The challenge of rapid rehousing in the second most expensive rental market in the country

HOMELESSNESS | The District is changing policies and offering incentives to entice landlords to participate in the rapid rehousing program, part of a concerted effort on the part of the Gray administration to get homeless families out of hotels and the shelter at D.C. General. The big question is whether people will be able to pay their rent after their subsidies from the city run out. Some homeless advocates are concerned (CP, 4/16):

According to a recent study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a D.C. resident making minimum wage needs to work 137 hours per week—or nearly 20 hours a day, seven days a week—to afford fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment. [Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless attorney Will] Merrifield argues that rapid rehousing might make sense for employed individuals, but that “to try to plug everyone into this program is insane.”

“Where I don’t see it working is for families that are going to be a single mom working one or two minimum-wage jobs that are going to be put in an apartment that’s $1,400, $1,500, $1,600 a month, and then falling off a cliff when the six months is up and the rapid rehousing runs out,” Merrifield says. “There’s no way that that can be successful in my opinion.”

Which leads us to…

HOUSING | In the ranking for most expensive rental market, D.C. is second only to Hawaii. (WTOP, 4/17) Where, presumably, a rental unit comes with a beach view.

YOUTH | A new resource map from the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates, produced in partnership with the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, traces the various funding streams going toward services for disconnected youth in D.C. DCAYA has an overview of the findings about gaps and opportunities to better target investments toward disconnected youth on their blog. The full resource map can be found here. (DCAYA, 4/16)

ARTS | The National Endowment for the Arts announced their latest round of grants yesterday, $2.5 million of which is going to 30 D.C. organizations. Here’s the list. (CP, 4/16)

HEALTHCARE |  DC extends deadline to enroll in health plans (WTOP, 4/17)

EDUCATION | The College Board has released sample questions from the new SAT exam, which will be better aligned with the Common Core standards. (WaPo, 4/16) I got butterflies and my palms started to sweat a little when I saw the math question on the front page of the Post yesterday.

NONPROFITS | Analysis: Looking At The Gender Wage Gap At Non-Profits In D.C. (WAMU, 4/16)

DISTRICT | After Six Years, D.C. To Get Six More Months To Debate Zoning Code Rewrite (WAMU, 4/16)

REGION | D.C. And Maryland Decriminalize Marijuana, But Differently (WAMU, 4/15)

Peeps! (…and a whole lot of ad videos. Thanks, Washington Post)

The (Almost) Daily will be back on Monday. Along with, I hope, spring.

- Rebekah

As tuition increases, so does hunger on campus

HUNGER | As the price of college (and related costs, like housing) rise, more students are having trouble affording food, particularly those who are from low-income families or are first-generation college students. Many colleges are starting food banks to serve students otherwise going hungry (WaPo, 4/10):

At the same time that higher education is seen as key to financial security, tuition and living expenses are rising astronomically, making it all the more tempting for students to cut corners on food.

“Between paying rent, paying utilities and then trying to buy food, that’s where we see the most insecurity because that’s the most flexible,” said Monica Gray, director of programs at the College Success Foundation-District of Columbia, which helps low-income high school students go to college.

As campuses look for solutions, the number of university food pantries has shot up, from four in 2008 to 121 today, according to the Michigan State University Student Food Bank, which has advised other campuses on starting them. Trinity Washington University in the District opened one in September, and the University of Maryland at College Park is looking into opening one.

- D.C. wants to buy a lot of land next to the Anacostia metro station to develop it for affordable housing. (WBJ, 4/9)

- Here’s a great write-up of a recent successful effort to purchase an apartment building in Columbia Heights under the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act – the program that helps tenants purchase their properties when landlords put them up for sale. (WAMU, 3/28)

- Post columnist Petula Dvorak writes about the need for a safe playspace for children at D.C. General and calls on the city to get moving on building it – especially since there is already community approval and funding available for it (including financial support from Pepco). (WaPo, 4/10)

- Although Mayor Gray says he wants to close the homeless shelter at D.C. General, he says NIMBYism will make it difficult to create smaller shelters throughout the city. (WaPo, 4/9)

CHILDREN & YOUTH | Advocates led by the D.C. Alliance of Youth Advocates are drafting a bill that would address sex trafficking in the District. (DCist, 4/10)

ARTS/TRANSIT | Fairfax County considers turning the Silver Line into a massive public art project (WaPo, 4/9). Yes, please! This is such a great idea I won’t even make a snarky comment about the silver line.

