Here’s How You Can Help Local Organizations Impacted By The Coronavirus

{Updated March 30, 2020 – We have added additional needs & resources to the list}

Neighbors and Friends –

These are uncertain times.  Many of us have not experienced a public health crisis quite like this before. While the quick spread of the coronavirus is anxiety provoking for all of us, for some in our community, the situation is dire.

We have heard from some of our Grantee Partners and area nonprofits that they are having trouble maintaining supplies of items to keep their offices safe for their clients, who rely on their critical services. We encourage you to review the lists below and consider donating an extra bar of soap or bottle of cleaning solution that you may have at your house or buy at the store this weekend.

The examples below are only a few of hundreds of organizations across the region that provide critical services to our community. We encourage you to reach out to other non-profits and community groups with whom you may already have a relationship to inquire about their needs as well.

Let’s all work together to ensure our neighbors have the resources they need to stay healthy and safe during these uncertain times.


Martine Sadarangani Gordon
Vice President of Programs



Ayuda provides legal, social, and language services to help vulnerable immigrants in our neighborhoods access justice and transform their lives. Since 1973, we have served more than 100,000 low-income immigrants throughout Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia.

Ayuda has created a COVID-19 Relief Fund to support the immigrant community who are low-income and in need of assistance.

Learn more and donate here:


The Black Swan Academy (BSA) a non-profit organization in the District of Columbia that concentrates its efforts on empowering Black youth through Civic Leadership and Engagement.

In recognition that the closing of District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) and the reduction of hours for waged workers may add an additional burden on young people and their families, BSA will be providing support in the following ways:

  • For the next two weeks, Wednesday-Friday from 11am-1pm, they will set up a table in front of Anacostia High School (Wednesdays), Ballou High School (Thursdays) and/or Woodson High School (Fridays) to offer young people and their families toiletries and other items.


Please drop off any of the following supplies during those times (If you need them to pick up supplies, please contact Samantha Davis at

  • Soap (bar or liquid)
  • Hand sanitizer (to the extent you can find it)
  • Gloves
  • Disinfecting wipes or sprays
  • Lotion
  • Toilet paper
  • Non perishable food items
  • Paper bags

Beginning April 1st, they will do a food and toiletries drive, you can contact Kaya Lowery, to arrange pick up/ drop off.

Point of contact:
Samantha Davis


The Capital Area Food Bank leads our region’s efforts to provide good, healthy food to people struggling with hunger and food insecurity. Each year, we source and distribute the food for over 30 million meals.

For members of the public who wish to provide support, they are experiencing a shortage of volunteers, and are in critical need of help sorting and packing food in their warehouse and assisting at their offsite food distributions.  To learn more and sign up, visit


The DC Rape Crisis Center is a non-profit organization (501(c)(3)) and the designated sexual assault coalition for the District of Columbia. DCRCC is the oldest and the first rape crisis center in the country, and the only rape crisis center in the District of Columbia that has spent the past 46 years listening to the stories of survivors of sexual assault. In our 46th year, we are working to empower a culture of consent.

The organization is in need of:

  • Cleaning supplies
  • Facial tissue
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Bottled water
  • First aid kits
  • Disinfecting wipes
Point of contact:
Indira Hernard

Asian Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project (DVRP) is seeking gift-card donations.  During this pandemic, many DVRP survivors need financial support to buy food, child care items, and personal hygiene products especially those in shelter.
Online gift card donations from places like Target, CVS or anywhere that provides e-gift cards can be sent to DVRP at and will be gifted directly to DVRP clients.
Learn more about DVRP here:

FAIR Girls  provides crisis intervention, specialized housing, and holistic and compassionate care to survivors of human trafficking.  FAIR Girls is located in Washington, D.C. but serves girls and young women trafficking survivors from across the DMV.

