HOMELESSNESS | In an effort to reduce the cost of housing families experiencing homelessness in hotels and motels, which costs the city about $80,000 a night, Mayor Bowser would like to lease apartments instead. The plan, which some are declaring a step in the right direction, will allow families to stay in the apartments for about 120 days. (WaPo, 4/21)
The city is looking for complexes within one to two blocks of Metro rail stations, amid some of the District’s most desirable real estate.
Bowser’s initiative is the latest step in her efforts to address the District’s high rate of family homelessness, an issue at the center of her 2014 mayoral campaign and on which she has spent considerable political capital since taking office, with mixed results. Between 2007 and 2016, the District’s population of homeless families grew by 191 percent.
The mayor has earned praise from homeless advocates for expanding family shelter access year-round. Under the District’s previous policy, families were admitted only on nights cold enough to trigger a hypothermia alert.
RACE | Tamara Lucas Copeland, president of WRAG, discusses perceptions of racial identities while reflecting on her own, and challenges others to confront their unconscious biases. (Daily, 4/24)
AFFORDABLE HOUSING | Housing advocates worry about the accountability of a Housing and Urban Development program that transfers failing public housing units to the private sector. (Citylab, 4/21)
MARYLAND | Growing pains: Election in a small Maryland city exposes racial, class divides (WaPo, 4/22)
ENVIRONMENT | The type and amount of food we eat has an impact on the Earth. (NPR, 4/22)
GENDER EQUITY | Loudoun County’s new Commission on Women and Girls, created to help this population with financial planning, employment, etiquette coaching, social media safety, domestic violence and the STEM field, had its first meeting last week. (Loudoun Times, 4/20)
WORKFORCE | The Maryland Technology Development Corporation is launching a $1 million fund to help technology startups cover the gap between seed funding and venture capital investments. (WBJ, 4/21)
EDUCATION | D.C. charter school for adult students could be shut down (WaPo, 4/22)
A close-up of Nemo and other photos…
By Tamara Copeland
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers
When you look at me, what do you see? Given all of the information that you have received over your lifetime, what are your immediate thoughts on who I am, based on how I look?
Racial identity – how you see me and how I see myself – is influenced by so many factors, but one of the most significant influencers is how your family perceives race. And, of course, if your family perceives race at all.
My mother was one-fourth White and three-fourths Native American, a member of the Chickahominy Tribe of Virginia.* I don’t think my mother actually thought of herself as Indian. She thought of herself as Black. During the early years of the 20th century, her family had claimed “colored” when asked their race by the US Census taker. Why? “The colored people were being treated better than American Indians,” according to my full-blooded, American Indian grandmother. Well, in the racial pecking order of this country that was probably true, but in my mother’s world, the “colored” kids didn’t treat her very well.
From the Black community, she learned that light-skinned Black people were perceived as uppity, as thinking themselves better than the browner members of the community. She and her siblings were bullied as kids because of the color of their skin. She promised herself that she would not have children who were light-skinned like her. So, when my father, a chocolate brown-skinned man, entered her life, little did he know that after an assessment of the quality of his character, he got a leg up because of the color of his skin. At a time, when light-skinned Black people received a level of preferential treatment from the White community, my mother made a clear decision that went against that sense of privilege and reinforced her sense of who she was.
Now, as an adult, my sense of race continues to be influenced by my family – now by my children.
My commitment to using my professional platform to promote racial equity was born when Trayvon Martin was killed. My son was roughly his age. AJ could have been Trayvon. Every day, I feel that my son’s life is in jeopardy. He is 23 years old, squarely in that 18-25 year old age range when Black, young men are perceived to be the most dangerous.
My stepdaughter is bi-racial – Black and White, but it is clear that visually many people think she is Latina when they speak to her in Spanish, which she doesn’t speak. Growing up she felt like an outsider. Her three children, who are three-fourths White and one fourth Black, are unlikely to know that feeling, but the outside world will tell them that they are still different. They call me Nana, but I suspect that when I’m out with them, folks think I’m the nanny and not their Nana. At ages 7, 5 and 2, they don’t know that yet, but they will.
My family is an amalgam of peoples. You may not know – truly know – who anyone is racially by the typical visual cues. But, we are all treated a certain way based on who you think we are. That is reality. That is the unconscious bias that shapes how we are treated and how we treat others. The tough job is unlearning all of the associations and prejudices that go through our minds in the blink of an eye. I’m trying, what about you?
*The Chickahominy Tribe has yet to be recognized by the US government primarily because it made a treaty with England, not with the forming US government, but that’s another story about racial bias.
CHILDREN & FAMILIES | This week, Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN) of Northern Virginia discussed the release of a new report, Resilient Children, Resilient Loudoun!, on Northern Virginia Health Foundation‘s blog. The report includes an assessment of the needs of Loudoun County’s vulnerable children and the resources available to them and their families. In addition, the report includes recommendations for addressing the issues identified (NVHF Blog, 4/17):
- Increase community outreach to underserved and isolated families. Many highly committed service providers are working to support families and youth, but because of budget constraints, language and cultural barriers, and stigma-related fears, families who need their help often don’t even know that services and resources exist.
- Make supports and services more accessible to parents. As the first and primary caregivers for their children, parents are key to preparing young people for the world. But stress and anxiety are pervasive among families struggling to cover basic needs such as housing and childcare. Families need more behavioral supports to help them cope with daily stress and prevent more serious mental health problems.