- I don’t even know how to categorize this piece since its implications are so cross-cutting: day care costs more than college in 31 states. This has a lot to do with why so many women are staying home rather than returning to work after they have a baby, as a Pew study released earlier this week reported. (WaPo, 4/9)

- The region’s unemployment rate ticked up slightly last month. (WBJ, 4/10)

Even if you’re tired of cherry blossom photos (or, at least, tourists), you should check these pictures out, just for the awesome outfits.

- Rebekah

An effort to reduce pregnancies among Hispanic teens in Montgomery County

YOUTH | While the overall teen pregnancy rate has been declining, there remains a significant disparity between Hispanics and other groups, an issue that one local nonprofit has been working to address in Montgomery County (WaPo, 3/29):

Even as the Latino birthrate has fallen in Montgomery over the past two decades, it remains more than 2.5 times higher than the rate for the county’s black girls in that age group and more than three times the rate for white girls.


Since 1996, the earliest year in which Montgomery officials have published data, the great disparity between birthrates for Latino and white teenagers has hardly changed. Meanwhile, the gap between black teenagers and Latino teenagers has increased. This has perplexed local officials at a time when teen pregnancy rates in the nation are plummeting and the gaps between all races and ethnic groups continue to shrink.

For advocates, the disparity has come to symbolize the socioeconomic gulf between Latinos, largely a population of new immigrants, and more established populations in one of the country’s most affluent counties.

COMMUNITY | Today the Citi Foundation announced the launch of Pathways to Progress, a three-year, $50 million initiative in 10 cities, including D.C., to provide career training to 100,000 low-income youth. (Citi, 3/31). More information on the initiative is available here.

VETERANS | The Post commissioned a wide-ranging survey of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s a must-read for those interested in issues affecting veterans and their families. The quick take-away from the intro: “More than half of the 2.6 million Americans dispatched to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan struggle with physical or mental health problems stemming from their service, feel disconnected from civilian life and believe the government is failing to meet the needs of this generation’s veterans.” (WaPo, 3/29)

Related: WRAG members have been convening regularly over the past year to look at ways philanthropy can better support veterans and their families in our region. Last year, they learned about challenges some veterans encounter when transitioning to the civilian workforce, and today (literally, right this minute) they are examining the potential of scaling up a successful program in Montgomery County for the entire region.

- Housing advocates see great potential for affordable housing options in Ward 8, particularly as developers begin to re-hab the area’s “abandominiums” – condos and apartments that have been left empty. (WAMU, 3/28)

- How your housing affects your health (WaPo, 3/26)

EDUCATION/WORKFORCE | In his latest column, Robert McCartney argues that recent changes to the GED exam, put in place to meet higher demands of employers, are making the exam far more difficult to pass during a time when unemployment for those without high school diplomas is so high. (WaPo, 3/29)

REGION | The population of the Greater Washington region continued to grow last year, due primarily to the availability of jobs. (WaPo, 3/28) As Stephen Fuller explains in the article, “very few people flock to D.C. to enjoy the weather.”

HEALTHCARE | Maryland gears up for health exchange redo (WaPo, 3/30)

ARTS/PHILANTHROPY | S&R Foundation provides Washington Ballet with live music, affects city’s music scene (WaPo, 3/28)

CSR | Breaking Down The Benefits Of In-Kind Giving — And The Regulations Around It (Forbes, 3/30)

Related: On Thursday and Friday last week, WRAG and Johns Hopkins University hosted the second session of the Institute for Corporate Social Responsibility. Check out the speaker-line up and photos from the session. From the pictures, it looks like a fun and jammed-packed two days. We’ll begin taking applications for the 2015 class early this summer. More information here.

You know how in some circles the first thing people ask you is “what do you do?” That drives me crazy. Here’s a cool video that gives an overview of all of the obnoxious ways people form quick judgments about new acquaintances all over the country.

- Rebekah

You need to work 137 hours a week on minimum wage to afford rent in D.C.

HOUSING | Another day, another study that shows that housing in the Greater Washington region is really, really (really) not affordable. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition:

Renters in the District of Columbia need to work 137 hours per week at the minimum wage of $8.25 an hour to afford a Fair Market Rent of $1,469.

Renters in Maryland need to work 138 hours per week at a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to afford a Fair Market Rent of $1,297.

Renters in Virginia need to work 115 hours per week at the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour to afford a Fair Market Rent of $1,088.

