Blueprint Recommendations to End and Prevent Homelessness

This post is the first of a two part-series focused on philanthropy’s role in ending homelessness in collaboration with Funders Together to End Homelessness.

On a given night, close to 7,000 people are living in shelters or on the streets in the District of Columbia. Many more are at high risk of experiencing homelessness, dependent upon others for temporary accommodation, or living one crisis away from housing instability.

Many factors can contribute to individuals and families experiencing homelessness such as job loss, family breakdown, eviction, and domestic violence. However, the root cause of homelessness is the lack of affordable housing and the failure of systems, not that of an individual, and is perpetuated by the historical and current structural racism that exists in those systems.

Young women of color who provided their time and expertise to shape our Blueprint for Action—the policy agenda of the Young Women’s Initiative—talked about experiencing homelessness and lacking access to affordable housing. Homelessness came up in every single policy issue we discussed, from education, to health and well-being, to the juvenile justice system and economic security. They recognized that without housing first, it is hard for young women of color to pursue personal goals, secure and maintain employment, and overall improve the quality of their life.

Based on the learnings and overarching recommendations of the Blueprint for Action, and the work many funders and non-profit organizations are doing in the Washington region to end homelessness, this post outlines four funding strategies to prevent and end youth homelessness in the District of Columbia.

Because homelessness is complex and happens at different levels, our recommendations focus not only on strategies that drive individual programs to success but also on systemic approaches to address the underlying causes.

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Addressing Racial Inequity

Young women of color are overrepresented among the youth population experiencing homelessness and structural racism within larger systems perpetuate these disparities. By centering the communities most affected by racism and helping a wide range of stakeholders to understand the harms of implicit racial biases and racist policies, philanthropy can help dismantle one of the root causes of homelessness, advance opportunities for all, and achieve equitable systems. Philanthropy also has the opportunity to challenge and lead the field in ensuring policies and practices are actively anti-racist in their creation and implementation. If the solutions we advance are working under a “colorblind” approach, we will never achieve racial equity and instead perpetuate racial injustices.

Scaling Best Practices

Understanding the realities of young women of color experiencing homelessness and the extent to which gender, culture, trauma, age, gender identify, and sexual orientation, among other factors, shape these experiences is indispensable to help them move out of homelessness. Supporting programs and solutions that center the young women of color with lived expertise, recognize the solution’s unique strengths and barriers and then build on these strengths, is an effective way to scale best practices.

Enhancing Supportive Services

Supporting organizations that increase access to housing options and coordinated supportive services for young women of color experiencing homelessness makes a significant difference in young women’s ability to work to regain stability and to reduce the contributing factors that caused them to experiencing homelessness in the first place. Strong and coordinated support services that connect young women of color to the most appropriate level and type of assistance based on their strengths and needs is a critical first step to prevent and end homelessness.

Changing Public Policies

Supporting advocates and organizations working to end homelessness in our region to advance policies that directly affect people experiencing homelessness is one of the most powerful ways to create long-term, sustainable change. Through public-private partnerships, philanthropy’s engagement in advocacy and public policy efforts leverages the impact of available resources and is an effective strategy to bring about systemic change. Funders can support efforts through not only funding grassroots organizations, but also through their influence and use of voice to lift up or oppose policies that impact housing and homelessness programs.

Claudia Williams is Program Officer at Washington Area Women’s Foundation where she contributes to crafting and executing program strategy and manages the Young Women’s Initiative of Washington, DC.

 

At the Intersection of Immigrant Justice and Racial Equity

Every day, we see targeted efforts to limit the rights, diminish the dignity, and harm the lives of immigrants, in particular immigrants of color. Throughout American history, immigration laws have been rooted in anti-blackness to privilege some immigrant communities over others, a deliberate strategy to define the demographic makeup of who gets to become a U.S. citizen.

Most immigrants and refugees today are people of color impacted, implicitly and explicitly, by anti-black systems of oppression built up over centuries in this country. In an effort to shed light on how advancing immigration justice simultaneously moves forward racial equity, on October 21, WRAG’s Racial Equity Working Group (REWG) convened a briefing and community dialogue between immigrant leaders, funders, and non-profit practitioners to explore philanthropy’s role in redistributing power and resources to amplify efforts on the ground.

