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Civil Legal Assistance Saves Money and Helps People Escape Poverty

Sargent Shriver, President Johnson’s personal choice to lead the War on Poverty, was once asked which anti-poverty program he considered the most important.

“My favorite is Head Start because it was my idea,” he answered. “But I am proudest of Legal Services because I recognized that it had the greatest potential for changing the system under which people’s lives were being exploited.”

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Gateway or Gatekeeper? Social Services Agencies & the Referral System

The human service world is full of gatekeepers – individuals or organizations that control access to resources. Gatekeepers manifest in countless ways: they can look like staff who determine eligibility criteria, place people on wait lists, or restrict days and hours that someone can access services.

We recognize that some of this is unavoidable and at times important. We are all working with limited resources that make structure and guidelines necessary. However, for individuals using services, the gates can feel restrictive, endless, and oppressive. We have been thinking about the role that social service providers inadvertently play in perpetuating these systems of oppression. We think that folks accessing services deserve better. We think that as providers, we have a responsibility to do better.

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BFC Supports the Language Access Amendment of 2015

For years, the Language Access Coalition, on which I serve as Bread for the City’s representative, has been talking about amending the Language Access Act to give it more “teeth.” Under the current law, a person who has been denied language access can file a complaint with the DC Office of Human Rights (OHR). The problem is that even if OHR determines that the government agency violated the Act, OHR has no power to force the agency to make changes or to compensate the complainant. As a result, we’ve seen agencies violate the Act over and over again with no sign of changing.

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Day of Service in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Bread for the City hosted 60 volunteers on Monday’s Day of Service in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We welcomed volunteers from Blank Rome, Skadden Arps and Wiley Rein, as well as other community members at our centers in NW and SE, DC.

Living up to the purpose of the day, the volunteers worked hard to sort and process three pallets of fresh produce, including onions, potatoes, and carrots, into family-sized servings that Bread will distribute to clients through our two food pantries this week.

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Holistic Care for our Clients

Here at Bread for the City we describe ourselves as providing holistic care. This means comprehensive wrap-around services that help individuals achieve and maintain stability across many areas of their lives.

Having difficulty figuring out how to apply for food stamps? Stop by Social Services – we’ll go over the application with you and make sure your family gets groceries from our food pantry & garden. Need legal help to apply for child support? Legal intakes are every Monday afternoon. Want a medical home where you can care for your physical and mental health? Become a patient with our medical clinic and go to a free yoga class while you’re here!

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Bread’s Fall Festival

The folks in the Participatory Action Research Project thought it would be a great idea to survey our clients to find out what changes they wanted to see at Bread for the City’s SE and NW centers.

Out of that came a Fall Festival, which was designed to showcase the programs that were started as a result of the client surveys. Computer classes, crochet classes, a wellness space, the expansion of the SE center, and several other areas were showcased during the festival.

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Race Matters

A couple of weeks ago, a number of the Bread for the City staffers met up at Freedom Plaza to participate in the rally to end police brutality against black men. After some thought, I gave the staff permission to join the rally under the Bread for the City banner, rather than insisting that they participate as mere private citizens.

I had initially hesitated to give my permission for them to walk as Bread employees, not because I didn’t like the cause or because I was worried about alienating some donors, which it very well might. No, I hesitated because I fear that the idea of marching regarding police brutality is too narrow of a message. Even one life of an unarmed citizen lost at the hands of the very people paid to protect us is tragic, but of course we know these tragedies have been both numerous and irreversible.

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Another win for Community Organizing!

In early 2013, Bread for the City’s Taylor Healy and I worked with a group of (very awesome) seniors at Victory Square Senior Apartments to get them a bus stop in front of their building. We organized them, helped them draft testimony and they kicked butt and successfully changed their access to a major transportation system (woot woot for systemic change! See the blog post here.).

We worked with those same seniors to do some deeper training around how to self-organize and even took three of them to a WIN training to get EVEN MORE tools. They were incredibly engaged and eager to learn more about how to fight for themselves.