During the COVID-19 crisis, we have expanded our Vida Home hours to 24/7 — requiring an additional 45 hours of staff coverage per week, and increased groceries and cleaning supplies — to ensure that the survivors we serve have a safe, stable and healthy home they can count on during this crisis.   While we are unfortunately not able to accept new clients during this time, FAIR Girls continues to provide information and crisis intervention, via our 24/7 hotline (855-900-3247), to law enforcement, government agencies, community service partners and survivors who need our assistance in this unprecedented time.

We need the following supplies at the Vida Home, and vital financial help to continue to provide lifesaving services during the COVID-19 crisis:

  • Toilet paper and Paper towels
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Soap
  • Canned and non-perishable goods
  • Hand sanitizer

Please make a donation through the FAIR Girls website

Friendship Place is the premier housing service provider for people experiencing homelessness in the DC region. Our innovative, customized, person-focused programs empower participants to rebuild their lives, find homes, get jobs and reconnect with friends, family and the community, permanently.
The organization is in need of help to:
  • Buy food and toiletries for the families and individuals we serve. Many people cannot get out to buy groceries and other items. Friendship Place staff have begun ordering items to be delivered to participants, but this need only grows.
  • Continue and expand our street outreach activities. Friendship Place staff are still going out to meet with those in homeless camps, and we need tools to keep those in the camps safe.
  • Prepare for an influx of people who have lost their homes and their jobs. We need to prepare all our programs to serve the surge of participants we will see in the wake of this crisis.

Donate to Friendship Place and their efforts on their website.

Point of contact:

Generation Hope is a not-for-profit that supports teen parents completing their undergraduate degrees. Part of the support we provide to the scholars is access to one-on-one mentoring. As most scholars are transitioning online due to COVID-19 and school closures, we would like to increase our recruitment efforts for Volunteer Sponsors who would be willing to mentor a scholar. We want to ensure that the scholars have access to the support they need to excel during these stressful times.
Sign up to be a Volunteer Sponsor today and learn more about the role, eligibility criteria and the application here:
Point of contact:
Susanne Nyaga
Generation Hope  is also in need of:
  • Grocery, restaurant, or Visa gift cards to provide to our families
  • Virtual gift cards are preferable
Point of contact:
Caroline Griswold Sholt

Over the next two weeks, Homeless Children’s Playtime Project’s office will be closed with staff working remotely. They will continue to monitor the situation and will assess whether or not to reopen Playtime at the shelters on March 30. In the meantime, they are not accepting any in-kind donations or deliveries at the office.
While Playtime programming is on hold, they plan to create play kits for the children to keep them entertained during this troubling time. If you would like to help them fill the kits with fun reusable toys and activities, please provide an online donation through their website.
Program staff will purchase items and deliver them to the children at the shelters.
This is an unprecedented time and with your generous support, Playtime is doing all it can to bring play to children already in crisis, while keeping staff, families, and volunteers safe.  Thank you for continuing to support the power of play!


Healthy Babies Project is a private, not-for-profit, community-based support organization for District of Columbia pregnant and parenting women and families.

The organization is in need of:

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Germicidal wipes
  • Water bottles
  • Non-perishable foods
  • Hand soap (Liquid)

Point of contact:
Regine Elie


House of Ruth empowers women, children and families to rebuild their lives and heal from trauma, abuse and homelessness.

The organization is in need of:

  • Sanitizing wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Bleach
  • Bars of soap
Point of contact:
Elizabeth Kiker


Each year, Identity assists more than 3,000 in-school and out-of-school youth and their families who live in high-poverty areas of Montgomery County and who are most at-risk for poor academic and economic life outcomes.