Whether or not immigration is a funding priority, it is a crosscutting experience and issue central to all funders interested in creating a cohesive, just, and inclusive society. Jeanné Lewis from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) framed the briefing by sharing key findings from NCRP’s Movement Investment Project related to the funding of pro-immigrant movements. She then facilitated a conversation that uncovered some essential practices for philanthropy to be a supportive partner of the pro-immigrant and racial equity movements:

  • Embracing an Intersectional Framework: The experiences of Black immigrant and refugee communities are largely absent from the dialogue and strategies of both immigrant rights funders and racial equity funders, leaving Black immigrants and Black-led immigrant organizations facing substantial barriers in securing resources. Something similar happens to Indigenous immigrants and Indigenous-led organizations. Gabrielle Jackson, Co-director of UndocuBlack Network, called on philanthropy to begin challenging dominant ideas regarding immigrants’ identities. She underscored the importance of embracing an intersectional framework that recognizes immigrants have multiple identities and can experience overlapping forms of discrimination.
  • Providing Unrestricted Multiyear Funding to Immigrant-Led Organizations: Immigrants and people of color often experience lack of trust in their leadership. In philanthropy, this translates as concerns about the sustainability and structure of the organizations they manage, and their ability to track outcomes or deliver results. Darakshan Raja, Co-director of Justice for Muslims Collective, urged funders to not only unpack their biases about people of color, but also about what successful organizations and leadership styles look like. Building a strong organizational infrastructure and achieving policy wins takes many years and resources to achieve. Emerging immigrant-led organizations at the forefront of bringing important issues to the table but without a “proven track” record of results, traditional governance structures, and funding, can significantly benefit from flexible funding strategies that trust and value their expertise.
  • Enhancing Integrated Supportive Services: Most philanthropy organizations provide funding for legal and policy organizations, but very few invest in integrated services for immigrants and refugees. Yet, immigrants and refugees require more than just legal support and have very few alternatives to obtain services that meet their needs. Hiwot Berihun, Legal Director of African Communities Together, stressed that philanthropy can play a critical role in channeling resources to support integrated legal services, in particular to facilitate access to mental health and healing justice programs.
  • Building Capacity and Leveraging Networks: Organizations need capacity-building support in order to build infrastructure and develop more immigrant leaders. Besides financial resources, philanthropy can support immigrant and social justice advocates by providing technical assistance, opportunities for learning, networking, and leadership opportunities. Edgar Aranda-Yanoc, Senior Lead Organizer at Legal Aid Justice Center, asserted that philanthropy can send a powerful message just by standing together with immigrant organizations during marches and demonstrations.
  • Shifting Narratives about Immigrant Communities: Negative stereotypes about immigrants are widespread and deep-rooted. Anti-immigration rhetoric portrays immigrants as rapists, violent criminals, terrorists, and murders. Julio Murillo, Government and Strategic Relations Specialist at CASA encouraged philanthropy to work towards centering the voices of immigrants to creating space for them to share their own story, and to shift the narrative about the value and contribution of immigrants. He also emphasized the importance of cooperation between communities, building cross-racial and ethnic alliances for immigrant rights and racial justice, and solidarity among people of color when organizing to advance policy change.

We hope REWG’s briefing and community dialogue spurs grantmakers in our region to explore ways to better support and integrate organizations advancing immigration justice and racial equity. We know that it takes commitment, collaboration, and innovation to put the recommendations above into practice, that we need to hold each other accountable to make them a reality, and that we need to move with urgency because the stakes are just too high if we do not act now.

Claudia Williams is Program Officer at Washington Area Women’s Foundation where she contributes to crafting and executing program strategy and manages the Young Women’s Initiative of Washington, DC. Claudia is also an active member of WRAG’s Racial Equity Working Group, and serves in the immigration subcommittee.

Centering the Voices of Young Women of Color to Inform Policy Decisions

Just a couple of weekends ago, I heard an episode of Bitch Media’s Popaganda podcast that sought to reframe sex work by exploring the legal and financial realities of the trade.