On the bright side, when D.C.’s minimum wage rises to $11.50 an hour, workers will only need to work a leisurely 98 hours a week to pay their rent. (WAMU, 3/24)

- The Gray administration has been ordered by a D.C. Superior Court judge to immediately stop sheltering homeless families in rec centers on freezing nights. (WaPo, 3/24)

- There are over 4,000 homeless students attending D.C. schools – a number that has increased 60 percent over the last five years. (WAMU, 3/20)

Related: Late last year we published What Funders Need to Know: Educational Outcomes and the Relationship to Housing, which looked at the impact of housing affordability, or lack thereof, on educational achievement.

ARTS | WRAG member Ken Grossinger, chair of the CrossCurrents Foundation, recently penned an article for Grantmakers in the Arts’ Reader on an innovative public art project in Baltimore that used street art to draw attention to negligent landlords and pushed the city to raze dilapidated buildings that were blighting low-income neighborhoods. Today, we’ve re-published the article on the Daily. (Daily, 3/25)

Related for arts funders: The Arts & Humanities Working Group, which aims to increase awareness among philanthropy of our region’s vibrant nonprofit arts sector and how the arts can positively impact other issue areas – including social justice and community development – is meeting on April 24. More information is available here.

COMMUNITY | Get to know Nicky Goren, the next president of the Meyer Foundation. (WBJ, 3/20)

EDUCATION | As the expiration date of D.C.’s No Child Left Behind waiver approaches, the U.S. Department of Education has issued a new report criticizing the Office of the State Superintendent of Education for its lack of progress toward improving the city’s lowest-performing schools (WaPo, 3/24):

[OSSE] has faltered in pressing for improvements in the District’s lowest-performing schools, arguably the most important aim of the original No Child Left Behind law. Those schools were supposed to develop plans for improvement in seven key areas, from leadership and staffing to curriculum, family engagement and school culture. The OSSE promised to monitor those efforts and to report annually on the schools’ progress.

The OSSE has not done that, according to the federal report issued last week that outlined several other problems at the agency, including a failure to direct federal Title I funds to the appropriate schools and to include required data on school report cards.

FOOD | Yesterday, WRAG’s Lindsay Smith, consultant for the Washington Regional Convergence Partnership, testified before the D.C. Council on the need for more coordination of D.C.’s food policy. You can read her testimony here.

Related: Better coordination of food policy is especially important as there are many food-related initiatives happening around the region, as well as a growing number of funders who are investing in the area of food. To help educate local philanthropy on the food system, earlier this month we released What Funders Need to Know: The Food System.

VETERANS | Some Grant Makers Get Savvier About Aid to War Veterans (Chronicle, 3/23)

Related for WRAG members: Funders in our region are identifying ways to better serve veterans and military families locally. WRAG members are invited to join us for a brown bag lunch discussion next Monday on the topic. More information is available here.

Yesterday marked the 30th anniversary of one emotionally overwrought Saturday detention, when a brain, a beauty, a jock, a rebel, and a recluse talked a lot about their feelings in one of my favorite 80s movies.

- Rebekah

Street Art Gives Voice to the Community on Low-Income Housing

The following article was written by Ken Grossinger, chair of the CrossCurrents Foundation and a member of WRAG’s Arts & Humanities Working Group. The article was first published in the Grantmakers in the Arts Reader, Vol 25. No 1, Winter 2014. Reprinted by permission.

We wanted to share the article with our readers because it demonstrates the power of the arts to effect social change.

WRAG members: The next meeting of the Arts & Humanities Working Group is April 24. More information here.

Wall Hunters — a public arts project — is playing a catalytic role in shaping the urban Baltimore landscape. Young muralists are creating popular street art with a message. Joined at the hip with a savvy housing organizer and a website that packs a wallop, the Wall Hunters Slumlord Project generated enough political heat in 2013 that it led to the demolition of dilapidated vacant homes in the city’s grittiest neighborhoods. This project may have helped speed up the city’s commitment to addressing some of the worst urban blight in America. Art is shaping urban design.

