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The DASH Wellness Program

Langan Denhard is our Health and Wellness Intern at the Cornerstone site. She is a senior at the University of Maryland studying Community Health.

After about a year working with DASH, my time with this organization is wrapping up as I prepare for life beyond graduation.  Before I say good-bye (for now) to the staff and residents I’ve grown to love, I’m taking a moment to reflect on our wellness programming—where we are now, and how DASH can continue to grow.

At DASH, we provide services to fulfill the 7 dimensions of wellness that contribute to physical, emotional, and spiritual well being.

Social wellness: the ability to connect with and relate to other people.

Many survivors of domestic violence may lack close relationships and support systems.  Abusers often use emotional manipulation to isolate their victims and the effects of that can last beyond the abuse.

We promote social wellness by building a safe, secure community within our program.  Cooking with Afusat, the monthly cooking class led by one of our advocates, is among our most popular programs.  Afusat also leads monthly birthday parties for all residents to attend.  Our regular family movie nights are highly attended and allow the children and mothers to relax.

We also host a variety of groups that promote more intimacy and trust between our residents, allowing them to discuss shared trauma and personal experiences.  As part of my internship, I developed “Free to be Me,” a four-part course on healthy relationships and safer sex.  The course is currently being successfully implemented by two volunteers.

Occupational wellness: preparing and making use of personal gifts, talents, and skills to achieve a feeling of enrichment and purpose.

Our residents blew us away at our Winter Talent Show, showcasing their abilities to sing, act, dance, and play instruments.  Other residents use their artistic talents to make our building beautiful.  Our hallways are decorated with masterpieces made by our child residents during our weekly Art Group.

Alondria, our Economic Empowerment Advocate, helps our residents prepare for, find, and maintain employment.  On May 8th, our residents will have the chance to showcase their skills for our first ever Networking Night.

Physical wellness: maintaining a healthy body and seeking medical attention when needed.

Our physical wellness program keeps growing!  On Saturdays, we have our Double Fitness Feature: Weightlifting with David followed by an hour-long Zumba dance party.  On Sundays, women and teen residents can participate in Yoga.  Kid Yoga is held on Monday evenings.

Free to be Me and Let’s Talk are recurring programs that promote sexual health. We also hold one-time workshops on topics such as HIV, breast health, and contraceptive choices.

Seasonally, we receive an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables from a nearby farmer’s market. When paired with our popular cooking class, residents gain the skills to prepare healthy meals for themselves and their children.

Emotional wellness: includes the ability to cope with challenges, to accept self and past mistakes, and to develop stress management techniques.

Because of our low-barrier access to services model, we serve clients dealing with varying levels of trauma, and thus varying levels of emotional wellness.  This dimension is particularly intertwined with the others, but many of our programs are specifically focused toward the emotional wellbeing of our residents.

Acupuncture is regularly provided for our residents as pain and stress management.  Our grief counseling groups, provided as needed, help residents work together to move past trauma.  Monthly Let’s Talk groups provided through Metro TeenAIDS allow residents a chance to discuss shared stressors like parenting, body image, and relationships.

Environmental wellness: this refers to the ability to make a positive impact on the area surrounding us.

Though residents stay for a maximum of 2 years, it’s important for our residents to feel a sense of ownership over the building and surrounding community.  Our wellness coordinator, Annabeth, leads gardening activities to beautify the area surrounding Cornerstone.

Revolution: DASH, our community service-learning group for kids and teens, spent an afternoon picking up trash around our neighborhood.

Intellectual wellness: engaging in creative activities to increase knowledge and skills.

Our groups allow our residents to learn from each other; we try to incorporate a discussion component as much as possible into our programming.  Madeleine, another UMD intern, leads a weekly journaling group on Fridays.  Our recurring parenting class promotes new ideas in effective black parenting.  By popular request, we are now in the beginning stages of introducing a book club.

Do you have something to add to our Wellness Program?  Contact Annabeth Roeschley, our Wellness Coordinator, and/or Mari Vangen-Adams, our Volunteer Coordinator.