My ears perked up when this episode started; DC is in the middle of considering full decriminalization of the sex trade. I have been following some of the arguments for and against this proposed legislation, as a public hearing before the Council’s Judiciary Committee occurred last week. DC’s proposed legislation would fully decriminalize the sex trade in DC, including acts of pimping, purchasing sex, and operating brothels. If passed, DC would be the first jurisdiction in the U.S. to have full decriminalization, and advocates are hopeful of making a statement coming from the nation’s capital.

The podcast’s host started the episode by asking a sex worker simple questions, such as, how to pay taxes, maintain records, or do marketing. The host goes on to ask about barriers sex workers come up against when running their businesses and changes that would benefit them. The podcast guest shares her wish list, including what most sex workers are advocating for: full decriminalization—meaning all criminal penalties removed for all parties involved. However, she also shares there is a big gap between what she personally would like to have, versus what is best for the greatest number of people.

While all advocates agree on the decriminalization of the sale of sex as an effective way to center the rights of sex workers and sex-trafficked children—who endure most of the arrests and who represent some of the most marginalized members of our community—there is no agreement about decriminalizing the act of buying sex. For some sex workers, it is in their best interest to protect their clients, but for others, offering legal immunity to those who exploit and traffic them is a dangerous policy.

In DC, it is currently up to the DC City Council to identify what is best for the greatest number of people involved in DC’s sex industry and adopt corresponding policies. In particular, it is the responsibility of the Council to identify what is best for those most vulnerable of being exploited. The Council has the task of passing legislation that strikes a delicate balance between affirming the rights of sex workers, but also the rights of survivors and trafficked victims.

The Blueprint for Action of the Young Women’s Initiative outlines recommendations developed by young women of color with the objective to shift local policies and practices in the District of Columbia in support of young women’s ability to thrive. During 2017 and 2018, The Women’s Foundation facilitated conversations and conducted interviews with young women of color and community members to understand barriers to success and propose recommendations to improve the experience of black and brown girls.

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Many of the recommendations in the Blueprint continue to be insightful and relevant to current policy considerations, including the current discussion around the full decriminalization of the sex trade. The safety and violence prevention recommendations of the Blueprint for Action, listed on page 42, include actions and policies that ensure young women and non-binary youth of color feel safe and free from all forms of violence in private and public spaces.

It is important for young women of color to have a voice in the policy decisions that affect them.  As councilmembers consider proposed legislation to decriminalize DC’s sex industry, I urge them to use the Blueprint for Action of the Young Women’s Initiative to learn the recommendations young women and non-binary youth of color identified to alleviate some of the most pressing policy issues that affect them.

Claudia Williams is Program Officer at Washington Area Women’s Foundation where she contributes to crafting and executing program strategy and manages the Young Women’s Initiative of Washington, DC

¡Celebrando nuestra latinidad todo el año!

Celebrar nuestra latinidad, durante el mes de la herencia hispana, después del tiroteo de El Paso, se siente casi como un pequeño motín. Casi cómo rebelarse y decir “estamos aquí para quedarnos, somos increíbles, y hacemos de Estados Unidos un mejor país con nuestra alegría, nuestra risa sin censura, nuestra comida y nuestro color.” También es decepcionante que tengamos que leer sobre nuestras tradiciones, nuestro idioma y nuestra historia prácticamente sólo uno de los doce meses del año.

La falta de representación de los Latinxs en los principales medios de comunicación del país, por dar un ejemplo, es de considerarse. Pocos medios incluyen nuestras voces y nuestras historias, y cuando lo hacen, se enfocan casi exclusivamente en la experiencia de los Latinxs en un contexto de seguridad nacional, violencia, y conflicto en la frontera.

Cuando no es el mes de la herencia hispana, hay pocos artículos sobre nosotros, nuestra diversidad, nuestras contribuciones a la vida estadounidense, nuestro espíritu emprendedor y nuestro compromiso con la escuela y el trabajo. Si no nos esforzamos para cultivar un rango más representativo de nuestras experiencias y contribuciones, sólo estamos contribuyendo a perpetuar una narrativa despectiva y obsoleta sobre nosotros mismos.

