Vendor profile: Robert Williams

By Christy UlmetScreen Shot 2014-11-27 at 9.31.35 PM

As we sat down for our interview, Street Sense vendor and native Washingtonian Robert Williams pulled out from his bag a rolled up photo of himself wearing his Marine Corps “blues.” Robert is a proud vet, and he’s not shy about it.

“I was in the most elite branch of the military,” he said as he straightened his posture. “My official title was Field Radio Operator.”

As a part of a national initiative to end veteran homelessness, Robert received a housing voucher from the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing initiative (HUD-VASH). He’s had a roof over his head and a place to call home for about three years. Continue reading

Advocates Brave the Cold to Raise Awareness, Funds

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Source: LaTasha Lee

Cowritten by Christy Ulmet and LaTasha Lee

The Thursday before Thanksgiving, while many were preparing for a feast with family and friends, hundreds gathered in Freedom Plaza on Pennsylvania Ave. NW to take part in National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week. The week is recognized annually to assist service providers, promote the national endeavor to end homelessness and effect change in the lives of those living in poverty.

Sleep Out is a signature event of Covenant House, a national faith based organization on a mission to protect homeless youth, nearly 80 community supporters braved the 35 degree cold to “Sleep Out” for one night on the street. The event works as a localized fundraiser, with participants collecting sponsors ahead of time – similar to a charity run. Continue reading

Officials, homeless worry: is city prepared for winter?

Many of the homeless are gathering blankets and sleeping bags to keep warm this winter.

Many of the homeless are gathering blankets and sleeping bags to keep warm this winter.

By Christy Ulmet

The District of Columbia sounded a hypothermia alert at 7:00 PM on the first day of hypothermia season, Saturday, November 1. That night the temperature dropped below 40 degrees, with cloudy skies and gusting winds.

“That wind—it was serious. There were people out here who were freezing,” said a man who goes by the name Scooby, who was buried under blankets when the winds hit.

Some of the District’s high-ranking officials fear that the city is not prepared for what’s to come this winter, though representatives of the Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH) say they have worked to make sure a solid plan is in place. Continue reading

Needy Savor Bounty from White House Garden

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White House chef Sam Kass (left) and Michelle Obama teach kids about the figs they’ve just picked from the White House kitchen garden.

By Christy Ulmet

Over 350 meals are served to local homeless people each day from a single church basement, often with the same ingredients enjoyed by the First Family.

Miriam’s Kitchen serves breakfast and dinner Monday thru Friday, 365 days a year, according to Tom Murphy, director of communications at the DC nonprofit.

“I’m just very grateful Miriam’s is here. The food is prepared with love, and it shows. The staff cares, and it’s just a great place to come,” said Elizabeth Telson, who has been attending Miriam’s Kitchen for six months.

Guests of Miriam’s Kitchen have been enjoying the same food the First Family eats since 2009, when First Lady Michelle Obama volunteered for a shift with the meal program. From there, the White House formed a relationship with Miriam’s, and Obama began donating her pickings from the White House Kitchen Garden. Continue reading

Waste not, want not, gleaning program says

Cowritten by Christy Ulmet and Hazel Martin

On Friday, October 31, people were lining up with shopping bags in-hand. But they weren’t seeking Halloween candy.

The prospect of filling their bags with fresh produce for free had drawn them to 1460 Good Hope Road, SE, where there were tables of various fruits and vegetables set up in the parking lot of Bread For the City.

In addition to providing vulnerable residents with legal and social services, clothing and medical care – Bread for the City hosts farmers markets twice a month with fresh foods from local suppliers. Continue reading

After prison, recapturing lost years of motherhood

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By Christy Ulmet

Three years after being released from prison, Lashonia Etheridge-Bey sat in a booth at a breakfast place, reminiscing on her relationship with her children while she was behind bars. As she gave her menu to the waiter, you could read the names of her children etched forever in ink on her arm: Charnal and Allante.

Rewind to the year 1993. After being found guilty of a double homicide, the young mother, just 19 years old, was given a 20 to 60-year sentence.

The first thing on Lashonia Etheridge-Bey’s mind wasn’t how old she was going to be by the time she got out of prison; it was how old her children would be. Continue reading

Budget Cuts to City’s Welfare Program Affect Thousands

By Christy Ulmet

Nearly 13,000 children will be affected by benefit cuts to the District’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, warned DC City Council member Jim Graham.

He spoke at a roundtable discussion held to weigh the impact of a 41.7 percent reduction in benefits that went into place Oct 1 for families who have received welfare benefits for more than 60 months.

“This city is flushed with cash right now; a billion dollars plus in our checking and our savings accounts, while we have to find this small amount of money on the backs of the poorest of this, our residents. And that’s the whole calamity here,” noted Graham, who chairs the council’s human services committee.

The new benefit reductions are the latest in a series of scheduled cuts put into place in 2011 as part of a city welfare reform initiative intended to move longterm beneficiaries into training and jobs. Continue reading

Service Spotlight: Virginia Williams Family Resource Center

By Christy Ulmet

After temporary move, the newly-renovated Virginia Williams Family Resource Center (VWFRC) has reopened at 920 Rhode Island Avenue, and this time it’s here to stay, city officials say.

The center marked the occasion with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, Oct. 7. DC Mayor Vincent Gray, representatives from the DC Department of Human Services (DHS) and families seeking services at the center were among those in attendance. Continue reading

Dumpster Dining: one man’s campaign to end food waste

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By Christy Ulmet

Rob Greenfield unloaded the trunk of a rental car at the corner of 7th and Madison, NW and trudged to the National Mall, lugging trash bags and boxes. Then he emptied all the contents onto the grass of America’s Front Yard.

He surveyed what lay around him: entire loaves of bread, bags of chips, apples and oranges and onions and more.

All this food could still be consumed. Yet Greenfield explained he had found every bit of it in the dumpsters of area supermarkets and restaurants. Continue reading