Losing Home

By Nora Jacques

Burgeoning living costs threaten household stability for a rising number of families in the District of Columbia who have low income. One medical emergency, missed paycheck or rental increase could propel a family into homelessness.

For Jennifer Speight, a 30-year-old single mother, it was a challenging pregnancy. Every day on her lunch breaks, she rushed to the labor and delivery unit at George Washington Hospital to be treated.

When Speight’s company was bought out, new management deemed Speight a medical liability and decided not to renew her contract.

One year after losing her job, Speight was evicted from her home of eight years. It was late at night. It was freezing and she had no place to go.

Speight had always been employed. She had a 401K in place, medical leave and an emergency fund. She had never thought she and her daughter would be homeless.

“Family homelessness has increased to a staggering 50% over the past five years,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser in a statement in the District of Columbia Interagency Council for Homelessness 5-year plan.

While homelessness across the United States has gone down by three percent since last year, the rate of homelessness in the District was among the highest rankings in the U.S. – increasing by 14 percent since 2015 and by 27 percent since 2010, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The DC Interagency Council on Homelessness attributed this increase to the loss of affordable housing and wages that haven’t kept pace with cost of living.

“Housing needs to be affordable to those households with the lowest incomes who are most at risk of homelessness,” said the report.

“We’ve had a huge loss in affordable housing with half as many low cost units we had in 2002,” said Kate Coventry, policy analyst at the DC Fiscal Policy Institute. “People with money want to live in the city now, so you have low-income citizens competing with higher income people who can pay more.”

New developments in 2016 and 2017 will set a record of 13.7 million square feet of ground broken in the District. These new developments have replaced government-subsidized housing for the poorest residents of the District.

“Public housing is the only real affordable housing,” said Taylor Healy, a community lawyering project supervisor at Bread for the City, a private, non-profit organization that provides food, clothing, medical care, legal and social services.

Healy advocates for tenants of the Kenilworth Courts public housing community who fought for the redevelopment of their homes to be completed in phases.

“When you tear down entire complexes, people lose family ties, community ties, babysitting, carpooling, all the things you rely on in a community,” said Healy, sitting in a semi-private meeting room, a short distance away from the bustle of families on the other side of the floor seeking services. The room hummed with the energy of advocates and colleagues in a strategy session on the other side of a sliding partition.

“There can be many barriers that hinder residents from returning to newly renovated units. Families could lose their subsidies for reasons such as not paying utilities, having a criminal record, failing to recertify or report income,” said Healy. “Families with subsidies also have to fight the stigma that is sometimes associated with vouchers. Some of it is that landlords think there’s more money in the private market. Some of it is the stereotypes, racism, classism…landlords think tenants with subsidies won’t pay, or they’ll be involved in criminal activity. And then some landlords just don’t want to deal with the bureaucracy. The process is arduous.”

The New Communities Initiative, a District government program designed to revitalize public housing communities into vibrant, mixed-income neighborhoods, said that their framework will “ensure that there is no net loss of the existing deeply subsidized units in the neighborhood.”

Public housing residents and advocates, however, are skeptical. “If this mixed income development plan is working, then where did all these people go?” said Dominic Moulden, a community organizer who has watched low-income populations decline with the eradication of public housing communities like Arthur Cappers Dwellings, Valley Green and Ellen Wilson Dwellings. “Why haven’t we shown that their lives are better?”

Families who live in public housing are either relocated to other public housing units in the District or they receive vouchers to find housing on their own. Many families, however do not return after redevelopment.

“Bringing families back is certainly a most important goal,” said Adrian Todman, executive director of the D.C. Housing Authority. “But families have choices and I think you have to be careful about looking at a return rate, as the singular sign of success as to whether a redevelopment was done well.”

Speight sought out rental assistance from city funded programs, however she was unable to find the help she desperately needed. She was ten months behind on her rent.