No es de sorprenderse que, en el Distrito de Columbia, el 41 por ciento de las jóvenes latinas reportan tristeza o desesperanza a tal grado que dejaron de hacer algunas de sus actividades habituales, y alrededor del 23 por ciento consideró seriamente intentar suicidarse en el 2017. A veces, la retórica negativa que nos rodea impregna nuestro entendimiento sobre quiénes somos, cuáles son nuestras contribuciones, y qué somos capaces de hacer.

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El plan de acción de nuestra iniciativa de mujeres jóvenes (YWI por sus siglas en inglés) plantea recomendaciones de mujeres jóvenes de color—incluyendo jóvenes Latinas—que viven en DC con el objetivo de cambiar prácticas y políticas públicas que obstaculizan su capacidad para prosperar. Durante el 2017 y el 2018, La fundación de las mujeres facilitó conversaciones y entrevistas con chicas de color y miembros de la comunidad para entender qué barreras enfrentan y conocer qué soluciones proponen.

Una de las recomendaciones del plan de acción de YWI que propusieron las jóvenes, es cambiar la narrativa que se escucha sobre las chicas de color hoy en día, y cultivar su sentido de pertenencia a la comunidad. ¡Esta es una de mis recomendaciones favoritas! A veces esperamos que la próxima generación de Latinxs sea exitosa, aun cuando los planes de estudio en el colegio no incluyen lecturas con las que puedan identificarse con los autores o los personajes, cuando poquísimos programas de televisión representan familias Latinas, o cuando los profesores están con frecuencia pidiéndoles que hablen, vistan y escriban de cierta manera. Hay una infinidad de mensajes alrededor de nuestra juventud que constantemente refuerzan la idea de que no pertenecen a esta sociedad.

Estados Unidos está experimentando un cambio demográfico importante y los Latinxs son ya la segunda etnicidad más grande en el país.  En menos de 25 años, más de un cuarto de la población será de origen hispano. Estamos en una encrucijada y es momento de dejar de centrar la cultura blanca para elevar quiénes somos, resaltar nuestros logros y celebrar nuestra latinidad todos los días del año. Hoy tenemos la oportunidad y responsabilidad de crear espacios en los que nuestra juventud—y nosotros mismos—pertenezcan, y en los que puedan sentirse identificados y validados.

Si la próxima generación de Latinxs escucha una nueva narrativa de quiénes son, si cultivamos su sentido de pertenencia a este país, si hay más y mejor representación en los medios de comunicación, será entonces tal vez cuando tengamos más Latinxs trabajando en la filantropía, siendo dueños de pequeños negocios, encabezando organizaciones sin fines de lucro, dirigiendo políticas públicas y administrando negocios. Esto es lo que yo espero para mi hijo, Alejandro, un pequeño mexicoamericano que nació aquí, y está aquí para quedarse.

Alex (Claudia Williams' Son)

Alex (el hijo de Claudia Williams)

Claudia Williams es orgullosamente Latina y oficial de programas en Washington Area Women’s Foundation, donde contribuye a la elaboración y ejecución de la estrategia de programas y gestiona la iniciativa de mujeres jóvenes de Washington, DC.

 

Celebrating Latinxs All Year Long!

Celebrating our Latinidad this year during #HispanicHeritageMonth, in the wake of the El Paso shooting feels almost like a little mutiny. Almost like an uprising in which we’re saying, “we are here to stay, we are awesome, and we make this country a better place with our joy, our unapologetic laughter, our foods, and our color”. It also feels disappointing that we have to read about our traditions, our language, and our history one out of the twelve months of the year.

The lack of representation of Latinxs on mainstream media, for example, is noteworthy. Few outlets include our voices and stories, and most of mainstream media focuses almost exclusively on Latinxs’ experiences against a backdrop of national security, violence, and border conflict.

When it is not #HispanicHeritageMonth, there are few features about us, our diversity, our contributions to the American life, our entrepreneurial spirit, or our engagement with school and work. Failing to advance a more representative range of stories about our experiences only contributes to perpetuating derogatory and inaccurate narratives about ourselves.