DASH Founder and Executive Director Blogs from Kabul

Our founder and executive director Peg Hacskaylo is in Kabul and will be in other parts of Afghanistan on sabbatical for the next three months. She’s traveled there to visit domestic violence housing and shelter services, run by Shukria Khaliqi. Shukria visited DASH last year for three days. Follow along as Peg blogs for The Huffington Post from Kabul. Here is her first post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/margaret-a-hacskaylo/the-currency-of-change_b_3254787.html.

Home. Means. Safety.

(Cross-posted with National Alliance to End Homelessness Blog)

By Peg Hacskaylo, Executive Director, District Alliance for Safe Housing

Trudy[1] had been living in an apartment with her boyfriend and their son for about 2 years when the abuse from her boyfriend became more frequent and more intense. She wanted to move out but couldn’t afford to live on her income from her job as a cashier at a local retail store. One night, when her boyfriend had another violent outburst, Trudy called the police. When they arrived, an advocate was with them to help her determine what services she needed. She said she couldn’t stay in their home because, if her boyfriend went to jail, she couldn’t afford the rent and, if her boyfriend was released, she wouldn’t feel safe there. So the advocate placed her and her son in a hotel paid for by compensation available to crime victims. She could stay at the hotel for up to 30 days while she tried to figure out what she would do.

By her second week in the hotel, Trudy had called every resource given to her to find another place to live, to no avail. She finally went to the city’s intake center for homeless families but they told her that she wasn’t considered homeless because she wasn’t living in a shelter or on the streets. By the end of the month, Trudy went back to live with her boyfriend, who had been released from jail, because she had run out of time and had nowhere else to go.

But when her boyfriend’s abuse continued, Trudy again began searching for another place to live. She reached out to the local battered women’s shelters and was eventually able to get space for herself and her son for up to 90 days. When her time there was about to run out, she again went to the central intake center, only to be told that she was still ineligible for housing because the shelter she was living in wasn’t part of the city’s homeless housing system. Trudy left the shelter to live in a friend’s basement until she could figure out her next step.

Stories like Trudy’s are all too common in the District of Columbia and throughout the U.S. Women are one of the fastest growing groups of homeless people in the country (Goodman, Fels, & Glen, 2011), and domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness among single women and women with children (National Coalition for the Homeless, 2005). In one large-scale study, 92 percent of homeless mothers reported experiencing sexual or physical abuse in their lifetimes (Browne & Bassuk, 1997). The limited availability of safe and affordable housing options frequently results in women falling into homelessness after exiting abusive situations (National Institute of Justice, 2008), and homelessness dramatically increases their risk of suffering episodes of sexual assault and other kinds of abuse (Goodman, Fels, & Glen, 2011).

When we founded the District Alliance for Safe Housing (DASH) in 2006, our initial plan was to create a safe emergency-to-transitional housing facility for survivors of domestic violence. At the time, the demand for housing for victims displaced from their homes was overwhelming and the resources to meet the need were scarce. The D.C. police annually received over 30,000 calls for domestic violence incidents and approximately 1,200 families were being placed in hotels for lack of available emergency shelter beds. There were then a total of 48 beds for women and children escaping abuse and fewer than 200 units of transitional and long-term housing for families exiting shelter.

We soon realized, therefore, that our primary objective would help only a fraction of those who needed it. We spoke to women on a daily basis who told us that they needed help not just accessing safe housing programs, but permanent safe housing. We heard from advocates that survivors needed help keeping their permanent subsidized housing or getting into affordable, rental housing. We needed a broader strategy to solve this problem.

Our strategy, a combined effort on three fronts to achieve greater housing accessibility for survivors from shelters to permanent housing, involves:

  • Creating additional safe housing
  • Facilitating access to existing housing programs
  • Preventing victims’ fall into homelessness

Under this strategy we worked with homeless and housing providers to ensure their housing was accessible and safe for victims. We worked with landlords to ensure they didn’t inadvertently discriminate against victims in rental housing. And we worked with domestic violence service providers to help them advocate for victims in the District’s complex housing system. As our strategy developed, so did our programs, and soon we had a continuum of housing support for survivors, wherever they turn for help.

