Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month and in honor of #TDVAM, DASHers wore orange to show solidarity & to raise awareness about dating violence.

This year’s theme is #KnowYourWorth

Wear Orange Day is an annual effort to show teens that they’re deserving of love. By sharing on social media, we’re helping spread the message that everyone deserves a healthy relationship.

Grateful for You

This has been a year like I’ve never seen. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. There have been sad moments and scary moments and moments that I find difficult to put into words. But there have also been so many grateful moments. So many.

I’m grateful that the survivors and families at DASH are healthy and housed.

I’m grateful for my staff, who continue to show amazing creativity, responsiveness, and grace in the face of unprecedented challenges.

I’m grateful to you for keeping DASH open and agile when everything was shutting down and all was uncertain. 

I understand that DASH is only possible because of our community of supporters — each and every one of you — who step up time and time again to extend generosity and love to individuals and families you will never meet.

Housing means safety. And at a time when it has never been riskier to be unhoused or unsafely housed, thank you for digging deep and doing more than ever before

For you, I’m am grateful.

With our thanks for all you have done for us,

The DASH Family

The Best Way to Help during the Holidays

There are so many different ways to support DASH this holiday season that we often get asked: What is the BEST way to help? What do you need the most?

The simple answer is: The best way to help is to make a cash (or gift card) donation.

But why?

Because the best gift you can give a survivor is the control to make their own decisions.

One of the principles our organization is founded on is sovereignty: having the freedom and responsibility to determine what is right for yourself and to be self-governing. We believe that each survivor who comes to us for help deserves the right to choose for themselves what help is best for them, and in fact, is best equipped to know what they need most.

The gift of cash (or, as we are requesting this year, gift cards for our residents) gives DASH residents the gift of choice. They can decide where and how to spend that money to best benefit themselves and their family members this holiday season.

Because donations of goods often come with unexpected costs.

Many of our generous supporters have made amazing in-kind donations of goods to DASH and we are forever grateful. However, right now our manpower and resources are already stretched thin, dedicated to keeping our survivors and our staff safe during the pandemic and keeping our doors open, and we have had to pause most of our volunteer support. Managing the influx of donated goods creates additional strains on our staff time, and safety issues as we try to avoid spreading infection.

Because in an emergency, money pays the bills and keeps the lights on and the doors open. And COVID-19 is nothing short of an emergency.

We are committed to keeping our doors open to survivors in need 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We are glad to report we have maintained this access to our safe housing throughout the last nine months. Every gift made this December will help us continue that commitment.  

Because we KNOW what needs to be done, and we are committed to doing it well.

The gift of money allows DASH to use our immense expertise on the subject of safe housing and domestic and sexual violence to decide where funds are needed most, what programs would be the most beneficial, and where the need is the greatest.

On top of that, DASH believes in transparency and integrity. We provide our donors with access to all of our financial records, and we have an impeccable reputation, so you can trust that when we choose how to use your donor dollars, we will make sure they are used wisely, and for the maximum benefit of the survivors we serve.

Want to do even more? Engage more people to help!

Our supporters often organize goods collection points in their office – everyone brings in an unwrapped gift or something similar – to donate to DASH during the holidays. This year, most offices are working virtually, but that doesn’t mean you can’t engage your co-workers to help survivors during a time that can be especially challenging for them.

Consider hosting a virtual crowdfunding campaign and collecting donations for DASH this holiday season. We have all the tools and tips to make this easy and fun for you and your friends. Just email JMurgel@dashdc.org to get started!

Please consider making a donation to DASH before the end of the year or donating a gift card to help a survivor and their family celebrate the holidays. Thank you for your support!

Kicking off Domestic Violence Awareness Month!

Last Thursday, October 1st marked the first day of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This month of raising awareness and taking action looks a little different this year for DASH and other organizations across the District as we prioritize our community’s safety and health and shift all of our typical activities online.  

It is more important than ever to recognize the importance of this month amid the pandemic, which has created a second pandemic of its own. DASH Executive Director, Koube Ngaaje, shares:

“Domestic violence has become a second pandemic of its own—stay-at-home orders became worst case scenarios, leaving survivors trapped indoors with their abusers. When the pandemic first broke out, we were seeing almost four times the number of survivors reach out for services.” 