It is no wonder that in DC, 41 percent of young Latinas felt sad or hopeless so that they stopped doing some usual activities, and about 23 percent seriously considered attempting suicide in 2017. Sometimes, the false narratives permeate our own understanding of who we are, what we bring to the table, and what we are capable of achieving.

The Blueprint for Action of the Young Women’s Initiative outlines recommendations by young women of color with the objective to shift local policies and practices in the District of Columbia in support of young women’s ability to thrive. During 2017 and 2018, The Women’s Foundation facilitated conversations and conducted interviews with young women of color and community members to understand barriers to success and propose recommendations to improve the experience of young women of color.

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One of the recommendations of the Blueprint for Action is to shift narratives and cultivate belonging. I love this recommendation! Somehow, we hope the next generation of Latinxs is successful even when the school curriculum excludes writings and teachings from Latinxs authors, when very few TV programs represent Latinxs families, and when professors with frequency ask them to dress or talk a “certain way.” There is a myriad of subtle messages about Latinxs that are constantly reinforcing the idea Latinxs do not belong to this society.

The US is undergoing a demographic shift, and Latinxs are now the second largest ethnic group in the country. In less than 25 years, we will be close to a quarter of the US population. We are at a crossroads where it could not be timelier to move away from centering whiteness and to lean in to who we Latinxs are, to highlight our achievements, to celebrate our Latinidad every day of the year. We have the opportunity and responsibility to create spaces and opportunities for our youth—and for ourselves—to belong, to feel validated, and to connect.

Alex (Claudia Williams' Son)
Alex (Claudia Williams’ Son)

If the next generation of Latinxs hears a new narrative of who they are, if we cultivate their belonging to this country, maybe then we will have more Latinxs working in philanthropy, owning business, running non-profits, and directing public policy. This is my hope for my son, Alejandro, a little Mexican American who was born here and is here to stay.

Claudia Williams is a proud Latina and a Program Officer at Washington Area Women’s Foundation where she contributes to crafting and executing program strategy and manages the Young Women’s Initiative of Washington, DC.

Boycotting the Census is not the Answer #CountDMVIn

Last Thursday, the Census 2020 working group we are part of organized a conference for Grantee Partners and non-profit organizations serving hard-to-count populations. Participants had the opportunity to network and connect with members of the Complete Count Committee of their jurisdiction, brainstorm strategies to count vulnerable populations, and learn about the consequences an inaccurate count will have on the distribution of federal funds the next ten years.

We kicked-off the day with a keynote speech by Vanita Gupta, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights. In her remarks, Ms. Gupta talked about the unprecedented challenges and threats to accuracy the 2020 Census is facing. A last minute introduction of a citizenship question—still being contested—will make the population harder to count, but so too will major demographic changes over the past decade, a lack of predictable funding, and changes in the process that have not been tested adequately.

She assured attendees now is the time to get involved, to identify and engage trusted messengers in the community, and to spread the word about the importance of a fair count. While she acknowledged that the concerns of immigrant communities are very real, she also warned that boycotting the census is not the answer. It would only reinforce a concerted effort to construct a whiter electorate, diminishing diverse communities’ political voice and shared funding. For immigrant communities, participating in the census is about not being invisible. It is a way to say, “I am here, I count.” Ms. Gupta ended her statement making a call to philanthropy to join the effort and to invest in building capacity to engage in census outreach in community organizations that serve populations at risk of underrepresentation.

The Census 2020 working group is aware that funder engagement in support of the census is more important than ever. It is creating a space for funders to learn, strategize, and plan investments together and is actively creating resources and opportunities for grantee partners and non-profit organizations in our region to encourage participation among their staff, clients, families, and communities.

To keep the momentum going the working group wrapped-up the conference by opening a request for proposals for the fund Count DMV In, which will support projects related to outreach, education, and direct assistance focused on hard to count communities. It also released a set of fact sheets with information on basics you need to know about the census next year, including a timeline, ways you can help, and data on census tracks at risk of undercounting in each jurisdiction of the greater Washington region.

We all have a role to play in the 2020 Census. Whether you can commit to a sustained effort or can spare only a couple hours, you can participate in multiple ways—starting today. All hands on deck!

