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Safe Housing Champion: Mary Braxton

Building Brick Award

We are excited to award Mary Braxton, Assistant Community Manager at Edgewood Commons, with the “Building Brick” award. In construction, the “building brick” is that which makes up the substance of the structure. Mary Braxton’s help to ensure that the families at DASH are provided with more than just a safe place to run, but the ability to establish new homes – quickly, easily, and comfortably, the way a home should be – helps changes lives.

How did you first become connected to DASH?20150406_071949

My first connection with DASH was around the beginning of 2014 while working at another Edgewood Managed property. I was online researching housing programs for victims of Domestic Violence to assist a resident that was dealing with a serious domestic issue with her family and I came across a link (http://www.endhomelessness.org/library/entry/dashs-empowerment-project-rapid-re-housing-for-survivors-of-domestic-violen ). I clicked on the link  it was an article about DASH. I then googled DASH to get the contact information. I reached out to DASH to get more information and I started referring residents to them.

What has DASH’s impact been on the survivors of domestic violence you work with?

DASH has had a tremendous impact on the survivors I work with. The financial assistance that DASH has provided to survivors it has enable them to maintain their affordable housing and most are now receiving counseling from other sources.  Unfortunately, due to the type of work I do I’m unable to provide specific stories.

From your perspective as a property manager, what are some of the unique challenges that survivors of domestic violence face when looking for affordable housing?  

The greatest challenge survivors face is having good credit. Many of the survivors I work with depended on their abusers for financial assistance to pay their rent . Once the abuser leaves then the survivor can no longer rely on that source for assistance. Unfortunately, it’s a trickle-down effect and they’re not able to pay the rent on time and as a result I have to sue them. Every time they’re sued it’s reported to the credit bureau and then their credit is negatively impacted. When the survivor goes to look for affordable housing the first thing that is checked is their rental and credit history. Most HUD funded properties will not accept applicants with negative rental history.

Why do you think that safe housing is an important service for survivors of domestic violence in DC?

I think safe housing is an extremely important service for survivors because it allows them time to get themselves together and reflect on their situation. Without  safe housing they will not be able to move forward with their recovery.

Revolution: DASH is born

Kylie Musolf is a senior at American University studying Philosophy and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She has worked at DASH as the development intern since January 2014.

It’s hard to pinpoint the first service project I ever completed. I grew up in rural Michigan with plenty of opportunities to do community service, and I was fortunate to grow up in a community that valued my participation. Doing community service opened my world up to unimaginable possibilities and passions and helped me gain some of the skills and experience I needed to move toward them.  Service certainly helped bring me to DASH: one of the recurring volunteer projects I did in secondary school was at my local domestic violence shelter.

While I can’t remember my first experience with community service, I can certainly remember my most recent. Last Saturday I showed up at DASH (a little late, as the red line was single tracking) with two wonderful young women of Alpha Phi Omega, the national service fraternity. Little did we know that Revolution: DASH was soon to be born. Five young residents showed up on Saturday morning to clean up their community by picking up litter. We suited up with our warm clothes, sanitary gloves, and trash bags and headed out. We picked up several bags worth of litter such as beverage containers, old newspapers, cigarette butts, and candy wrappers from the sidewalks and street gutters. We took breaks between blocks to play tag and talk about school and sports.


The streets were sparkling clean and we were exhausted! The five young residents, two members of Alpha Phi Omega and I, returned to the community room to eat pizza (generously provided by &pizza) and talk about the environment.  We talked about the different kinds of litter we picked up, statistics about trash and litter, and how litter impacts our clean water supply. We also talked about how much water we use daily—I think everyone was surprised to know that we use nearly 350 gallons a day! We discussed how doing something simple like picking up litter impacts the entire world around us in multiple and important ways.  From this Revolution: DASH was formed. The founding members determined this awesome name for their community service club, which will meet monthly to do service and talk about social justice.

While we haven’t yet decided on the mission of the club (stay tuned for next month), my goal for the club is to help our young residents: recognize their social efficacy, build and explore their passions, and lead purpose driven lives.

Do you want to get involved in the Revolution? If you ideas for our next project or would like to donate lunch, please contact me at: KMusolf@dashdc.wpengine.com

RD process


Newtown Action Alliance visits DASH

On December 12th DASH hosted a group of volunteers from the Newtown Action Alliance (http://newtownaction.org/). This week over 150 volunteers from all over Connecticut traveled to Washington, DC in order to commemorate the tragic events of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting on December 14th, 2012. Groups of Newtown Action Alliance volunteers were working all around the metro area in order to infect DC residents with kindness, and it worked! We immensely enjoyed having them. They helped us prepare picture frames for our upcoming talent show and organized our art supplies closet. For DASH, the experience was humbling.  We appreciate their work and for allowing us to be a part of this day.


Supporter Spotlight: Meghan Walsh

We’re lucky at DASH to have the support of a number of people we work with, including Meghan – author of the blog below, local architect and DASH champion. Here’s what our Executive Director Peg Hacskaylo had to say about Meghan:

“Since the earliest days of DASH, I have considered my relationship with Meghan to be incredibly valuable and rewarding.  I learned so much from her in the beginning, working on the plans and renovation for DASH; and since, working together on various other construction and art projects.  Meghan has been a tireless and passionate supporter of ours. I couldn’t have asked for a better ally in making DASH a reality and helping to achieve our mission.”