The organization is in need of:

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Disinfecting wipes
  • Disinfecting spray cleaner
  • GROCERY STORE GIFT CARDS Because many of our client families are not in traditional salaried jobs, their lives and livelihoods will continue to be disrupted. In addition, the nutritious meals served at school that augment many of their children’s food supply are temporarily unavailable.  Donated grocery store gift cards (we suggest in denominations of $25-$50) would have an immediate and welcome impact. Gift cards can be mailed to Identity, 414 E. Diamond Avenue, Gaithersburg, MD 20877
  • DIRECT DONATIONS TO IDENTITY’S LIFT FUND which provides short-term financial relief to Identity clients facing truly extraordinary crises or hardship. It was created last year in honor of Identity Co-Founder Candace Kattar to ensure her legacy of never giving up on any young person in need. To contribute to this Fund, please visit this link.
Point of contact:
Allison Russell

Mamatoto Village is a non-profit organization devoted to creating career pathways for Women of Color in the field of public health and human services; and providing accessible perinatal support services designed to empower women with the necessary tools to make the most informed decisions in their maternity care, their parenting, and their lives.
The organization is in need of:
  • Grocery store gift cards
  • Canned vegetables
  • Canned tuna and chicken
  • Dry goods (rice, pasta, beans)
  • Pasta sauce and tomato sauce
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Bar and liquid soap
  • Personal hygiene items (lotion, body wash, toothpaste)
  • General donations for emergency family needs
Point of contact:
Briana  Green


“At Martha’s Table, we remain deeply committed to protecting the health, safety, and well-being of our community. Throughout this difficult time, we are doubling down on our mission to support strong children, strong families, and strong communities. As we continue to stand alongside our community, we will roll out an unprecedented level of support.

We are partnering with DC Health, the Capital Area Food Bank, DCPS, Trayon White, and other local leaders, to ensure bags of groceries are available at designated select school sites every day which are listed on our website.
If people are interested in making an in-kind donation they can check out our Martha’s Table Amazon Wish List featuring our most urgently needed items.
Please visit for more detailed opportunities!

Network for Victim Recovery of DC (NVRDC) empowers victims of all crimes to achieve survivor defined justice through a collaborative continuum of advocacy, case management and legal services.
  • Survivors of sexual abuse, domestic violence, and other crimes are requesting additional support from our Survivor Support Fund, and we need additional resources to provide that. For example, we are seeing requests for food donations.
  • We also would like to pay our Advocates hazard pay (time and a half). Our advocates are still responding to Washington Hospital Center 24/7 to provide crisis advocacy for sexual assault survivors seeking forensic exams. Our funders are not able to approve hazard pay, so we would like to provide this to advocates, but estimate it would cost us an additional $145.20 per 12 hours of response to survivors at the hospital.
To donate, please visit their website!
Point of contact:
Merry O’Brien


Northern Virginia Family Service’s (NVFS) breadth, depth and scope of services offer the resources and support to ensure that everyone in need, at every stage of life, maximizes their potential and fully contributes to a thriving community.How you can help a family prepare:       

Donate Food, Goods, Grocery Gift Cards, or Funds

Make a donation through their website.

Drop-Off Location: NVFS SERVE Campus, 10056 Dean Dr, Manassas, VA 20110

To minimize person to person contact, please consider mailing donations to: NVFS Headquarters, 10455 White Granite Drive #100, Oakton, VA 22124

Most-Needed Items:

  • Diapers
  • Shelf-stable canned goods
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Household Cleaning supplies (Clorox wipes, Lysol, rubbing alcohol)
  • Antibacterial soap
  • Grocery Gift Cards

You can also purchase items through their Amazon Wish List. On the shipping address page, select NVFS HQ—this will ship it to their Oakton office. On the gift message, please include your name & address so they can properly acknowledge your generous donation.

Catholic Charities is committed to the poor, especially the homeless, immigrant newcomers at-risk and persons with mental and developmental disabilities. We will help individuals and families move from crisis and isolation to stability and growth through food assistance, workforce development and education to name a few.

Food: Food and meal distribution — including St. Maria’s Meals, the Southern Maryland Food Bank, food pantries and the SHARE Food Network — continues with safety protocols such as curb-side pickup in place. Because schools are closed and senior centers are limiting contact, the distribution of snack saks and senior saks has been suspended.