Notably, our strategy has evolved into something more than just creating more, and more responsive, housing for women and families. It’s become about changing the way we see the problem, which lies directly at the intersection of domestic violence and homeless/housing services. Because at that nexus there is a disconnect that creates a sort of double-jeopardy for victims – putting them further at-risk of homelessness and abuse. We learned that domestic violence service providers and homeless service providers function in numerous parallel ways – in the same jurisdiction, with many of the same sources of funding, and almost always serving the same clients – but generally remain siloed and apart.

Domestic violence service providers traditionally focus on crisis intervention with victims, with an emphasis on protecting them from the threat of violence. Homeless and housing providers traditionally have focused on protecting their programs from the potential for transience, in the belief that survivors of domestic violence won’t last in their programs because they will leave to reconcile with their abusers, and the threat of violence that survivors present, thereby screening survivors out of their programs. While these concerns may be legitimate, they may also serve to keep women in perpetually unstable situations or force them to return to abusive homes for lack of other safe housing options.

Fortunately, with the advent of Rapid Re-Housing and Trauma-Informed service models, both domestic violence and housing/homeless service providers have excellent tools to begin addressing this gap. At DASH, we help families move into permanent housing units straight from crisis and bypass the range of emergency, transitional, and permanent housing programs, allowing them to “transition in place” and facilitating moves for families at-risk of imminent violence to other units within the city.  We also work with survivors to help them cope with the trauma they’ve experienced and regain a sense of self-determination. And all of this is accompanied by constant Wellness and Safety planning to help survivors effectively ensure their own safety from abuse.

The elimination of homelessness is the express goal of advocates, funders, and governments across the country and has been for a long time now. And while a good deal of progress has been made in getting individuals and families housed, preventing their fall into homelessness, and increasing the availability of options across the housing spectrum, victims of domestic and sexual violence have, until now, seemed to defy conventional wisdom. With these new models of service, this doesn’t need to be the case – not for Trudy or anyone else.

[1] Not her real name, based on a true story.

New ‘Bright Space’ Provides Children Displaced by Domestic Violence A Unique Learning and Play Environment to Help Them Thrive

Grand Opening of Bright Space at DASH

Today the District Alliance for Safe Housing (DASH), Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy & Ecker, P.A., and the Bright Horizons Foundation for Children officially opened our Bright Space® learning and play facility for children living in the emergency-to-transitional housing of DASH’s Cornerstone Residence. The children living in this special residence have been displaced by domestic or sexual violence, along with their mothers, and the Bright Space will provide a dedicated safe, warm, enriching area to play, learn, and thrive.

Studies have shown that children of all ages flourish when they have a safe place in which to explore the world around them, filled with books, toys and activities. Children experiencing stress associated with witnessing violence and experiencing homelessness especially need access to these kinds of child-friendly spaces that are key to social and emotional development.

“We hope this Bright Space will bring comfort to families and children during an especially difficult time” said Bright Horizons Center Director Rebecca Weiss who led the team of child care employees in charge of creating the Bright Spaces room within the shelter.

This Bright Space will provide a place for children to play. Children like five-year-old Mary who came to Cornerstone with her mother, who was battling drug addiction, had been incarcerated, and experienced violence at the hands of a former partner. Mary’s mom credits her daughter as her inspiration to heal and get back on her feet, often referring to her as a “gift from God,” and a second chance to live her life in a positive way.

Bright Space Learning and Play Facility at Cornerstone Residence (DASH)

“This Bright Space will offer many of the families who enter our program every year a comfortable place to play and simply experience the joy of being a child or parent,” said DASH Executive Director Peg Hacskaylo.

The center’s construction and opening was largely made possible by a donation from the law firm of Shulman Rogers located in Potomac, Md. The firm is celebrating its 40th anniversary through A Special Year of Giving in which they have dedicated themselves to civic engagement and giving back to the community that contributed to their success. The donation to Bright Spaces is just one in a series of 12 volunteer projects the firm will lead during their anniversary year.

“For 40 years, we have dedicated ourselves to not only serving our clients, but to also serving the community we call home,” said Lawrence A. Shulman, founding partner of Shulman Rogers.  “As we celebrate our 40th Anniversary, we continue our dedication of service, philanthropy, and support.”