Street art has seen a resurgence of practitioners since Banksy became a household name. Banksy’s work won acclaim in the UK for its sharp social commentary. Originally vilified as a pariah and sought by the police (he remains elusive), Banksy gave popular expression to societal grievances. His street art caught fire throughout the UK, Europe, and the Middle East, as well as most recently during a one-month residency in New York City. A meteoric breakout of public art followed on Banksy’s heels, including Shepard Fairey’s now well-known Obama poster that helped nurture activism for the president’s election in 2008. In 2011, gallerist Jeffrey Deitch, then director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, curated a show of street artists from around the world that drew record attendance to the museum. And when Trayvon Martin was killed, Nether, a street artist in Baltimore, stenciled onto the side of a run-down building the image of an empty hoodie with a Skittles packet, which became ubiquitous throughout the George Zimmerman trial. The blank black space where the face should have been evoked both the tragic loss of this young man and the unseeing eye of prejudice that sees blackness before it does the humanity of a person. It was in this context, at the intersection of art and social justice, that Nether’s next idea — using public art to draw attention to Baltimore’s vacant neighborhood buildings — took hold.

Baltimore is among the few East Coast cities where entire city blocks upon blocks of homes sit vacant and uninhabitable, often putting residents who live next to these structures at risk for serious public health and safety hazards. The official city count of blighted buildings puts the number at 16,000, although the Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University put the number above 40,000. (The discrepancy may be explained by the method the city uses to count buildings: it relies on vacant building notices.)

Nether reached out to internationally known street artists, asking them if they would work with him to wheatpaste or paint murals on the walls of these vacant buildings — one in each of Baltimore’s fourteen city council districts — so that people would take notice. He wanted to draw attention to the vacant buildings and petition the city for a remedy. Fifteen street artists participated from as far away as Venezuela, although most artists came from a half-dozen cities across the United States.

The murals are strong and catch the eye instantly. On some of these desolate streets they are the only things that really stand out. But it is not just the imagery and colorful art that capture public attention. At the bottom of each mural Nether has pasted a QR (Quick Response) code that, when scanned, takes the reader to In turn, this website identifies the building owners by name, and provides their contact information along with the names of the elected officials in whose districts the buildings sit.

The research for the website was done by Carol Ott, a housing advocate who talked to neighborhood residents and scoured public records to identify the slumlords. The website contains no explicit message, but a call to action is implied. And the website has fast become well known. In its first two months it received 50,000 hits. The landlords began to roar, and the city and artists began responding.

Each of the murals depicts narratives about housing and slumlords, Baltimore and dreams, those of the artists and the community. The first mural to go up was of a large purple, black, and gold raven. The Raven is the Baltimore football’s team mascot, and perhaps not coincidentally, it is also the name of a poem by Edgar Allan Poe, formerly a Baltimore resident.

In the mural the Raven is building a nest — wood slats gripped in its claws, caution tape hanging from its beak. It symbolizes a determination to rebuild from rubble. Nether tells the story of how he found the mural’s QR code ripped down several days after it went up. And after replacing the QR code, demolition signs quickly followed. Within two weeks the building was demolished!

The headline of a local blog’s story about the project read: “Art aimed to Shame”and an ABC 2 News headline read: “Illegal street art calls out owners of Baltimore’s vacant properties.”

Community residents who were interviewed for news stories about the demolition lamented that these properties needed to be torn down. They argued that the former homes could have been renovated had the landlords or city taken action years earlier, before or even shortly after the buildings were condemned. But their eventual deterioration left the structures too shaky to rehabilitate. Moreover, these “vacants” created problems related to the structural integrity of adjacent properties.

Political tension surrounding the Wall Hunters project heightened with the creation of a mural by a street artist known as Gaia. He described his mural as depicting the “crown of King Tut with the visage replaced by a cotton field. . . . A normal suburban home with eagle wings floats above the words Exodus in Hebrew and English. Rather than vilify an individual who could fairly be labeled a slumlord, this piece visualizes the connection between the Jewish and African American experience with migration.”

The Baltimore Sun, the city’s primary daily newspaper, then reported that the alleged landlord (as revealed through the QR code) of that building denied he owned it. Moreover, the landlord’s spokesman accused the street artist of using anti-Semitic images to perpetuate the idea that Jews were slumlords who oppress African Americans.

Gaia and the Slumlord Project immediately challenged the denial of ownership, and described the landlord’s attack as politically motivated — designed to detract attention from his responsibilities for the building. According to Wall Hunters, this particular landlord was well known, having been cited for maintaining 500 lead-paint-contaminated houses in their inventory.

Importantly, the weekly City Paper also challenged the landlord’s claim by running a comprehensive story detailing their own independent research that may put to rest any assertion by the landlord that the properties were not in his control.