Shelters: Five low-barrier shelters operated by Catholic Charities on behalf of the District of Columbia are open 24 hours. Those seeking access to shelters are being screened by health-related questions, with 1,200 clients processed so far in the District and at a transitional housing facility in Rockville, Md.

Additionally, our medical clinics remain open to act as a frontline filter to alleviate stress on hospitals!

Health care: Our medical clinics continue to be open, some with limited hours. Patients are being screened before arrival. We are not accepting walk-ins or new appointments. Telemedicine appointments are offered for sick patients. Health Care Network services as they are available are being done remotely, and many behavioral health services are being done remotely.

Find out more on their website!


Concentric Private Wealth is providing a variety of support to our clients and the larger community to help people have an outlet so that we can stay centered and thrive during these uncertain times.

Check out a brief description of each weekly session below:

PARENTS: Mindful Parenting in Times of High Stress with Francine Ronis, LPC

Parents, this one’s for you – a special opportunity to connect with a behavioral therapist in a group discussion to help navigate the difficult conversations of today as a family. Every Monday at 11:00 ET, you can join these enlightening discussions to help ease your mind and offer a sensible perspective.  Date and registration details will follow soon.

ADULTS: Meditation led by Yogi Marni Sclaroff

Start your day with our weekly meditative Zoom-cast. It will be both calming and centering – a short, 15-minute escape from the headlines and negativity that will help you cope with the events of the day, and stay connected. Please join us for this live stream every Tuesday at 7AM ET and 11AM ET

OPEN TO ALL: Growth IGNITED with Katherine Liola

And finally, twice a week please don’t miss our live storytelling podcast where Katherine interviews people from various backgrounds and careers (including an Olympian, multiple Emmy winner and physician)  to hear about their personal journeys of growth, and how they arrived where they are today. Their stories will lift and inspire you. Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4:00 ET.

TEENS: Resilience Building in Uncertain Times with Corinne Coppola, M.A. 

Our upcoming live streaming Zoom-cast for middle-schoolers, and our live-streaming Zoom-cast for high-schoolers. These warm, meditative sessions will help ease the mind and promote self-confidence and a more positive, hopeful tone while adding valuable perspective.

2:00 ET – Middle School Students

2:30 ET – High School Students

TEENS and COLLEGE STUDENTS: Financial Bootcamp with the Concentric Team

Check out our MoneySmartSeries for teenagers and young adults, look for Office Hours with the Concentric Team – a candid forum for answering common questions and offering tips for high-schoolers and college students. Our MoneySmart series has become a favorite among students and we’ll be announcing our weekly schedule soon.

ADULTS: Money Talk with the Concentric Team

We will also be making space each week for a high level Q&A session to help those you care about find direction in these uncertain times. Invite your friends and loved ones.

All reflective and learning sessions are virtual and compliments of Concentric Private Wealth. Learn more on their website.


  1. MHA’s COVID19 website houses information and resources specific to the current public health emergency including live events and webinars, screenings, and educational resources:
  2. MHA’s May is Mental Health Month Toolkit may also be helpful as its handouts focus on life after loss, eliminating toxic influences, creating routines, supporting others, and connecting with others.
  3. MHA’s affiliate, Vibrant Emotional Health, administers the Disaster Distress Helpline and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Calls (1-800-985-5990) and texts (text “TalkWithUs” to 66746) are answered by a network of independently-operated crisis centers around the country, who provide psychological first aid, emotional support, crisis assessment and intervention, and referrals to local/state behavioral health services for follow-up care & support.
  4. For policy changes related to tele-health services in Medicaid and Medicare, here is a summary of changes including a link to the state-by-state breakdown.

Have additional resources? Please email

Do you care about Pre-K in Virginia? It’s time to speak up.

The shifting political landscape in Virginia has made national news over a variety of issues in the Commonwealth. But, one area of public policy that has been quietly making traction for years, and is now poised to be a breakout star of the current Virginia legislative session, is early education.