Here are three ways to get involved:

  • Follow @CensusCounts and spread the word about how the census is easy, safe, and important. Use the hashtag #CountDMVIn to raise awareness about the importance of an accurate count in our region.
  • Convene workshops and webinars to develop solutions to Census 2020 challenges in your community, to share resources and information, and to receive important updates.
  • Join the Census 2020 working group or consider investing directly or with other foundations and donors through CountDMVIn—a pooled fund housed at the Greater Washington Community Foundation dedicated to Census 2020.

Claudia Williams is Program Officer at Washington Area Women’s Foundation where she contributes to crafting and executing program strategy and manages the Young Women’s Initiative of Washington, DC

Maryland Makes the Health of Women and Families a Priority

At Washington Area Women’s Foundation, we believe access to quality, affordable health care is essential for women to thrive. Access to contraception is a key component of overall health care. Family planning services, including both privately and publicly funded services, are critical to ensuring women and families have the ability to plan if and when to have children.

Federal Title X funding helps ensure that women are able to access reproductive health care services, regardless of race, income level, gender identity, location, or insurance status.

The Trump-Pence administration recently issued a new rule imposing harmful standards of care on patients by limiting what doctors in Title X clinics can say to their patients about contraception. Open conversations are essential to improving health outcomes. This “gag rule” not only prohibits doctors from giving women full information about their reproductive health care options, but it also redirects  funding from clinics with a range of options available onsite, toward ideologically motivated, single-method providers—or crisis pregnancy centers—thus diminishing access to affordable health care services for millions of women.

The rule will have devastating effects on populations that are already facing significant barriers to accessing health care services. Decades of systemic inequities and racism in the operation of programs and policies have imposed barriers on certain populations— young women, women of color, LGBTQ people, low-income women, and women in rural areas— limiting their access to health care. In our region, many women who rely on Title X funding to access contraception and other essential health care services are women of color who face overlapping barriers to accessing health care, education, and childcare. Without access to Title X funded clinics, they would be unable to afford these health services on their own.

There are several legal challenges to the rule pending, and it will most likely end up before the Supreme Court. Public health organizations and elected officials, including mayors, governors, and state legislators have come out in opposition to the rule and are actively urging the administration to reconsider its position.

In the meantime, Maryland has made the health of women and families a priority by being the first state in the nation to formally opt-out of Title X federal funding.  The state legislature approved preemptive legislation that guarantees funding, at the same level as the prior fiscal year, for all family planning centers in the state if the rule moves forward. With this provision, Maryland is leading the way for the nation to defend the integrity of the Title X program and ensure basic reproductive health provisions for the women who need it most.

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Claudia Williams is Program Officer at Washington Area Women’s Foundation where she contributes to crafting and executing program strategy and manages the Young Women’s Initiative of Washington, DC

Census 2020: Let’s Ensure a Complete Count!

The U.S. Census counts every resident in the United States every ten years, but its goal is much more than just a head count. Census data plays a crucial role in the apportionment of congress and the allocation of federal resources across the country.  Businesses also use it to drive key decisions, like where to ship products or where to build new stores. Philanthropy and non-profit organizations rely on Census data to inform their objectives and initiatives. At The Women’s Foundation, we use it frequently to understand how women and girls are faring in our region, and to inform our goals, strategy, grantmaking, and evaluation. (Click here to check out some of the reports and fact sheets we have prepared using data from the Census and the American Community Survey).

An undercount of the population will have far-reaching implications for communities living at the margins. Because of a combination of factors, including structural discrimination, inequitable policies, distrust in the government, and access barriers, census counts disproportionately overlook people of color, people with lower-incomes, children, people with mental and physical disabilities, transient and recently rehoused populations, and non-English speakers.  (Explore this map to see where the hardest-to-count census tracts are in the Washington region.)

This time around, a fraught political climate and a growing digital divide—the 2020 census will be the first to allow residents to respond online—are boosting the odds against an accurate count. It is still unclear whether the census will include the controversial citizenship question the Trump administration proposed to add, but several advocacy organizations have pointed out that the mere proposal of including this question has already deterred many communities from responding.