The public press attention served Wall Hunters well. It compelled the city to respond, not to the details of the interaction between the rival papers but rather to the overarching housing problem and the city’s failure to deal with the thousands of uninhabitable buildings that line city blocks.

Combining art with old-fashioned shoe leather organizing, the Slumlord Project then distributed flyers asking residents to report on dangerous properties in their community. And with each new mural that went up, more press ensued.

Shortly after the dustup involving the artist Gaia, the community, the landlord, and the press, a new Baltimore Sun headline appeared: “City to raze hundreds of vacant houses in stepped-up plan.” The article reported that the city had increased its $2.5 million demolition budget to $22 million to “tear down 1,500 abandoned houses.”

This was just the beginning. In two months Wall Hunters had achieved much with their first project. Their work led directly to the demolition of two crumbling buildings, and it appeared to substantially influence the city’s decision to raze many more. They built alliances with community residents to identify homes in need of renovation that could become the basis for future collaboration. Indeed, one community resident, Shawnee, began to introduce the Wall Hunters to her neighbors and was mobilizing them to file complaints about their surrounding buildings.

Wall Hunters bridges a historic gap between community organizers working on an issue and artists working separately in the same space. These two groupings have more often than not worked on parallel tracks rather than together. There is nothing inherently wrong with that except in situations where one group could maximize its impact if it were joined with the other.

Bringing activists and artists together is no small feat. Visual artists in general tend to be less conventional in their approach to issue work. Organizations, on the other hand, are usually more hidebound and tied to tried-and-true methods. They are limited by tight IRS constraints on their activities and pay particular attention to conforming to a set of rules that govern their work. That has sometimes led to these organizations becoming frustrated with many artists who by their nature tend to be nonconformist. On the other hand, visual artists tend to be frustrated with organizations that rarely think outside the box.

Through their practice Wall Hunters is succeeding in bridging the art world with both the organizing community and with residents. These street artists work collaboratively with a housing advocate and their community partners to achieve their goals. It is particularly interesting to note that Nether, a twenty-something male, liberal street artist, and Carol Ott, a midforties Republican who created the Slumlord Watch website and does the research for it, are the driving forces behind this unique collaboration. Their unlikely alliance forged over their common interest has helped shape its work.

Social media are also proving to be effective ways for Wall Hunters to accomplish its goals. The QR code and website are critical tools for pressuring the city and landlords to take action. With more than 50,000 initial hits to the Slumlord Project website, Wall Hunters was able to deepen the engagement of a large number of people who otherwise would have seen the murals but would have had no other immediate mechanism to look further. Even this minimal amount of activity generated by the murals — scanning the QR Code — works because the pressure on slumlords and the city to address the issues associated with those properties grows greater with each person who sees the names of the building owners. And even without any organized campaign to lobby elected officials in those districts, these pols feel the heat by being associated with the targeted properties.

Nether recently incorporated Wall Hunters into a 501(c)(3) organization so that he can continue to bring together artists and activists working on social justice issues.

The next phase of the Wall Hunters project is a documentary that Tarek Turkey and Julia Pitch are producing about their work. The documentary brings viewers into direct dialogue with community residents in the neighborhoods where the artists made the murals. It features interviews with the artists, housing advocate Carol Ott, Wall Hunters founder Nether, academics, and public officials. This penetrating short film will enable viewers to see Baltimore’s neighborhoods through the eyes of the camera and by doing so virtually catapults them into the story. To see their trailer go to!film/c1l27.

Nicky Goren named next Meyer Foundation president and CEO

Major news for the region’s philanthropic and nonprofit community this morning. The Meyer Foundation announced that Nicky Goren, current president of the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, has been appointed Meyer’s next president and CEO, effective July 1.

In a statement, Nicky said:

My time at Washington Area Women’s Foundation has helped me understand the significant challenges facing economically vulnerable families in our region and the organizations and systems that support them,” says Goren. “It has also convinced me of the vital role philanthropy can play in bringing together partners and collaborators across all sectors to create social change. I am honored to have been asked to lead an institution I have long admired, and am committed to maintaining Meyer’s leadership role in the community.

We at WRAG are thrilled by the appointment. Upon hearing the announcement, WRAG’s president Tamara Copeland said:

I was thrilled to learn that Nicky has been named to lead the Meyer Foundation. I have always been impressed by her commitment to the region and by her work on behalf of the economically disadvantaged. I look forward to continuing to work with Nicky as a member of the WRAG community.