For Koube Ngaaje, helping others is in her DNA

We know the effects of this will remain long-term, so we need all the support we can get from the community to continue providing survivors and their families the safe housing and critical services they need.  

While we can’t gather in person just yet, there is no shortage of ways to get involved! All month long, there will be opportunities to engage from joining the conversation on social media, becoming a fun-raiser to rally your friends and family to support our $10K Challenge to provide Welcome Home Kits, or attend a virtual event! 

For the full list of ways to get involved, please visit: dashdc.org/dvam/ 

Meet our new Deputy Director!

Pierre Berastain

A strategic leader in the fields of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and gender-based violence, Pierre Berastaín officially began his journey as DASH’s Deputy Director on September 1, 2020.

Pierre brings with him over a decade’s expertise in organizational management and development, strategic planning, grant management, fiduciary acumen, training and technical assistance, and team development.

We are very excited to welcome Pierre to the DASH team!

Please click here to see his bio and learn more about Pierre.

Back to (virtual) school

Monday was the first day of school in DC, and it should have been a day full of children packing backpacks, putting on new shoes, and heading out the door excited about the promise of a fresh start and a new year. Unfortunately, COVID-19 means most students will start the school year virtually, at a desk or table in their home.

On this unusual first week of school, we want to thank our community for supporting DASH. Because of you, many children will start their first week of virtual learning in a safe place to call home. Survivors and their families have a roof over their heads and a secure place to learn, play, and sleep, thanks to your support of our safe housing programs.

Survivors, and their families, should never have to choose between living with abuse and becoming homeless. Thanks to you, they don’t have to. We wish them, and all of you, a happy and safe first day of school.

Now, let’s crack open some books!

Awe-Inspiring Advocate Series — Meet Rolando

Rolando is DASH’s Community Housing Resource Specialist located at Virginia Williams Family Resource Center, DC’s main entry point for families experiencing homelessness.

Throughout this pandemic, he has shifted from seeing survivors face to face to conducting intakes and meetings by phone; he is doing a lot of crisis intervention work to help ensure that survivors are safe during the stay-at-home orders. At times, he receives a call from someone talking quietly or speaking only in yes/no answers, and he learns that the abuser is there in the room with them.

“When they are calling us, it means they have reached a breaking point. Asking for help is always the last thing – it means they are out of all other options.”

Rolando explains the process he takes survivors through when they call:

“I always try to remember that when they are calling, they are in a moment of despair so I try to keep it as simple as possible and take on whatever I can take on to relieve them of their anxiety.”

After walking survivors through the process, Rolando does what he can to relieve the burden on the survivor in their moment of crisis, whether that’s by calling landlords or finding out information on their behalf. That way, he can return to the survivor to guide them through their next steps to make the process of leaving and finding safe housing as calming and seamless as possible.

Knowing that the pandemic has put even more people at risk of violence and abuse, Rolando stays motivated by knowing that “an already vulnerable population is made more vulnerable” by COVID-19.

Awe-Inspiring Advocate Series — Meet Jenny

Jenny is one of DASH’s Community Housing Advocates who works with survivors and their families in our scattered-site safe housing programs.
Jenny works primarily with survivors who are both living with HIV/AIDS as well as takes the lead with many of our Spanish-speaking individuals and families.

Jenny has seen first-hand how this public health crisis has hit them the hardest.

During this pandemic, she has seen an overwhelming number of people who are undocumented, have been laid off, can’t apply for unemployment, or didn’t receive a stimulus check — all while navigating abusive relationships.

Jenny shares, “Seeing these inequalities so clearly motivates me to keep doing this work” to help educate survivors navigate these situations as best they can.

“A lot of people don’t have access to information so I’ve been explaining that you can’t get evicted during this time or that you can set up a payment plan with your landlord.” She continues to share ways to remain stably housed and resources that are available through DASH and community partners.

Jenny mentions that this work is hard, but every so often she receives a message like this one:

“Thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me and my son during the program. I really appreciate it.”

And that’s what makes it all worthwhile.