ENVIRONMENT | Cecily Kihn, executive director of the Agua Fund, and Megan Gallagher who serves on the Fund’s Board of Directors, give an update on fracking in the region and discuss how the philanthropic sector can address it. (Daily, 4/20)
EDUCATION | This Virginia school is providing its students with a traditional education while also teaching them how to be an American Muslim. (WAMU, 4/20)
HOUSING AFFORDABILITY | Potential homeowners in large metro areas, including in our region, find down payments to be the biggest obstacle to buying a home. (Citlylab, 4/18)
WORKFORCE | DC-area contracted airport workers win a living wage after two years of advocating for higher wages. (DCist, 4/19)
– Opinion: Cyclists react to a new DC proposal to fine cyclists for wearing headphones in both ears while biking around the city. (GGWash, 4/19)
ADVOCACY | On 4/20, DC marijuana advocates plan provocative protests (WTOP, 4/20)
This would probably scare me if I lived in the 1600s…
By Megan Gallagher & Cecily Kihn
There has been much to celebrate in the region since our Earth Day blog post four years ago. The governor of Maryland signed a ban on fracking throughout the state. The U.S. Forest Service prohibited any new leases for oil or gas drilling in the George Washington National Forest in Virginia and West Virginia has a new forest management plan.
But, as predicted, transportation of shale gas to facilitate export is now a significant threat to the Greater Washington region. Our grantees in Virginia now battle proposals for two major interstate transmission pipelines, while groups in Maryland challenge approval of a liquid natural gas (LNG) conversion plant at Cove Point, near Baltimore. Dozens of similar projects bedevil communities through the Eastern states.
The massive, 40-inch pipelines proposed in western Virginia – the Atlantic Coast and the Mountain Valley – would cut a 200-foot swath through the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests and thousands of acres of private land, amid very steep terrain and fragile karst geology. The Atlantic Coast pipeline alone would cross more than 600 streams, including critical headwaters of the rivers that provide drinking water for the Greater Washington region.
Just as renewable energy is making steady gains in supplying our long term needs, the shale gas pipelines would lock ratepayers into costly fossil fuel infrastructure for the next 80 years, with major impacts on local communities from pipeline construction, compressor stations and potential failures. Last year, a coalition of our grantees released an economic study that clearly showed excess capacity in existing pipelines, making the case that the proposed projects just aren’t needed.
Unfortunately, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission reviews applications for pipelines or LNG terminals on a case-by-case basis, with a heavy history of approval. Our grantees and their coalitions must manage local permitting campaigns, as well as efforts to reform national energy policy, which is much harder under the current administration.
We continue to encourage our colleagues in the Greater Washington region to support grantmaking that increases understanding of the impact of shale gas drilling and transportation infrastructure and enhance federal, state and local policies and oversight.
One tool we found useful in addressing these issues, as a grantmaker, includes contributing to a pooled fund that supports grassroots action. Members of the HEFN Fracking Affinity Group created a national Fracking Funders Pooled Resources Fund able to turn around grants in less than two months, ranging from $5,000 to $20,000. Grantee referrals and due diligence are provided by local funders, who need not be those contributing to the pooled fund.
At the Agua Fund, we find the pooled fund offers essential leverage to our direct grantmaking on shale gas issues. A half-dozen pooled fund grants in the Shenandoah Valley, where Agua Fund philanthropy is focused, greatly expanded citizen understanding and engagement in the federal pipeline permit process in the past three years . Other pooled fund contributors include the New World Foundation and the 11th Hour Project of the Schmidt Family Foundation.
Cecily Kihn is executive director and Megan Gallagher serves on the Board of Directors of the Agua Fund, a WRAG member. Megan is also a trustee of the Hillsdale Fund.
by Tom Bartlett
Senior Manager, Global Corporate Citizenship
In 2017 Boeing began its second century of operation. The world looks quite different 100 years removed from our founding, and our relevance requires continuous innovation to meet the demands of a rapidly evolving global environment. At the strategic core of our company and our quest for aerospace leadership is an enduring commitment to community engagement. We recognize that our success hinges on strong communities and even stronger partners who build better futures for all our fellow citizens.
I started my journey at Boeing more than 11 years ago, first as an engineer and now as a senior manager of our east coast community engagement team. I’ve been fortunate to witness and share in many company firsts, but none has had me more excited than the new direction of our community investment strategy. As we move forward, we will push ahead with renewed focus on supporting tomorrow’s innovators and honoring our heroes – ensuring children attain the 21st century skills necessary for the modern workplace, and military veterans (and their families) are equipped to succeed in their next mission. We will also remain actively engaged in issues of critical importance to our local communities and provide corporate leadership where necessary.
Implementing this reimagined strategy effectively will take work and iteration. It will require focused conversations with our stakeholders to ensure we account for the shifting needs and priorities of our community. I was recently talking to a new colleague about the principle of seeking to understand before seeking to be understood. As a result of that conversation, we committed to creating new mechanisms for increasing our own understanding of the realities our community partners face working on the front lines of social change. On the flip side, as a funding community, I think we can do more to open our doors to our nonprofit partners. Luckily our friends at the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers (WRAG) agree.
Next week, Boeing will partner with WRAG as they host their 3rd annual Fundamentals of CSR Workshop on April 27 and 28. This two-day event will provide nonprofit leaders with a real lens into the world of CSR professionals. Participants will learn about the latest sector trends, drivers of corporations’ community investment strategies and, most importantly, how companies evaluate prospective opportunities. Aimed at enabling greater partnership and collaboration, the event will feature interactive sessions and networking opportunities with peers, as well as leaders from companies across the region. The WRAG team has put together an incredible program and all funders should encourage their community partners to attend.
My time as an engineer taught me that unless one fully understands a problem and its related constraints, one will struggle to find the correct solution. Today we need business, government and non-profit leaders to operate together. Collective agility, resiliency, creativity and a constructive dialogue will advance positive outcomes for all. Next week’s CSR workshop provides an opportunity to take a first step in creating value for all stakeholders. We’re excited to play a role in the conversation and hope you will join us!