Congratulations to Nicky and to the Meyer Foundation!

- Unemployment among veterans has trended higher than the rate among civilians. Among the reasons for this are widely-held stereotypes about post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as the difficulty of translating military duties into marketable civilian skills (Marketplace, 3/20):

Companies love to hang yellow ribbons and run ads about supporting America’s veterans. But veterans say they aren’t always as quick to hire them because civilian managers don’t understand how to evaluate military experience.

“The hardest part for me when I first got out of the military was figuring out what to write on a resume,” says Marine veteran Michael Wersan, who served in Iraq as an infantry assaultman. “Nobody cares that I did 700 patrols in seven months. That doesn’t compute for a civilian.”

Related: Last year, WRAG members met with Emily King, an HR expert who focuses on military transitions. She talked about some of the challenges veterans face at new civilian jobs, and how philanthropy can best support returning veterans. (Daily, Sept. 2013)

- There seems to be a consensus that improving mental health services for veterans should be a major priority in Virginia, but there’s no agreement on how best to do that. (WAMU, 3/20)

- City Paper profiles several veterans attending college in D.C., whose military experiences set them apart from typical college freshmen. (CP, 3/20)

- Related for WRAG members: A group of funders have been meeting regularly at WRAG to look at issues facing veterans and military families in our region. The next meeting is coming up on March 31. More information is available here.

- A study commissioned by the Maryland State Arts Council found that arts districts throughout the state drove significant economic benefits to their communities, by creating about 5,100 jobs. (WTOP, 3/20)

- A Fairfax County high school has received a grant from the Grammy Foundation to support a music program for students with emotional disabilities. (WaPo, 3/20)

Related event for funders: The next Arts & Humanities Working Group meeting for arts funders is on April 24.  The meeting will focus on the challenges and opportunities facing local arts nonprofits. More information available here.

PHILANTHROPY | David Rubinstein’s $7.5 million gift to support repairs to the Washington Monument may be part of a trend among major philanthropists to step in when government funding isn’t available. (Marketplace, 3/19)

Related: During last year’s government shutdown, Tamara wrote about why philanthropy cannot replace government. (Daily, Oct. 2013)

- Review finds serious test-taking violations in four D.C. schools (WaPo, 3/20)

- Parents, students praise D.C. TAG in effort to shore up congressional support (WaPo, 3/20)

- Here are the things that testing data can’t tell you about student achievement. (GGE, 3/19)

How long can you stare at an anomalous motion illusion before you fall out of your chair?

The (Almost) Daily WRAG will be back on Tuesday, which, rumor has it, could be a snow(y) day. On that note, happy Spring!


Will a new medical center reduce health disparities in Prince George’s County?

HEALTH/EQUITY | Prince George’s County officials are reaching out to community members to determine how best to position the proposed regional medical center at Largo Town Center in a way that will address the significant health disparities in the county (WaPo, 3/2)

At a community meeting Saturday, residents said they want a medical center that will provide specialty care to people with disabilities, greater access for medical research and will fill the existing gap in health care in the county.

“There are not enough facilities in the county. There are not enough doctors for the general population and even fewer for those with special needs,” said Grace Williams, 56, a Bowie resident with autistic twin daughters. “I have to drive to Baltimore or the District to get the care I need.”

WRAG | This week is Foundations on the Hill, an annual event that brings foundation leaders from across the country to meet with their representatives in Congress to educate them about the critical role that tax incentives play in facilitating philanthropy back home in their districts. Today, Tamara sent an open letter to our region’s elected officials echoing that sentiment. (Daily, 3/4)

HOUSING | Despite the 70,000 person-long (now suspended) waiting list for public housing subsidies, despite the fact that for every 100 extremely low-income households in D.C. there are only 45 affordable rental units available, despite the fact that affordable housing is generally seen to be a crisis issue in this region… we’re actually doing pretty well compared to other metropolitan areas. (CP, 3/3)

MENTAL HEALTH | Advocates say that Virginia’s failure to expand Medicaid is limiting access to mental health services for many residents. (WAMU, 3/3)

- There are two different exams that states will begin implementing next year to measure students’ progress against the Common Core State Standards. DCPS is committed to one of those exams, but a number of advocates and school officials are urging the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education to switch to the other exam, saying that it will give a more “precise reading” of students’ abilities. (WaPo, 3/2)