Evicted from her two-bedroom home, Speight and her daughter found temporary shelter through the Virginia Williams Family Resource Center at the Motel Six in Camp Springs, Maryland. They later moved into a dorm-sized bedroom at the D.C. General Family Shelter.

“I felt victimized by the city, I needed less than $6,000 in rental help.” said Speight. “And D.C. allowed me and my daughter to become homeless and paid $50,000 for us to stay in DC General Family Shelter for a year.”

Ending homelessness has become a national priority under the Obama administration. The Opening Doors program is a strategy that Obama has put in place over the last five years, to prevent and end chronic homelessness, veteran homelessness and homelessness for youth and all families that aims to “rapidly return people who experience homelessness into housing.”

A program called Rapid Rehousing provides assistance and services to prevent individuals and families from becoming homeless and helps those who are experiencing homelessness to be quickly re-housed and stabilized.

“With rapid rehousing, people are homeless for a shorter amount of time,” said Kevin Corinth, a research fellow at American Enterprise Institute who studies homelessness and poverty. “They receive short term rental assistance, a private unit, a case manager to ensure sustainability and it works well for a majority of people.”

Though it took a full year for Speight to obtain a voucher from the D.C. Housing Authority and to find decent housing. She was employed four weeks after being housed and on the path to recovery.

“I was not ashamed I was homeless. I was ashamed of my city,” said Speight.

 

How Survivors of Sexual Violence Have Responded to Trump’s Presidential Victory

Note: The last names of survivors have not been mentioned for privacy reasons.

WASHINGTON D.C. —

Since President-elect Donald Trump’s shocking victory, protests have erupted in cities across the United States, but for survivors of sexual violence Trump’s victory has had deeper, more personal implications. ‘Locker room talk’ left survivors of abuse shaken as Trump nears his term. during the election.

“I felt kind of powerless, but I’ve had a range of emotions for these last few days,” said survivor and student activist, Maddy, 21, whose last name she asked not to be shared. “It was infuriating that this person who was making these awful comments was a perpetrator of violence and was not acknowledging his assault.”

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Barry Farm: Is History Repeating Itself?

Plans are currently underway to eradicate, what some call, “the last affordable housing” in the District of Columbia, the Barry Farm Dwellings public housing community. Redevelopment plans by New Communities Citywide Initiative, have raised concerns for long-time residents, that Barry Farm’s demolition will intensify DC’s homelessness problem, forcing native Washingtonians out of the District and disrupting residents’ homes and livelihoods.

This wouldn’t be the first time redevelopment efforts disturbed residents of Barry Farm. Since its founding, Barry Farm went from a free, thriving community to an overlooked public housing community ravaged by landlord code violations, tenant neglect, subhuman property conditions and now, displacement.

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Journalism Has Gone Grassroots

“The conversations most critical to our nation’s future are not happening inside the Washington Beltway, but instead on the front porch and around the kitchen table,“ said Luke Hilgeman, CEO of Americans for Prosperity, in Townhall.

Since the late 1700’s, the newspaper has been the place where politicians addressed the public, ordinary citizens pleaded their causes and journalists shared the stories of their communities and the nation. Whether articles are covering the injustice of British taxes on America in the 1750’s or the heated elections debate of 2016, news outlets serve as a physical expression of the constitutional right to freedom of speech. The media has, for a long time, been “of the people, by the people and for the people”.

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DCist Journalist, Christina Sturdivant, Predicts Next Gen Journalism

DCist Staff Writer, Christina Sturdivant, says the future of online journalism is in the hands of the people.

Christina Sturdivant bio pic
Christina Sturdivant, Staff Writer at the DCist

Christina Sturdivant, a digital journalist for DCist.com, an online news website about Washington D.C., was composed and warm as she greeted me in the co-working space of the WeWork Wonderbread Factory in Shaw. We sat down in a wallpapered room with glass walls to discuss the future of digital journalism.