Right to Dream Launch

Introducing: Right to Dream
A new, scattered site housing and support program for transitioning youth survivors

We are excited to share the details of our newest program, Right to Dream, with you. Right to Dream is being launched with support from the DC Department of Human Services.

What is it?

Right to Dream is a scattered site housing program for transitioning youth (aged 18-24 years) who are survivors of domestic and/or sexual violence and are experiencing housing instability or homelessness. Like all of DASH’s programs, it is survivor-centered, low-barrier, voluntary, and trauma-informed.

Through Right to Dream, 20 transitioning youth survivors will receive wraparound supports and housing assistance for up to two years. They will be partnered with a DASH advocate who will help them find and set up their new home in the DC Metro area, check in with them regularly, and help them develop a plan for their safety. DASH advocates will support participants to identify their long-term goals and help them eliminate the barriers to achievement, helping them gain the skills, knowledge and supports to be confident adults who break the cycle of power and control their abusers forced on them.

Right to Dream participants will have access to educational opportunities, job training and career planning as well as a range of other community-based supports to help them recover from their trauma and become empowered. The goal at the end of the program is for each participant to be economically secure and able to maintain the lease on their own or, if they choose, to move to similar lease, and transition to self-sufficient adulthood.

Who is it for and why?

Transitioning youth are in a unique phase of life, no longer kids but not yet adults. This is a period of enormous change, when young people explore numerous roles and transitions, often leaving behind adolescent support networks, finding a job, and forming more complex intimate relationships.

Unfortunately, this is also a time when young people are especially vulnerable. Individuals are the most likely to be the victim of domestic or sexual violence during this phase of their life. Marginalized populations, such as LGBTQ youth or those living in poverty, are at even greater risk.

This program is the first of its kind in the District and surrounding areas. In partnership with the DC Department of Human Services, DASH saw the immense need for support services for this population and designed Right to Dream to help fill this gap.

What are we hoping to accomplish?

Right to Dream will:

  • Provide survivors access to safe, stable housing
  • Increase survivors’ safety
  • Increase survivors’ personal, economic, and safety-related empowerment
  • Provide supports that enable survivors to recover from their trauma
  • Support survivors to improve their overall wellbeing

Right to Dream will expand the availability of youth-friendly, survivor-focused, long-term transitional housing and services so participants are provided with resources to do more than just survive, enabling them to grow, achieve their own goals, and move toward independent lives.

How can YOU help?

One of the core components of Right to Dream is the support services for program participants. As we develop this portion of the program, we are looking to expand our partnerships in the community to help us provide program participants with more opportunities, including education and job training. If you are interested in partnering with us, please let us know by emailing righttodream@dashdc.org.

We are also recruiting more landlords and property managers to partner with DASH and provide housing through Right to Dream. Again, let us know if you can help by emailing righttodream@dashdc.org.

There are also a number of other ways you can get involved and support DASH. More information is available at https://dashdc.org/get-involved/.

You can learn more about Right to Dream at dashdc.org/programs-services-safe-housing-right-to-dream/.

Awe-Inspiring Advocate Series – Meet Zaneta

At the start of quarantine, Zaneta was concerned about what it all meant for her role as an advocate and how all the uncertainty would affect how she helps navigate survivors through the available resources.

“I’ve heard a lot of people joke ‘I’m sure you’re working a lot less from home’ but I’m actually working a lot MORE. I work with a lot of survivors who have a lot of anxiety about the pandemic that’s turned into frustration and I’ve been providing a lot of education around how to cope with that.

That’s what has kept me motivated – knowing that I’m providing education and access to resources that they might not otherwise have to stay safe and deal with their anxiety through this crisis.”

Zaneta Greene, DASH Community Housing Resource Specialist

Zaneta works with DASH families in our Empowerment Project, our scattered-site safe housing program, as well as provides services to elders.

Because of the limited housing options for elders as a result of COVID-19, Zaneta shared that she had to become more creative to help survivors navigate their safety planning.

“They’re stuck at home with their abusers all the time and all they want to do is flee. Usually, I am very hands-on and I would go meet with them, sit down with them as they fill out a housing application, but I’m not able to do that right now so I’m finding new ways of working with them to make sure they feel safe. At the end of the day, I’m working for the people.

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