DASH Executive Director Peg Hacskaylo and Board Chair Julia Wright

The Bright Space was also made possible through the generous donations of Bright Horizons Division 2, Hoppmann Audio Visual, Capital Commercial Flooring, James G. Davis Construction, Diamond Contracting, Inter-American Development Bank, and DASH Board Chair Julia Wright.


About DASH

DASH is an innovator in providing access to safe housing and services for survivors of domestic and sexual violence and their families as they rebuild their lives on their own terms. We seek to strengthen and expand the local safety net for survivors by providing high quality, voluntary services that are responsive to their individual needs and by engaging lawmakers, community members, service providers, and survivors in the movement to make safe housing more accessible in the short-term and less necessary in the long-term.

DASH’S Cornerstone Program is our emergency-to-transitional housing program, and the District’s largest dedicated safe housing program. It provides 43 units of safe housing where residents may live for up to 2 years.  In the year and half since opening, DASH has housed more than 150 women and children at Cornerstone. More information is available at https://dashdc.wpengine.com/

About Bright Horizons Family Solutions

Bright Horizons Family Solutions is the world’s leading provider of employer-sponsored child care, early education and work/life solutions. The company operates child care and early education centers across the United States, Europe and Canada. The Bright Horizons Foundation for Children was founded in 1999 to help forward the vision of Bright Horizons Family Solutions to brighten the lives of children, youth, and families in crisis. Bright Spaces is a program of the Foundation, creating dedicated play areas in shelters and community agencies that serve children in crisis. There are currently more than 260 Bright Spaces open in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, the United Kingdom, and Ireland that serve more than 10,000 children and families every month. More information is at www.brighthorizonsfoundation.org.

About Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy & Ecker

Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy & Ecker, PA is the largest independent law firm in the Washington Metropolitan suburbs. Founded in 1972, the firm and its attorneys and staff are committed to client service, a relentless focus on problem solving and an underlying compassion for its clients and community. The firm has a general practice with experience ranging from corporate law, to real estate, to litigation to estate planning and family law. Additional information on Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy & Ecker and its practice areas is available at www.shulmanrogers.com.

First Green Bean Harvest at Cornerstone

This weekend Cornerstone saw our first harvest of beautiful green string beans! The kids who helped put these beans in the ground reaped their harvest. Too tasty to wait for the stove, we were rinsing and munching them raw right out in the garden. Handfuls of basil, rosemary, and cilantro went home with residents, too. These harvests even inspired several impromptu garden tours for residents who had not yet seen what’s growing.

Next up: tomatoes!

DASH Featured on Channel 9 News

Note: Some content may be triggering due to graphic descriptions.

Last night, DASH was featured in a lead story on Local Channel 9 news (CBS) about safe housing for survivors of domestic violence, a story that was prompted by the murder on Tuesday in Kensington, MD of Heather Lynn McGuire by her estranged husband, who then committed suicide.

Journalist Gary Nurenberg interviewed DASH Executive Director Peg Hacskaylo, as well as three residents of DASH’s Cornerstone Program, to learn more about safe shelter and how victims of domestic and sexual violence can escape abuse to establish safe, independent lives.  The story, which also included footage of the safe housing apartments DASH provides its residents at Cornerstone, was the centerpiece of the feature, which also highlighted the story of the tragic murder/suicide, an interview with Dr. Phil McGraw, and an interview with Yvette McCade, a local survivor of an attempted murder by her estranged husband.

Click here to view the broadcast and read the accompanying story, click here: WUSA 9 DASH Story

If you would like to learn more about DASH and support the work we do to help women and children in our community, our 2nd annual DASH Allies in Change Luncheon is March 28 (2012) at 12:00pm at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill. The lunch is open to the public and tickets can be purchased here: Allies in Change. You can also visit www.dashdc.org for more information or to make a secure donation online.

DASH extends its gratitude to WUSA Channel 9 and Gary Nurenberg for its attention to and coverage of this important issue and the work that DASH does to help survivors and their families.

