing systems doing to expand their reach?


Photo by Eric Gilliland on Flickr.

Data on the demographics and socioeconomics of annual bike sharing users is only now emerging, and there are no comprehensive reviews of what bike sharing systems can do to ensure that they serve the entire community.

As a part of my graduate work at Virginia Tech's Alexandria urban planning program, I asked managers of current and planned North American bike sharing systems what they have done to increase access to bike sharing for low-income communities, and minority groups disproportionately underrepresented in bicycling.

The size and scope of measures to promote bike sharing equity vary, but all types of bike sharing systems are working to lower access barriers.Whether a large established system with significant government investment like Capital Bikeshare, a new small nonprofit system searching for funding like Kansas City B-cycle, or a for-profit system like Decobike Miami Beach, operators are expending the effort to lower access barriers. Here some highlights of how they are doing it:

Station siting: Lowering access barriers starts with placing stations where they primarily serve low-income communities. For example, systems might consciously place stations adjacent to affordable housing, or prioritize expansion to minority neighborhoods disproportionately underrepresented in bicycling.

Many systems reported doing this, including NiceRide Minnesota, which placed 30 stations (or approximately 20% of their system) in areas identified by the community as necessary for equity.

Community-specific marketing and outreach: By reaching out specifically to low-income communities, or by targeting marketing and outreach to the concerns and communications channels of minority communities underrepresented in bicycling, bike sharing systems might be able to tap into latent demand in those communities.

In Arlington County, VA, the largest low-income group is Latinos with limited English proficiency. Arlington is planning a special Spanish-language outreach program for all of the county's sustainable transportation programs, including Capital Bikeshare.

Financial assistance: Providing some variety of financial assistance was the most common way bike sharing systems promoted equity. Many lower-income people cannot afford the full cost of the annual membership at one time. To deal with that, several systems offer (or plan to offer) installment payment plans.

Bike sharing systems are also partnering with organizations to help qualified recipients obtain a bank account and debit/credit card. Capital Bikeshare introduced its partnership with Bank on DC over a year ago. This program combines a reduced membership fee with access to a credit card, and now has 90 participants.

Another measure that can relieve the financial barrier to bike sharing is not placing a temporary "hold" against a user's credit or debit limit. Many systems put a hold on the full replacement fee for a bicycle, to guard against bikes not being returned. For people with little money in their checking account, this can make it impossible for them to buy necessities. Arlington is investigating ways to allow for cash payments, which would obviate the need for a debit/credit card entirely.

Boston's Hubway provided over 550 annual memberships to qualified low-income recipients at a cost of $5 each, along with longer-than-normal free trip durations. Boston also investigated (but ultimately had to cancel) an idea dubbed "Prescribe a Bike," where medical providers would refer at-risk patients to subsidized bikesharing memberships. The Boston programs are administered and funded by an obesity prevention public health program.

Economic contribution to communities: Bikesharing potentially provides intrinsic economic benefits to all communities by reducing the personal costs of travel for users, and increasing economic activity by generating more trips overall.

But beyond this, I asked systems about ways the bike sharing operations might be directly contributing to the economic well-being of low-income communities, such as actively recruiting employees from low-income communities, locating facilities (and their associated jobs) in places easily accessible to low-income neighborhoods, and partnering and subcontracting with community-oriented nonprofit agencies.

Denver B-cycle partnered with a local Goodwill Industries nonprofit agency to recruit employees from low-income communities. Motreal's BIXI worked with a youth-service program to provide maintenance labor. Montgomery County, which is soon joining Capital Bikeshare, gave a preference for minority-owned small businesses in subcontracting procurement.

Safe places to ride: With the federal government investing fewer dollars for active transportation infrastructure in low-income neighborhoods, one possible barrier to using bike sharing could be the absence of safe places to ride a bicycle. I asked bike sharing systems to describe any efforts to encourage and promote installing new bicycle travel facilities near residents with lower incomes or disproportionately underrepresented in bicycling.

Kansas City B-cycle, a nonprofit bike sharing entity receiving less than half of its capital funding from government transportation funding (and among the smallest systems in the survey sample) is actively pursuing Safe Routes to School and other grants to directly institute bicycle travel facility improvements themselves.

Membership media: One way to make it easier to pay for bike sharing would be to integrate bikesharing payment media with other accounts that low-income people may already possess, including transit farecards and household utility billing accounts. A number of systems reported plans and efforts for farecard integration, but the hardware is not generally compatible, and there isn't money available to retrofit the stations.