We believe disaggregated, accurate, accessible, and current data are essential to identifying gaps, understanding which populations experiencing vulnerability need special interventions, and designing and adapting programs and policies that can sustain positive change. To support an accurate census count in our region, the Women’s Foundation joined a group of local funders leveraging resources to make sure everyone counts and everyone is counted.

Along with WRAG, Metropolitan Council of Governments, and 13 other foundations, we are organizing a daylong forum on June 6, 2019, for our Grantee Partners and non-profit organizations in our community to identify and discuss strategies to reach-out to hard-to-count communities. If you are interested in learning more about opportunities to help with outreach, you want everyone in your community to get counted, and you would like to meet members of your jurisdiction’s complete count committees, make sure you register for “Interventions that Work: 2020 Census and Hard-to-Reach Communities” before May 30.

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Claudia Williams is Program Officer at Washington Area Women’s Foundation where she contributes to crafting and executing program strategy and manages the Young Women’s Initiative of Washington, DC

At the Intersection of Race, Gender, and Philanthropy: Engaging Women of Color in Philanthropy

Women have a long history of volunteering their time, talent, and treasure to support worthy causes and solve some of the great challenges our communities face.

Like never before, women of different backgrounds have rising economic, financial, social, and political power thanks to their increased participation in the workforce, educational attainment, and leadership roles. With direct influence over how wealth is spent, the face of philanthropy is changing with women from many cultures and communities of color—Black, Asian, Latina, American Indian, Pacific Islanders, and more—actively participating in giving and volunteering.

As a women’s foundation, centering women as the donors and recipients of funds, we recognize the critical importance of engaging and leveraging the philanthropic potential of all women in our region, and understanding how giving connects them to each other and to the causes they support.

A new study from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, Women Give 2019: Gender and Giving across Communities of Color, is the first to explore philanthropy at the intersection of race and gender. The report finds that gender differences are consistent across racial groups—women are more likely to give than men are—but, unlike gender, a donor’s race does not have a significant effect on the amount given to charity. When we take into consideration factors like gender, wealth, income, and education, race does not significantly influence giving.

The report challenges common perceptions about who our society sees as philanthropists, and explores the ways in which race influences how organizations engage donors from diverse backgrounds. For example, the report reveals that fundraisers are less likely to approach philanthropists of color. Women Give 2019 highlight studies that show African Americans would donate more if organizations asked them more often, and that Latinos are highly interested in charitable giving, but organizations are less likely to engage with them as often or with the same relationship depth as White donors.

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In addition to highlighting findings from quantitative data, the authors of the report conducted six in-depth interviews with women of color philanthropists. In sharing their stories, it is clear that for these women, gender and racial identities shape and guide their philanthropic work. These stories also surface some of the different pathways women take to establish their philanthropy, the unique perspectives and experiences they bring to giving, and highlights the importance of doing more to mentor and engage women of color in philanthropic endeavors.

The biggest challenge facing our community is not a lack of strategies to address the needs of women and girls who are vulnerable to experiencing economic insecurity, but a lack of resources. Women Give 2019 suggests untapped opportunities to increase and catalyze these resources.

Creating a welcoming, diverse, and inclusive culture in philanthropy is also about creating space and opportunities for communities of color, and in particular, women of color, to participate as donors.

Claudia Williams is Program Officer at Washington Area Women’s Foundation where she contributes to crafting and executing program strategy and manages the Young Women’s Initiative of Washington, DC

Recommendations to Facilitate Accessible & Affordable Mental Health Services for Young Women of Color in the District of Columbia

Centering the voices and lived experiences of young women of color in identifying challenges and solutions to improve their lives is critical to developing effective interventions to bring about change. Last year, as part of the Young Women’s Initiative, The Women’s Foundation facilitated conversations and conducted interviews with young women of color across DC to learn about their assets and potential, and to understand what challenges inhibit their success.

In these conversations, participants acknowledged the need for prioritizing affordable and accessible mental health and counseling services in DC. The urgency of this unmet need came up in nearly every topic The Women’s Foundation explored. Whether discussing bullying at school, the aftermath of violence, or involvement with the juvenile justice and foster care systems, young women of color talked about mental health supports as an option they need to start a healing journey and move forward.