There are a number of bills and budget proposals being considered in the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate that could change the early childhood development and education system. One such issue is mixed-delivery pre-kindergarten. Mixed-delivery refers to the idea that publicly-funded early education programs do not need to exist only in public schools, but rather can be delivered through center-based and home-based programs as well.

Earlier this month, budgets approved by the Virginia Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee and the House Appropriations Committee maintained most of the Governor’s proposals for early childhood. In regard to funding for mixed-delivery grants to non-public school programs to offer pre-kindergarten, the House proposed $3 million of the original $10 million proposed for the grants, while the Senate proposed $8 million. This week the Virginia House and Senate appointed conferees to negotiate differences in the budget. Advocates argue that the House budget would provide 500 fewer mixed-delivery slots than the Senate budget.

From where we sit at The Women’s Foundation, the fact that the debate is over the amount of funding, versus the viability of mixed-delivery as an option, is pretty amazing. Here’s why:

There was a time when the debate around early education was whether or not it should be publicly funded at all, let alone how it should be delivered. With everything we’ve learned about early brain development and the impact of early education in the past few decades, it’s exciting to see the policy debates shift from “if” we should support early education to “how” can we support early education.

Check out ECEFC Grantee Partner Voices for Virginia’s Children’s blog to learn more and get involved!

Lessons From a Labor of Love

It’s been one year since the inception of DC Youth Moving Forward, (DCYMF) a youth advocacy leadership program that myself and a beautiful community helped shape. The experience has been none other than a labor of love. DCYMF was initially birthed after working with a group of impeccable high school students to organize a youth-led town hall, in partnership with, Mikva DC and Critical Exposure.

In 2018, Mayor Muriel Bowser was up for re-election and this was an opportune time to help create a space where young people could sit face-to-face with the Mayor and ask earnest questions about her plans to support DC youth. With this vision, I recruited a youth leadership team to help organize a youth town hall in the spring of 2018.

Recruiting young people to organize the town hall was an intentional effort and message to the youth leadership team that they were capable of driving decisions that impact them.  Organizing a town hall is a task that requires project management skills, event planning and most importantly collaboration to make sure all bases are covered for the event. These are all skills that young people are more than capable of executing, given the proper support.


Too often we ask young people to convene and discuss issues that impact their communities without providing them the tools or a plan of action to address issues in ways that are true and unique to them. The youth town hall was that pathway of opportunity.

In preparation for the event, I worked with the leadership team to teach event planning, how to develop outreach plans to garner interest from their peers and how to conduct background research for the Mayoral Candidates. The leadership team focused their questions on school discipline policies, youth homelessness, healthy food access, gentrification, mental health support, gun violence and community safety.

But one topic that seemed to be a point of focus was the leadership team’s concerns about tensions that exists in some communities between young people and Metro Transit Officers. Some young people described experiences where they felt Metro Transit Officers often abuse their authority and have a general lack of respect for youth, which often leads to escalated conflicts.

After hearing from young people during the town hall, the youth leadership team decided to take on this issue area for the 2019 program year. I was awarded the Rock Star Fund grant at the perfect time. It allowed me to recruit additional young people that were interested in working on this issue area, while being compensated to learn about advocacy.


One of the most crucial conversations I have at the very start of the program is about the importance of managing expectations as the youth group takes on their work for the program year. When working toward a legislative change, patience and persistence is a virtue. It can take months, or years until elected officials feel confident in supporting a policy change that is in the best interest of all DC residents.

Reflecting back on my experience as a young person, working toward a goal without witnessing it materialize for some time can be challenging. Persistence and dedication is a primary lesson weaved in any form of service or advocacy. In fact, these are some of the greatest lessons participants attest to at the conclusion of the program year. As more young people in the city participate in advocacy programs, this is a lesson that will be threaded in their pursuit for systemic change. A lesson that will be applicable in various aspects of their lives.

Mariah Green is a Rock Star Fund awardee.

Think Local. Invest Local.