One system to watch is the planned San Francisco system, which requested in its RFP that bidders discuss whether their systems could be compatible with the regional transit Clipper Card.

Overcoming bicycling barriers: If people have little experience bicycling or don't own helmets, it can create barriers to bicycling and bikesharing use. Several systems described programs to provide subsidized or free helmets and bicycle safety instruction workshops to communities they want to reach. They worked with bicycle shops, community colleges, and local bicycle advocacy organizations to deliver the helmets and provide the classes.

Boston's Hubway offers reduced-cost helmets in retail locations in close proximity to stations, and gives free helmets to subsidized low-income members. It also offers instructional bicycling safety classes, though one Boston official characterized attendance at these classes as "low."

For more details about the survey methodology, details on measures that each system is pursuing address access barriers, caveats, and some suggestions for further research, please take a look at the full paper (PDF). I hope that the report serves as a useful resource for existing and emerging bikesharing systems to broaden participation in this exciting new transportation mode.

Sustainability


Thousands eating contaminated Anacostia River fish

At least 17,000 people in the lower Anacostia watershed eat fish from the river every year. These fish spend years swimming in polluted water and resting and feeding amidst sediment contaminated with toxic chemicals.


Anacostia Park, June 2012. Photo by the author.

This contamination is very likely ending up on people's dinner plates. In many cases, the people eating this fish have limited resources and few alternatives for safer food.

The Washington City Paper recently discussed these findings from a report, Addressing the Risk, the Anacostia Watershed Society, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA, Chesapeake Bay Trust, and other local entities assisted in the report.

The team set out to understand how large the subsistence fishing population was, and how much they knew about the river pollution and the risk of eating fish from it. We did not expect to find so many people sharing the fish so widely.

How do you refuse an elderly neighbor on food stamps, when she asks you to bring back a fish? Or if you've been unemployed for a while, but need to feed your family, how do you resist a free, local meal? If you're hungry today, is it worth the risk that the chemicals in the fish might cause cancer in 20 years?

Many fishermen are in fact aware that the river is polluted and that the fish reflect that. They have informal methods for screening the fish, and many will throw back a fish with lesions, cloudy eyes, or other outward signs of sickness. But those methods are further evidence that the fishermen think the fish are only contaminated on the outside, and don't address the PCBs hiding in the fatty tissue within.

Even if they don't plan to eat the fish themselves, the pleas of a neighbor in need or a passing child are irresistible. The fishermen feel like they have helped in their generosity.

Obviously the long-term solution is to clean up the river. We should be able to paddle, fish, and even swim in the river without worrying about damaging our health. Cleaning up the six legacy toxic sites and reducing polluted stormwater runoff (which carries toxins from roads, parking lots, and other hard surfaces) will go a long way.

In the meantime, we need to do more to educate everyone, and particularly at-risk groups like women of childbearing age, about the condition of the river and the risks of consuming its fish. It is also incumbent on leaders in DC and Maryland to improve access to other healthy food. Generally speaking, fish is a very healthy protein. Could the DC area support aquaculture, perhaps in a community-supported model?

AWS and its partners will be holding a community meeting in Ward 7 in early December to answer questions about the research and begin the discussion of how we solve the problem. We hope councilmembers and community leaders will come and pledge to be part of the solution.

Poverty


Anacostia shelter ignores community, starts construction

Since plans were announced abruptly this summer, Anacostia residents have been pushing for a dialogue about a planned women's shelter on Good Hope Road SE. Calvary Women's Service, the organization behind the shelter, has ignored the community at every turn. Meanwhile, construction began on the future "Good Hope Kitchen" last week.


A women's shelter in the heart of the Anacostia Business District.

Opposition to the shelter has grown since the community was first notified, through an email from DC Council Chairman Kwame Brown touting the future arrival of the shelter.

The building, previously an Elks Club, employment training center, and Post Office, was purchased by Calvary this January for $950,000. Zoned as Class C-3-A, the building has a "buy right use" which does not require rezoning to provide supportive housing. As a result, the community has no leverage to prevent the project from going forward.

Community opposition & political malaise

On June 30th, Greta Fuller, ANC8A03, sent Calvary a letter stating her resistance. "Bringing another social service to the business corridor of Anacostia will make it all the more difficult to bring in more businesses and shop owners."

