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The Coming Crisis: Social Security Disability Trust Fund Insolvency

Darlene is a 60-year-old DC resident who came to Bread for the City to seek assistance applying for Social Security Disability Benefits through BFC’s SOAR program.* With help from case workers in our Social Services department, Darlene applied for and received her benefits within a few months.

Social Security disability benefits have made a significant difference in Darlene’s life as she grows older – allowing her to pay rent and utilities in her apartment. Darlene’s experience is not a rare case – out of SSDI beneficiaries across the country, seven in ten are age 50 and older, and three in ten are 60 and older. The average monthly payment of SSDI benefits (benefits based on work history) is $1,017.30, and for many recipients, disability benefits constitute their only income and they are already living close to or below the poverty line.

Recently,there has been political debate on how to handle the long term preservation of these funds. Some advocates fear that proposed measures in Congress could result in decreased benefits for recipients.

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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.