Sturdivant articulated the winding path to her dream, starting as a freelance writer to pay the bills, running a nonprofit by the age of 23 and other experiences that made her a stronger journalist.  Christina has covered a spectrum of stories for various digital news platforms such as Greater Greater Washington, East of the River News, Elevation DC and more.

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4 Proven Ways to Be Calm Amongst the Crazy

When I was pregnant with my son, Christian, I experienced some of the most trying times in my life. The pregnancy had sapped all of my energy, my youngest daughter at the time, Ariel, was only one years old and my oldest son, Nile, was three. They had tons of energy from morning until night. I had a full time job, and still had a lot of responsibility in caring for my family. My body felt tired and so did my mind, so it was easy for me to lose my cool. How do you stay calm when everything in your life seems to be going crazy?

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Are You Getting the Payoff from Your Relationships?

“Coffee is a language in itself.” ~ Jackie Chan

I have noticed that relationships are the greatest and richest source of return that one can focus on.

Our relationships provide love, connections, finance, wisdom, and they are pivotal to our success. Our ability to thrive, rides on our ability to connect. Our ability to thrive, rides on our ability to connect. My entire life would not exist if it had not been for the connection of my mother and father. For the care and love of my adoptive mother to provide meals, nourishment, love. For the host of Sunday school teachers, grandparents, family members, coaches, mentors, and friends who taught, trained, corrected, laughed, talked or connected in some manner.

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Why Public Housing is More Than Meets the Eye

Public-housing

“It’s like they took everything bad and dumped it in our town”.

The hollow words of an East St. Louis adolescent still echo in my mind (Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol). Prostitution, drugs, poor sewage infrastructure, polluted air quality, dilapidated schools – all in one place. 

We pass by them every day, yet many choose not to notice the worsening conditions – the faded paint, water damage, rusted playgrounds. But for me, it’s hard to ignore the place I would live, in alternate life, if I hadn’t been adopted. 

My mother was raised in a public housing project, a low income community, known to be ridden with crime, addiction, sexual abuse and such, but public housing has not always been in its current state. 

Continue reading “Why Public Housing is More Than Meets the Eye”

The Power of the Mind

Your mind is powerful. It is where your thoughts live. It is the source of your emotions. It is the place that ideas are born, and plans are developed.

Your mind is powerful. And if I were your enemy and didn’t like you very much, I would try to play at your mind. I would tell you that you’re ugly, that you’re not worth much – that others are doing better than you are, and you are so far behind.

If I were against you, and didn’t love you, I would plant seeds of lies in every powerful truth that exists around you. If you are intelligent, I would pick at the things that you don’t know. If you were beautiful, I would highlight your one flaw that no one sees. Why?

The enemy knows that if he can get you to believe that you are less than who you actually are, less than who God himself, in creation, ordained you to be, then, you would never actually be great.

Just think, what if Oprah doubted herself with every step forward? What if Martin Luther King, Jr. said who am I to lead this movement? This is not my battle to fight.

You are powerful. Everything about you is powerful. And if you can sit still long enough to hear God and his plan for your life, there is something amazing and beautiful on the other side. Not just for you, but for your children, for your community, for the domain, the God-given space ordained for you and only you.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

How different are you, really?

We all have the same story.

In some aspect, shape, form or another – our stories are the same. And given the same exact circumstances, background and resources – it is likely that we all would respond the same way. But that’s the beauty of life, we are all different. Nothing is the same.

Those differences of location, culture, experiences and backgrounds are the breeding ground for both discrimination and friendship, prejudice and collaboration, hatred, joy, both fear and love.

It is interesting how we judge and compare ourselves to another version of ourselves. Because in the most fundamental sense, that’s who we all are. The human race is a collection of minuscule nuances of the same creature.

If we come to the realization of our similarities, rather than pushing one another away because of our differences, we would be happier, more empathetic, less lonely beings.