On August 18th, the entire 8A Advisory Neighborhood Commission sent DC Council Chairman Kwame Brown a letter requesting a meeting with CWS as pursuant to DC statute. Along with the letter were 22 pages of support petitions representing several hundred residents.


Construction has begun on 1217-1219 Good Hope Rd. SE.
"It's disappointing the parties involved don't think it's worth their time to sit down with the community that is affected to engage in a conversation," said Charles Wilson, ANC8A04. "After repeatedly denying our request to meet, it shows that Calvary could care less about how we feel or what we think."

"We don't have any authority to intervene. This needs to be resolved by the executive." said Joyce Clement Smith, Chief of Staff to Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry. Noting the growing unrest of the community, Smith said, "We are clearly aware of the opposition."

Councilmember Barry struck a different tone yesterday in a twitter message, but this political rhetoric may be too little, too late.

To compound the community's frustration, in October Calvary launched a "grassroots fundraising campaign" to raise $100,000 in 100 days to support the building of the facility's kitchen. Kristine Thompson, Calvary's Executive Director, did not respond to repeated emails.

According to the press release announcing the campaign, "The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation has been the first to commit their support to the Good Hope Kitchen by offering a $50,000 matching gift for funds raised through project." In response to an inquiry about what weight the community's lack of support for the shelter played in the grant evaluation process, Rose Ann Cleveland, Executive Director of the Cafritz Foundation, wrote in an email, "I would suggest that you contact directly Ms. Kristine Thompson, the executive director of Calvary. She is the best source for information on the transitional housing program for women that Calvary provides and knows most about the many donors that support Calvary's efforts."

Good Hope Road SE: "Anything you want!"

The community's discontentment stems from its gnawing angst that further concentration of social service agencies will undermine Historic Anacostia's fledgling business district. With the high profile Uniontown Bar and Grill facing an uncertain future, Anacostia's retail future is all the more precarious.

"Everything they do for this community is to get people over, under it, around it, and through it," said Reverend Oliver Johnson, a lifelong Anacostian and former ANC Commissioner, on a recent morning.

District leaders' silence on the shelter project only reinforces residents' feelings that politicians view Anacostia as a social service dumping ground. This taciturn endorsement of the convergence of relief agencies in Anacostia makes the neighborhood indeterminably unattractive to young families, a demographic vital to the city's future says Johnson.

"Here's the issue about any community that has rehabilitation as its primary function. You got St. Elizabeths Hospital - the only community in the city that has a mental health hospital - that releases to the streets. You got the largest methadone treatment clinic here, and the people from Virginia who don't have methadone [clinics] anymore are coming here to DC."

The commerce that defined the Anacostia of Johnson's youth - a full fledged grocery store, movie theater, People's Drug store, and multiple clothing stores - is nearly gone, dominated by non-profits, carry-outs, street hustlers, and mendicants.

"I have a three year old grand son," says Johnson, "and when I walk him down Good Hope Road, people say, 'Singles and packs. Anything you want!' My grandson asks, 'Grandpa, what's that?' And I tell him, 'They're selling single cigarettes and drugs.'"

"Then we walk up the street. A man approaches and says, 'Gotta dollar? Got fifty cents?' My grandson asks, 'What is he doing?' I tell him he's begging," Johnson said. "I had one of the people say to my grandson, 'Gotta learn how to hustle!' I stopped and said my grandson is three years old. I said, 'Don't you know I will exercise some parking lot fellowship on you that you ain't never seen.'"

"So what happens is, you got a 900 hundred people per day methadone clinic, The Good Hope Institute, you have a 12 step program for AA/NA called the Anacostia Young People's club. And now this Kitchen. Everybody has a clean name. Nobody says who they are. They all have a clean socially acceptable name."

According to Calvary's website, the 14,000 square foot project comes at a price tag of $3 million and "will transform an abandoned building in Anacostia into a new home that will serve 50 women a night and provide 100 meals a day."

While the investment is needed in Anacostia, the kind of use is not. No matter the redemptive mission of the shelter, its presence has the potential to be detrimental to the community in the long run. Additionally, Calvary's refusal to meet with the community hasn't allayed residents and property owners' trepidations.

In the 70s and 80s, old center cities across the country discovered that headquartering human and social service agencies downtown dashed hopes of economic recovery. It would appear DC is now poised to re-learn this lesson in Historic Anacostia.

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