Spotlight on Allies in Change Awardees: Andrew Lazerow

On March 28th, DASH will hold its Allies in Change luncheon, honoring individuals who have supported and amplified the organization’s work to provide relief to survivors of domestic and sexual violence,through emergency and long-term safe housing, and innovative homelessness prevention services. We are doing a series of interviews of our awardees beforehand to share a bit more about them. This blog focuses on Andrew Lazerow, who provides DASH with legal support. Remember to buy tickets to the luncheon here!

Andrew Lazerow, Allies in Change Awardee

DASH is happy to introduce Andrew Lazerow. Mr. Lazerow is of counsel in the Covington & Burling LLC’s  Washington, DC office.  He has extensive experience representing clients in numerous industries in alternative dispute resolution proceedings, antitrust class actions, securities fraud class actions, and complex commercial disputes.  He litigates and tries complex matters in federal court.

Below are comments Andrew had about his relationship to DASH and to the District of Columbia:

I grew up just outside the city, in Bethesda, Maryland.  However, I went to law school in DC, and lived in Adams Morgan for a number of years.

I have had the privilege of acting as quasi outside counsel to DASH for a few years now.  I truly enjoy working with DASH’s executive staff to ensure that DASH operates safe facilities.  It is obviously critical that victims of domestic abuse not suffer a second injustice.  DASH offers that refuge, and I hope that my small part furthers DASH’s mission in this regard.

DASH is proud to honor Mr. Lazerow for his ongoing contributions to the organization.

Spotlight on Allies in Change Awardees: Paul M. Aguggia

On March 28th, DASH will hold its Allies in Change luncheon, honoring individuals who have supported and amplified the organization’s work to provide relief to survivors of domestic and sexual violence,through emergency and long-term safe housing, and innovative homelessness prevention services. We are doing a series of interviews of our awardees beforehand to share a bit more about them. This blog focuses on Paul M. Aguggia, who provides DASH with legal support. Remember to buy tickets to the luncheon here!

Paul Aguggia

Mr. Aguggia had the following commentary on his involvement with DASH:

“I am extremely proud to serve as outside legal counsel for DASH.  I hope to help serve the community that DASH serves by providing support for this wonderful organization. I grew up in NYC but have spent most of my adult life in DC.  I like to think I have become “connected” to DC in many ways … but I still love New York.  I believe strongly in DASH’s mission.  I commit to that mission with my time and I urge others to find their own way to help these women and their families. I am proud to be able to assist DASH in some way.  Peg Hacskaylo and the DASH team are truly extraordinary.”

Paul Aguggia focuses his practice on public and private capital raising transactions, corporate reorganizations and restructurings, mergers and acquisitions, federal securities reporting, federal and state securities compliance matters and general corporate law. He provides strategic advice and counsel to public and private companies. Mr. Aguggia also advises private investors, including private equity funds and hedge funds. He has experience with proxy contests and shareholder relations matters. Mr. Aguggia frequently advises boards of directors and committees of boards of directors on corporate governance matters, including compliance with the provisions of Sarbanes-Oxley. Mr. Aguggia has extensive experience in the representation of financial institutions and has frequently represented mutual financial institutions with respect to mutual-to-stock conversions, mutual holding company reorganizations, charter choice and depositor/member issues. Mr. Aguggia received his J.D. from Duke University School of Law and a B.A. from Colgate University.

Spotlight on Allies in Change Awardees: Dr. Kathleen Maloy and Heather Burns

On March 28th, DASH will hold its Allies in Change luncheon, honoring individuals who have supported and amplified the organization’s work to provide relief to survivors of domestic and sexual violence,through emergency and long-term safe housing, and innovative homelessness prevention services. We are doing a series of interviews of our awardees beforehand to share a bit more about them. This blog focuses on Dr. Kathleen Maloy and Heather Burns of the Live to Give Charitable Trust Fund, a philanthropic endeavor established to make strategic and catalytic gifts that support community oriented efforts focused on promoting social justice, equity and human rights. Dr. Maloy speaks to us here on behalf of Live to Give. Remember to buy your tickets to the luncheon here!