Mental health supports are critical components of navigating trauma, but the lack of economic resources, narrow provider networks, and high out-of-pocket costs, as well as stigma around mental health issues prevent young women of color from seeking help.

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Data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey show that in DC young women of color are not receiving the support they need. A high percent of young women of color attending high school, in particular Latinas, experience mental health disorders that prevent them from doing some of their usual activities. In 2017, one out of every ten Latinas attempted suicide, about a quarter seriously considered attempting suicide, and close to half of all interviewed said they felt sad or hopeless.

During May, organizations across the country are rising awareness about mental health, and advocating for policies that support people with mental illnesses and their families. Half of all lifetime mental health conditions begin by age 14 and about 75 percent by age 24. Early interventions for young women of color are crucial to improving outcomes and increasing the promise of recovery.

Some recommendations to facilitate accessible and affordable mental health services for young women of color in the District of Columbia include:

For school systems:

  • Expand the number of youth-friendly, gender-responsive, trauma-Informed, culturally and linguistically competent counselors available to young women of color all the way from elementary school to college.

For community and youth-serving organizations:

  • Offer free counseling services for young women of color who cannot afford them.
  • Facilitate nonjudgmental and nondiscriminatory peer support among young women of color.

For funders:

  • Invest in cutting-edge research to better understand the mental health needs of young women of color in DC.

For government:

  • Increase and protect funding to provide mental health support and treatment to youth in foster care and the juvenile justice system.

For legislators and policymakers:

  • Remove barriers to access and participation of mental health services.

 

To read more recommendations and to learn more about ways to support young women of color in DC, click here.

Claudia Williams is Program Officer at Washington Area Women’s Foundation where she contributes to crafting and executing program strategy and manages the Young Women’s Initiative of Washington, DC

DC Government Takes Steps to Advance Racial Equity

Racism in the United States has shaped institutions, policies, and practices in a way that creates, maintains, and perpetuates racial inequities. Because of this backdrop, racial disparities across every indicator for success are more likely to be the norm rather than the exception. In DC, young women of color live in communities with fewer resources and opportunities, and are vulnerable to experiencing higher rates of poverty, violence, and involvement in foster care and the criminal justice system.

Our local government, in partnership with philanthropy, businesses, and nonprofits, has the ability and responsibility to change this.

Mayor Bowser and the DC City Council can focus on tackling the roots of these disparate outcomes by taking actions that disrupt the underlying systems perpetuating inequity. While this will require a significant adjustment in the way the District operates and allocates resources, the good news is the City is starting to take some important first steps to address ongoing racial injustices.

Last Thursday, the City Council held a hearing on the Racial Equity Achieve Results Amendment Act (REAR Act). The legislation, introduced by Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, proposes to operationalize racial equity by requiring the Office of Budget and Planning to design and implement a racial equity tool, adding racial equity performance measures to agency performance plans, and providing racial equity training for all DC government employees, among other things.

Implementing a framework that integrates explicit considerations of racial equity in DC’s decision-making would bring awareness of the policies and practices whose effects may seem neutral but that disproportionately impact people of color.

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This year, for example, the proposed budget cut to the New Heights Program for expectant and parenting students, disproportionally affects young women of color. Teen births for Latinas and Black young women in the District are nearly 25 times that of White young women. These births primarily occur among young women attending poorly resourced schools, living in neighborhoods with maternal care and food deserts, and limited transportation options.

Moving forward, City Council can enhance the REAR Act by expanding the scope of the racial equity toolkit to explore the unintended negative outcomes of policies and programs at the intersection of other identities, for example, race, gender, disability, and immigration status. The Council can also deepen DC government’s commitment to racial equity by engaging more deeply with communities of color to center their lived experiences, and ensure they participate in taking decisions that affect them.

We applaud the steps DC government is taking to dismantle systems and practices that create inequity and exclusion, and look forward to working with city leaders and our community partners to advance opportunities for all.

Claudia Williams is Program Officer at Washington Area Women’s Foundation where she contributes to crafting and executing program strategy and manages the Young Women’s Initiative of Washington, DC