We’re Rising. We’re Mobilizing. We’re Making History – That’s the tagline of the 2020 Women’s March taking place this Saturday in Washington, DC and in cities across the country, but the tagline could also be viewed as a rallying call for 2020 and beyond.

We’ve entered a new decade and with that an opportunity to re-imagine what the next 10 years could and should look like. I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions per se. Despite the best of intentions, they always seem to result in broken promises to yourself, and I’d rather not kick off the new year disappointing myself!—but rather I like to reflect on the previous year in order to inform where I want to go in the coming year.

This year, I’ve been particularly reflective, in part because I’m a stone’s throw away from being an empty nester, and I know that the next 18 months will fly by. I’m watching my daughters grow into young women, beginning to feel their way through the world, asserting their independence and making their own decisions about the kind of world they want to live in. My oldest will cast her first presidential vote this year, while my youngest is arguing fiercely that the voting age should be lowered to 16. I work hard to suspend what some may call my “jaded and outdated” opinions in order to truly listen to, and receive, their ideas and opinions with an open mind and an open heart. It turns out that practice has taught me much lately and has actually fortified me for the coming year. And let’s be honest—it’s going to be a year.

It’s no coincidence that within days of the Women’s March we will commemorate the birthday of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and mark the National Day of Racial Healing. The story of gender and racial equity are intertwined, and in 2020, the fight continues.

That is why The Women’s Foundation remains steadfast in our commitment to equity. It is our duty as a women’s organization to acknowledge and embrace the fact that the strength of our community lies in the diversity and identities of its members, and in order for us to effectively address the economic realities of women and girls, we must create space for the voices and experiences of women and girls who experience inequities to be seen and heard.

And that’s what The Women’s Foundation does best.

We amplify community needs and voices by convening unlikely allies to work together to center the voices of women, girls and gender non-conforming individuals in our region.

Young women like Kiran Waqar, one of our Young Women’s Advisory Council Fellows, who has made it a priority to amplify the voices of fellow youth, lifts others up by taking center stage and speaking up herself.

Or organizations like the DC Rape Crisis Center, our Grantee Partner, which provides survivor-centered advocacy with an equity frame as the only rape crisis center in DC.

Or partnerships like those between Prince George’s Child Resource Center and Maryland Family Network, who are organizing Prince George’s County early childhood educators to advocate for themselves in Annapolis.

And leaders like Samantha Davis, Founder and Executive Director, of the Black Swan Academy, who is fiercely committed to creating a pipeline of Black youth leaders through civic leadership and engagement.

Those are just a few examples of local women and organizations rising, mobilizing, and ultimately making history in their own way to better their communities. As we embark on this new year, we’re investing in our local leaders to ensure that women and their families thrive now and into the next decade.

Specifically, in 2020, we will draw attention to issues embedded in economic security that don’t necessarily garner the local spotlight that they deserve. Issues like the role that gender-based violence plays in creating barriers to women achieving financial stability, the need for high quality and affordable early education programs so that moms can work, and racial disparities in women’s reproductive health care that prevent women and girls from  physical and emotional well-being. We will invest in and work across these primary areas, and others, because we recognize that in order for a woman to successfully complete a job training program or thrive in the workforce, she and her family members must be healthy, secure, and free of violence.

That is what we will do.

Now I have two asks of you in 2020: Think local. Invest local.

Take a moment to learn something about your community, a local nonprofit, or a local leader. Shop at a local women-owned business. Eat out at a woman-owned restaurant. Remind yourself that Washington, DC and the metropolitan region is more than the national political headlines. It is a vibrant and beautiful community that we all call home, and it is filled with boundless opportunities and potential.

So, when you’re marching this week, remember – you don’t have to look too far for the effective change you seek because it is already happening right here in the Washington region.

We’re rising. We’re mobilizing. We’re making history. Join us.


Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat

Make Equitable Spaces For Youth to Lead

Goldie Patrick with YWAC Fellows Kiran Waqar and Alicia Butler during Declare Equity for Girls Panel
Goldie Patrick with YWAC Fellows Kiran Waqar and Alicia Butler during Declare Equity for Girls Panel

Last month I had the honor of speaking as a panelist at the “Declare Equity for Girls: Power & Policy Luncheon” by Crittenton Services of Greater Washington. As a poet, I am used to speaking on stages, navigating green rooms, and gauging audiences but something about this experience felt different. Not only was there a focus on amplifying the voices of the most marginalized, there was action behind the rhetoric.

From my experiences, the luncheon organizers and participants embodied the change needed. I felt this most clearly in the language used. Far too often, the same spaces focused on empowering youth, end up creating barriers to youth engagement. They hold events during the school day, don’t assist with transportation, and on top of all that, use jargon that most (without the expertise) don’t understand. This isn’t to say that young people aren’t intelligent or that they are incapable of participating in these discussions. On the contrary, youth often have the experience and input that adults need to create sustainable, long-term solutions.

Instead of using academic and industry-specific jargon, effective messages are rooted and phrased in youth’s lived experiences and expertise.

What I commend Crittenton Services for doing so well is mixing the two — bringing in academics, community leaders, and experts who use language you don’t need a PhD to understand. Incorporating slam poetry, an emcee who casually referenced “hot girl summer,” and a panel that ranged in age, I quickly realized that this event was unique. For once, I felt comfortable. I felt like I was in a space made for me, not one in which I was merely a guest. I didn’t feel the need to code-switch or censor myself. I knew I was in a place where I could talk about intersectionality and Muslim Twitter in the same breath; I knew I could be myself and still be heard.

Reflecting on my experience as a panelist with Crittenton Services of Greater Washington and my experiences with numerous other organizations, I am reminded again of the ways we show up in spaces. The ways we show up and the people we bring with us can either continue the status quo or make room for new, innovative, and necessary change.

As we engage with nonprofits, advocacy organizations, and organizers, we need to be mindful of what we are bringing to the table and what doors we are opening for others. Are we advancing ourselves and the communities we purport to serve? I think this is a question every good public servant needs to ask themselves constantly. For myself, I am reminded of the ways I can accidentally play into the “good Muslim” stereotype, furthering myself while simultaneously feeding into problematic vs. bad Muslim discourse. Even though my original intentions could have been innocent, the outcome is less so. To be an ethical changemaker, I must have both: the intention and the self-reflection required to secure the anticipated result.

Moving forward, I encourage all of us to take a critical look at ourselves and the organizations we engage in. It is far too easy to critique other organizations that you forget to take a look in the mirror. In what ways do we do perpetuate the same forces, whether it be gate-keeping, white supremacy, or sexism, that we purport to be fighting against? How can we identify these gaps? And most importantly, what solutions can we take to be more equitable, and inclusive, and not just in theory but also in practice.

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.


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.


Prioritizing equity and community engagement in contraceptive access work

A few weeks ago, Dr. Jamila Perritt and I represented Washington Area Women’s Foundation’s DC Family Planning Project (DCFPP) on a panel at the annual Society of Family Planning (SFP) Conference. The panel was about prioritizing equity and community engagement in contraceptive access work.  We told attendees that the progress of the DC initiative so far is as much about what we have decided not to do as it is about what we have decided to do here in DC.

Society of Family Planning (SFP) Conference Panel

Let me explain!  Our DC initiative is among a growing number of contraceptive access projects nationwide that have decided not to center our work or define our success based on increasing uptake of long-acting reversible contraceptives (methods of birth control that provide effective contraception for an extended period without requiring user action — including injections, intrauterine devices (IUDs) and subdermal contraceptive implants). Instead, we are trying to learn more about what DC residents want and need with respect to their reproductive health and then to define success around how we can contribute to adapting health care service delivery to meet those needs.