Dr. Kathleen Maloy and Heather Burns, Live to Give Charitable Trust Fund

“We learned about DASH from our good friend Jane Pittman who prepared a short film for DASH.  We were so impressed during our conversation with Peg Hacskaylo, DASH founder and ED, about the DASH philosophy and programs to support women and their families leaving domestic violence.  This inspired us to contribute support to DASH and to the building that can provide a safe and healing haven for women and their families.

Both Heather and I grew up in New England but have lived in DC for last two decades.  We both are committed to supporting organization that contribute to creating healthier communities for vulnerable populations, especially women and their families.

We think that services like the ones that DASH offers, i.e., services that support that availability of safe and peaceful spaces where women and their families can start to recover from the experiences of domestic violence at their own pace and in accordance with their own needs are very important.  Too often the deep impact of experiencing domestic violence is not understood.

Heather and Kathleen at Habitat for Humanity build in Egypt, 2010

Because of the prevalence of domestic violence, as well as the frequency of insecurity and uncertainty for women and their families, it is so important to expand programs and services that secure safety and peace for women and their families.  The long-lasting impact on children mean that these program and services are key to securing the future for our country.

We love DASH and the principles that DASH stands for.”

Dr. Kathleen Maloy has worked for 30 years to improve the lives of low-income and vulnerable populations by engaging in research, policy, and advocacy focused on health equity and social justice. Her expertise include Medicaid, Medicare, healthcare financing reform, state health and mental health policy, intersection of health and public health policy, and the social determinants of health.

Heather Burns recently retired as the Senior Vice President with Booze Allen Hamilton, having successfully led the firm’s health care business. Since leaving Booze Allen, Heather and partner Kathleen Maloy have created the Live To Give Charitable Trust Fund. She is also the Executive Producer of In Your Hands, a film about two people’s journey to reintegrate into society after incarceration.

Thank you, Live to Give!

Spotlight on our Staff: LaToya Young

LaToya Young, DASH Housing Resource and Training Manager

Since 2007, LaToya Young has worked as the Housing Resource & Training Manager at the District Alliance for Safe Housing in Washington, DC. A native Washingtonian, she works with survivors and service providers – some people coming for assistance directly from the street, some who are referred to DASH. She also works with DASH’s innovative program, the Empowerment Project, where she connects with landlords and realtors to help them understand domestic violence and consider partnering with DASH in locating affordable, safe housing for clients. Additionally, she leads a host of different kinds of trainings for DASH.

Young works with all new domestic violence advocates in the District through the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence. She teaches these newcomers about the local and federal protections that survivors have under the Violence Against Women Act, and helps new advocates get acclimated to the work and the field. Through DASH, she also leads a DV 101 class on the barriers that domestic violence survivors face, and how individuals and communities can support them. DASH and the Housing Resource Center also point housing programs and staff to Young’s trainings, showing people what is available for survivors and pointing out emerging options.

Interally, she trains all DASH staff on housing resources and process. People know of Young and DASH’s work through community outreach and education, as she and other staff regularly attend a host of community meetings. There have also been a lot of referrals to lead service providers to Young. Requests for training are also made through the DASH website. “People are fascinated by how DASH works, and want to learn more,” says Young.

But what makes DASH so different in terms of its community work to address domestic violence? “It is really the culture,” Young explains. “We have few barriers – really none – for survivors interested in accessing our services. We allow survivors to be self-governing. We know that when given the chance, these clients can make good decisions, and are not interested in taking that power away from them. Power was already taken from them in the abuse, and we don’t want to do that again as an organization.”
Before coming to DASH, Young worked for three years at a “Housing First” organization, helping chronically mentally ill people to secure permanent housing. It gave her the expertise she is currently able to use in her work with DASH. She is very passionate about her work with survivors.

“What I also love about DASH is that while we are new in the field of dv prevention, we are very open to learning from and helping others in the movement and the field,” Young shares. “We are also committed to learning from survivors and working with them to help break the cycle of violence and create healthy lives. We are unique in how we as a staff come to understand social and economic justice, and how we commit, as a staff, to learning and growing.”

Contact DASH for more information on participating in one of Ms. Young’s trainings.

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