- D.C. Sees Another Bump In Public School Enrollment (WAMU, 2/27)

- Prince George’s County is undertaking an effort to recruit male teachers, who currently only make up about 21 percent of the teaching staff for the entire county. The organizers of the effort believe increasing the number of male teachers will help improve student achievement. (WaPo, 3/1)

- Alternative education gets a remake in Montgomery schools (WaPo, 2/26)

POVERTY | President Obama’s proposed FY 2015 budget, released today, includes an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit to increase the benefit to childless workers. (WaPo, 3/3)

NONPROFITS | As the nonprofit sector continues to embrace private sector practices, a few large organizations, such as GuideStar, have started holding “earnings calls,” focused on highlighting the organizations’ impact for donors. (WaPo, 3/2)

DISTRICT | D.C. set to loosen marijuana laws (WaPo, 3/3)

ARTS | The Post profiles the women leaders of 13 high profile cultural organizations in the region. (WaPo, 2/28)

I’ve always felt bad for the unlucky folks whose birthdays fall on February 29. In honor of those who sadly did not get to have a real birthday on Saturday, here is something (sort of) related – the leap second. Unfortunately, there seems to be no immediate explanation for the unusual item sitting in front of the scientist in this video.

- Rebekah

The D.C. Housing Authority needs billions to meet housing demand

HOUSING | Adrianne Todman, the head of the D.C. Housing Authority, cited some staggering figures at a D.C. Council hearing yesterday. According to her, it would take an additional $1.3 billion in DCHA funding to modernize the city’s current public housing supply, and $2.3 billion to build sufficient units to house the 71,000 people on the city’s public housing waiting list (CP, 2/19):

[...] Todman laid much of the blame for her agency’s funding shortfall at the feet of the federal government, which has reduced DCHA funding substantially in recent years. “Unfortunately, our national leaders do not appear to appreciate this form of affordable housing and continue to underfund it,” she said.

HOMELESSNESS | In response to the increase in the number of families in shelters this winter, Mayor Gray is asking the D.C. Council for the power to allow the city to determine whether families have some place else they can stay (WaPo 2/19):

A draft of Gray’s proposal…would fundamentally alter a District law that grants any resident a “right to shelter” on nights when the temperature drops below freezing and the city declares a hypothermia alert.


Under Gray’s plan, families would be given shelter on a provisional basis, but caseworkers would immediately begin to determine whether they have other housing prospects, including sleeping on the couches or floors of relatives or friends. The city would have to make a decision within 14 days.

Those who have such options would be required to leave city-funded rooms within 24 hours, even if the temperature remains below freezing.

Related: WRAG members are invited to a brown bag discussion on homelessness in the region next month. More information here.

- The long-struggling Corcoran Gallery of Art will be taken over by the National Gallery of Art, and the Corcoran College of Art and Design will be taken over by George Washington University, under a plan that was announced yesterday. (WaPo, 2/19)

- The D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities is bringing back the 5×5 project, which brings 25 temporary public art installations to locations throughout the city. The announcement comes with a pretty cool promotional video too. (DCist, 2/19)

- Here’s part 2 of Greater Greater Education‘s look at how the IMPACT teacher evaluation system can be improved in low-income schools. (GGE, 2/19)

- Alexandria rethinking small middle schools (WaPo, 2/20)

INEQUALITY | A new study from the Brookings Institution finds that cities with strong economies tend to have greater levels of economic inequality. (NY Times, 2/20)

Related: Here’s the paper from Brookings. (Brookings, 2/20) It will surprise exactly no one where D.C. ranks on their list of cities with the greatest levels of inequality.

HEALTH | Reason To Smile: Children’s Dental Health Improves In Maryland (WAMU, 2/19)

NONPROFITS | MacArthur Foundation recognizes 3 D.C. area nonprofits as creative, effective institutions (WaPo, 2/20)

TRANSIT | North-South streetcar starts to take shape (GGW, 2/19) Try to suspend your disbelief.

I scored a 76 on this quiz. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself!

- Rebekah

Why the farm bill is at odds with public health

- Here’s a good question about our country’s (incredibly complex) agricultural policies (WaPo, 2/19):

Read the farm bill, and a big problem jumps right out at you: Taxpayers heavily subsidize corn and soy, two crops that facilitate the meat and processed food we’re supposed to eat less of, and do almost nothing for the fruits and vegetables we’re supposed to eat more of. If there’s any obligation to spend the public’s money in a way that’s consistent with that same public’s health, shouldn’t it be the other way around?