To provide some background regarding where the DCFPP started and where we are now …. the idea for a DC contraceptive access project came from an initiative in Colorado that was designed to improve access to LARCs. The Colorado project provided training, operational support, and low- or no-cost LARCs to low-income women statewide.  Colorado reported significant increases in LARC uptake and reductions in unintended pregnancy and abortion.  Many states followed suit with similar initiatives — focusing on LARCs, targeting low-income women, and measuring success by increases in LARC uptake and decreases in unintended pregnancy.

When a similar project was discussed in DC, concerns were raised about a “one size fits all” approach to contraceptive access.  So, The Women’s Foundation, in partnership with a coalition of local funders and providers,  commissioned a DC Family Planning Community Needs Assessment, which was conducted by the GW Milken Institute School of Public Health.

Through the needs assessment, we learned that reproductive health services and contraceptive methods (including LARC methods) actually already are widely available in DC; however, there is a disconnect between the availability/accessibility of these services and the utilization of them.  We also learned that a significant number of sexually active adolescents and young women in DC are not accessing health care services at all.  Additionally, the results showed low knowledge levels, negative perceptions, suspicions, mistrust and safety concerns about birth control methods (especially LARC methods) – particularly among young women of color from low-income households.

Given the study results, we realized that we needed to assess, understand and mitigate potential unintended harm to our community if we initiated a LARC-focused project directed at low-income households, which predominately include people of color in DC.  It became clear that there are many issues other than the ability to access highly effective birth control methods or a desire to reduce unintended pregnancy that are impacting contraceptive and reproductive health care decision making in our community.

There is a long history of reproductive coercion and abuse against African Americans in the U.S., including nonconsensual medical experiments, compulsory sterilization, the Tuskegee Untreated Syphilis Study, and — more recently, unconstitutional, coercive laws proposed to incentivize or require welfare recipients to use the contraceptive implant, Norplant; disproportionate marketing to Black women of the injectable contraceptive Depo-Provera; and judges offering inmates reduced sentences if they agree to be sterilized or use contraception.

As a result of the DC needs assessment findings, our reproductive health/racial equity research, and recognition of how historical injustices and resulting mistrust may affect reproductive health care decision making, we believe that:

  • method-effectiveness is not necessarily the main priority in all patient’s decision-making regarding contraception;
  • some patients do not want LARC methods for a variety of reasons;
  • access barriers are not necessarily as simple as method availability and having enough clinicians trained to provide them; and
  • unintended pregnancy is not universally viewed as a problem that needs to be prevented.

We also believe that the community the DC initiative is intended to serve should guide the identification of the problem(s) to be addressed, as well as the potential solutions that best fit the needs of the community.  Thus, we are focusing on whether people are able to access the services they need and want, and whether they experience those services positively, and ultimately whether their reproductive quality of life improves.

Admittedly, these outcomes are harder to quantify and thus, more difficult to fund. Yet, we believe this is the right approach for our community.

We currently are partnering with like-minded contraceptive access initiatives from Mississippi, Chicago, Boston and Utah, in collaboration with the UCSF Person Centered Reproductive Health Program, to form a national collaborative to develop shared evaluation measures for our contraceptive access work that do not focus solely on LARC devices and unintended pregnancy prevention. We hope to jointly develop shared language; to strengthen our messaging to funders regarding the value of investing in equity/justice/quality-focused contraceptive access initiatives that go beyond LARC access to tackle wider quality issues; and to better identify and articulate how we can define success with this work.

Circling back to a key takeaway from the SFP Conference, in order to move toward more equitable reproductive health care for all people, more philanthropic organizations must be willing to invest in people-centered contraceptive access initiatives that are built from the bottom up rather than the top down.  These endeavors require “thinking outside the box” and a willingness to fund projects that are lifted up by the communities meant to be served to solve problems identified by the communities meant to be served through promising interventions conceived and designed by the communities meant to be served.  In order to live our values regarding racial equity in reproductive health, we must be willing to change the systems and practices that hold racial inequities in place.

UCSF Person Centered Contraceptive Care Framework

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.

(Click image to read report)

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