 

 

Life’s Current

Just like the waving and drifting of the river, there is a current in life.

The current is the environment that directs the outcomes of your life.

It is composed of your experiences, thoughts, patterns, behaviors the people around you, the city you live in, the books you’ve read, the TV shows you watch and everything that surrounds your mind, day in and day out.

It’s the reason habits aren’t easily broken. It’s the reason addiction will kill before one becomes free.

And while some stay in the rut – and continue down the same stream.

Others abandon ship. Get out of the current. And change.

No, the current of your life is not easily changed. There must be a deliberate effort to get out of the water and change your direction.

The Cycles of Life

Life occurs in cycles.

The river flows into the sea. The ocean seeps into the lakes.

The rain falls into the ground and returns back to the sky.

The economy goes up, the economy goes down.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday – repeat.

Life happens in cycles. There is nothing new under the sun.

The scenery looks familiar. You repeat the same actions again and again day after day. The same tests come. The same challenges.

Until something breaks.

To break the cycle, there must be – first – the intention to change.

Second – the actions to back that desire.

Third – the tenacity to push – even when it hurts.

Anger, joy, sadness, adventure, excitement, passion, boredom, loneliness…

It’s all part of the cycle and a sign that the next level is approaching.

We must choose to move forward. We must choose change with all that we are – heart and mind, body and soul.

Or…

Repeat the cycle.

 

What No One Tells You About the Next Level

 

As my family is preparing to transition into a new home, we are seeing all the hard work it takes to prepare.

 

I believe this is true anytime someone wants to move forward in life. For every blessing, there is hard work to maintain it.

 

Many times, when we think of blessings, we think of all the good. We think of the benefits and the happiness that comes with our desires being fulfilled.

 

As we face new opportunities in life, whether personal or professional, we leap at the open doors – yet, when we get there – there’s an unexpected hurdle. And here you are, unprepared to jump.

 

Yes, we may understand the responsibility physically and logistically – but do we fully grasp the emotional and mental challenges that are to come with our next level blessing?

 

We all dream of having a great name, of being a hero, a thought leader. Yet, there is a struggle, a press, a climb that you must push through to get to the top of the mountain.

 

After all, if it were easy, everyone would do it.

 

Nonetheless, we have to endure the burn, the sweat, the exhaustion and envision the end goal.

 

Why do you think Martin Luther King, Jr. held on to his dream, even when his family’s lives were threatened, even when crosses were burned on his lawn? He saw beyond the hatred of others, he pushed past the abuse, criticism and humiliation. He saw a place of peace and unity.

 

Your purpose and your goals are too important for you to give up. Perseverance, persistence, tenacity, commitment, faithfulness, endurance – are elements you will need when you arrive at your next level.

Fun or Fear: Which Is Driving You?

When I was growing up as a youth, fun was not hard to come by. We created fun, even on a rainy, drab day. We would create a hopscotch game with some sidewalk chalk and a few pebbles. My sister and I created a game called “Tina and Tingle” I was Tingle, and she was Tina. We would pretend that we were cooking, going to school, going to the amusement park, road trip – and the only toy we had was our imagination.

Somehow when we grow up, fun is lost somewhere in the mix of the 9-to-5, cooking dinner and the dreaded word “responsibility”. We’ve evolved intellectually, emotionally, physically and spiritually – however we’ve left fun behind. As a thing of the past, dismissed to a childhood pleasure.

Well, this year I want to challenge you to redefine fun. No one can teach you fun better than a child. My son, Nile, has a big knot on his head as a testament to lively, animated idea of fun – he was running around the house being “the Incredible Hulk”, when he slammed right into the granite kitchen countertop.

He cried and screamed for a while, but before we left for the doctor’s office – he made sure that I knew that he needed to go to a “Hulk Doctor”. He somehow discovered a way to make going to the doctor fun.