I would say the answer is “duh.” Of course, given the nature of the farm bill, it’s a bit more complicated.

Related: Last week WRAG consultant Lindsay Smith, who coordinates the Washington Regional Convergence Partnership, provided a run down of what the farm bill means for the Greater Washington region. (Daily, 2/12)

- A new greenhouse will soon be built in Southeast D.C. that will provide fresh produce to Giant stores throughout the region, and create 20 full-time jobs. (DCist, 2/18)

COMMUNITY | The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia has announced over $300,000 in new grants to 36 organizations. (CFNOVA, 2/18)

- A teacher and Greater Greater Education contributor recommends ways DCPS could modify the IMPACT teacher evaluation system, which some say penalizes teachers who work at low-performing schools. (GGE, 2/18)

ARTS | WRAG recently re-launched its Arts & Humanities Working Group. The group represents funders committed to strengthening the local arts and humanities sector. (Daily, 1/19)

MENTAL HEALTH | A report from Virginia officials found that a lack of beds in state mental hospitals is partially caused by patients staying in hospitals long after doctors say they are ready to be discharged. Advocates say this could be addressed by increasing the availability of permanent supportive housing for people with mental illness. (WTOP, 2/19)

- One major health insurance company understands what housing advocates have long been saying about the relationship between health and housing, and is making a $150 million investment in affordable housing. (Marketplace, 2/13)

- According to one measure, you need to earn at least $62,809.63 a year to afford to buy a house in this region. (DCist, 2/18)

- Well, here’s one way we could address the affordable housing shortage. (NPR, 2/17)

HOMELESSNESS | Op-ed: How to help the District’s homeless families (WaPo, 2/14)

- Maryland’s Gubernatorial Contenders Agree: The Purple Line Must Be Built (WAMU, 2/19)

- Virginia’s New Transportation Chief Has Both Money And Long List Of Projects (WAMU, 2/18)

Are you an artist who hates paying taxes? Consider visiting the nation of Ladonia.

- Rebekah

Focusing on at-risk students can improve all students’ achievement

- A new study found that schools are best served by targeting resources toward at-risk students, as data suggest that having a large number of disadvantaged students in a school brings down the overall achievement level of all students (WaPo, 2/13):

For example, researchers found that children who were homeless or mistreated disrupted their classrooms, pulling down reading achievement and attendance rates among children who were not homeless or mistreated. Along the same lines, schools filled with many students who did not receive adequate prenatal care had overall poor reading achievement, even among those children who did get prenatal care.

- DCPS chancellor Kaya Henderson was on the Kojo Nnamdi Show on Wednesday for a wide-ranging discussion about the state of the city’s schools. (WAMU, 2/12)

- Md. lawmakers debate expansion of education for 4-year-olds (WaPo, 2/12)

- D.C. Lags Behind Maryland, Virginia In AP Pass Rates (WAMU, 2/12)

- A fight is brewing over tests in the Common Core age (WaPo, 2/13)

ARTS | President Obama has named Jane Chu, currently the president of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, as his nominee to head the National Endowment for the Arts, a position that has been vacant for over a year.

In reaction to this announcement, Robert Lynch, head of Americans for the Arts, said (WaPo, 2/12):

“If there had to be a long wait, this candidate looks like a really great person to have waited for … Her background in Kansas City at the local level is as someone who understands how the arts can transform a community. She talked about the broad array of the arts to the broad spectrum of people, which is an important philosophy to bring to the nation’s highest arts position.”

WORKFORCE | A recent study found that, while more women are getting jobs in STEM-related fields, gender bias still creates challenges to keeping them in these jobs. (WaPo, 2/12)

- Health insurance enrollment on target in January (WaPo, 2/13)

- 74,000-plus have signed up for health care in Va. (WTOP, 2/14)

TRANSIT | Metro really, really needs more Congressional funding. (WAMU, 2/13)

NONPROFITS | IRS plan to curb politically active groups is threatened by opposition from both sides (WaPo, 2/12)

Awww, I guess Vikings weren’t just brutal marauders after all.

For those of you who aren’t in the mood for Valentine’s Day schmaltz, here’s a (depending on your feelings toward heights) thrilling and/or terrifying video.

Enjoy the long weekend. The Daily will be back on Tuesday.

- Rebekah


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