This is a missing element in so many adults’ lives. We can be flustered and frustrated by the simplest of tasks. We can get sooo focused on our checklist that we forget to get lost in the details. We forget that we’re living the lives that we used to pretend to live when we were little.

We’re married, but we forget to be in love. We lose sight of being swept off our feet, and we become business partners instead of crazy lovers.

We’re parents, but we forget to roll around in the grass with our kids. We live, but we forget to LIVE.

It’s a shame to be so caught up in everything on a “to-do” list, that we become modern-day slaves, working from sun up to sun down, never laughing, never smiling, only looking to “one-day” when we’ll be free.

Choose to be free today. If you’re at work, work with passion. Be the best.

Ecclesiastes 9:10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

When you get on a rollercoaster, the fun part is when your’e flying downhill, terrified of what may happen next. Somehow, when we face life obstacles, we allow fear to overcome us, instead of laughing in the face of fear, as we do on a rollercoaster.

The challenge, the risk, the adventure – isn’t that what life is all about? The fun part! I’m learning to believe, risk and enjoy life all the more. Instead of letting fear, take all the fun away, I choose to believe. I choose to enjoy the ride – and enjoy “not knowing” what’s next.

How to Win an Argument with Your Spouse

After the first few years of marriage, many couples find that the trivial issues that used to bother them, don’t really matter as much anymore.

 

My husband and I used to argue about the dog, the cat, the children, the house – you name it! At some point, you have to learn how to pick your battles and keep it moving.

 

However, there are some key times where your husband and I will be in a “heated discussion” or an argument that needs to be resolved.

 

You need him to see things from your perspective, and he will not give up! So what do you do? Here are a few tips to help you win the argument and MOVE ON!

 

 Take a deep breath.

 

We’re not going to get anywhere with two angry people. Why fight fire with fire? Take a moment and cool down. If you can help it, try to avoid arguing or even discussing when you are in the heat of the moment. This could lead to temper’s flaring, and hurt feelings.

 

The Harvard Business Review shared a study that stated that subjects who were angry, judged others more harshly than subjects who were neutral.

 

Anger can affect your ability to hear your spouse clearly, your ability to communicate effectively and it can cloud your judgment. Control your emotions. A hot head will only cause you to say or do something you will later regret.

 

 Listen to their perspective.

 

Understanding your partner’s point of view will adequately equip you to analyze your spouse’s strategy to solve the problem. By knowing your partner’s strategy, you will be able to understand his goals and ideals. This will also empower you to communicate more effectively with your spouse in the future. After all, getting to know your spouse is the name of the game.

 

 Find common points of interest.

 

Build on the issues that you and your spouse agree upon. Try to get your partner saying “yes, yes, yes” rather than “no, no no”.

 

In his book, How to Win Friends and Influence, Dale Carnegie states “A “No” response, according to Professor Overstreet, (*) is a most difficult handicap to overcome. When you have said “No,” all your pride of personality demands that you remain consistent with yourself.”

 

 Compliment your partner.

Wham! No one can withstand a good compliment, especially if it’s strategically placed. Wait until your partner is starting to open their mind and show them that you value their decision-making abilities and insight. This also forces you to see the positive aspects of your spouse and his good intentions in the midst of a negative situation.

 

 Ask questions that compel your partner to come to the conclusion that you are trying to drive him to, in the first place. 

 

Instead of saying, “We need to do this..” say “What do you think about doing this..”, or “Wouldn’t be wise to do this..” In the Good Book, Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

 

Kiss and make up!

 

An article in SheKnows, Laura Williams, M.S.Ed. says, “When we kiss, both men and women produce the hormone oxytocin. It’s often called the ‘love hormone’ because it causes us (particularly females) to bond.”

The bottom line is that marriage is all about finding a happy medium that you both can agree upon. By understanding your spouses’ intentions and creating an agreeable environment, you can get WAY more accomplished than you would with endless bickering.

 

Word? What do you all think? What tips have proven to help you close an argument amicably? 

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