Read more about Meghan’s experience with DASH!


photoI started working with Peg on DASH  in 2008 I believe. She called me for help in renovating a 5 bedroom rowhouse – her earliest vision of DASH.  As Peg’s vision evolved and she found support, that small project grew.  I didn’t hear from Peg for a while after our first conversation.  But then one day she called to request my help on a 27-unit building in Southeast Washington.  She, and I , were very excited about it.  I prepared an extensive feasibility study for the abandoned low rise apartment building, but the building was sold out from under DASH and Peg was back to square one… looking for a home for DASH.   Again, a hiatus in my working on DASH, until one day when she called to tell me that now, it was looking very positive and this time the building was 51 units.   I was thrilled for Peg and for the opportunity to work with her on her vision which had grown ten times since our first conversation.

The DASH building was a very challenging renovation project because of its extremely solid construction, and the constraints of budget.  Working with Peg and the team at DASH was a wonderful way for me to gain insight into what DASH does on a daily basis. Understanding issues of security, community, and safety were key as the project developed.  Working on a building as the architect, you spent lots of time together with the team at the building during its construction with weekly and sometimes bi-weekly visits.  At the end of this process there is a bittersweet feeling of happiness at the completion, yet loss because of the relationships that were developed for that moment in time.  I think Peg understands this as do all of the staff at DASH, for everything is in transition at DASH, all of the time.

photo_1By the end of the project, Peg knew me not only as architect, but she also learned that I have a fine arts background and I have done some public art and community projects, both in DC and in Brazil, through Axis Mundi, Inc., a non-profit that I founded in 2004.  When the Redskins alumni joined with KaBoom to build the playground in the front yard, she asked me if I could create a project to involve younger folks who live at DASH.  Peg had visited my home in Bloomingdale and seen the mosaics I made and incorporated into the design of my house. We had spoken about bringing some of this to DASH and this was the chance. Axis Mundi contributed materials to the project and we started to make the mosaic panels for DASH on the day of the Redskins playground build.

The mosaics that I like to make are broken tile mosaics.  I particularly enjoy this process because it feels healing to me. When we see a piece of broken tile by itself, our tendency is to consider it garbage.  When we break a plate or cup, we throw it away usually.  But when I begin to put them into a mosaic, I see that each broken piece has its distinct place amongst the other broken pieces. In life, I have had my failures and experiences that have hurt me, or that I might not like.  I tend see these experiences as unworthy, unimportant or ugly and want to throw them away, just like a broken plate.  And yet in combining these “failures” into a complete mosaic – my whole life – it is something spectacularly beautiful and incredibly unique… there will never be another exactly the same.  The act of laying each piece into place may seem monotonous or tedious to some.  But I find it soothing, and healing.  And I am always amazed at the end result.  While I plan out the overall image – a flower, a spiral, a beach scene, or just a field of a particular color, there is a joyful spontaneity and randomness to the placement of each individual piece.  It requires patience, some discipline, and time, but it is an enjoyable process with an always surprisingly beautiful end result. It is also a fun thing to do socially.  The day we made them at DASH I had some great conversations with all those volunteering.  And since then, I have spent time with my friends completing them and we too have had the opportunity to work on something constructive, while have long talks about life, joking and laughing together through the messy process of creating something beautiful.

Today, when I visited DASH to drop of the mosaic panels, I had a few flashbacks to the many stages of the building, from the run down apartment building it was prior to DASH, to the challenges that came up through the middle of construction process to the moment of completion, and move-in.  I don’t have a day-to-day role at DASH anymore, and it makes me happy to be asked for an ID when I come through the door anonymously.  It is a feeling that is hard to describe.  Kind of like being a broken piece of tile that found its spot in a beautiful mosaic flower. Thank you DASH for letting me be a part of you too!

Spotlight on Allies in Change Awardees: MOI and Jennifer Lee

DASH’s longtime corporate community partner, MOI, is this year’s recipient of the Keystone award.  MOI not only works with DASH to build awareness and support for the cause of safe housing and safe lives through events, they also donate their time volunteering and organizing much-needed drives for DASH’s women and children.  MOI has also donated endless amounts office furniture for DASH staff and its staff has helped design our office spaces.  Jennifer, Senior Consultant for Commercial Interior Solutions, explains more about this wonderful partnership below, and remember to buy tickets to the luncheon here:

My name is Jennifer Lee, I’m a Senior Consultant at MOI. MOI is a Commercial Furniture Dealership with 30 years of experience providing clients with comprehensive furniture solutions.

I work and play in DC!  I first heard about DASH back in 2009 when we hosted an art show that raised funds and awareness for DASH. It also gave members of the industry an opportunity to showcase our artistic talents.

When DASH was renovating the Cornerstone building MOI donated furniture as well as our services for design, labor, and project management for their staff offices.

DASH knows firsthand how large the need is locally for safe housing and support services. They bring vital awareness needed to educate others on the cause and effect relationship between domestic violence and the prevention of homelessness.

Their low barrier policy and the passion that their team has for the mission along with their unbridled resolve to give their residents the tools/skills needed to rebuild their lives with the respect and kindness they deserve.  DASH addresses the need for services and local housing for victims and assists with getting them into safe, supportive environments, where they can find success at their own speed. DASH is nationally recognized for their best practice model organization.

I feel passionate that women and children should be protected from violence and sexual abuse. Having a sense of security and safety in your home…this is the most basic need most of us take for granted. All women should have an alternative housing solution to living in an unsafe environment or on the streets.

“We” in the global sense, are ALL affected by domestic violence, sexual abuse, and homelessness.

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.

Knitting and Community Building

Donations from Looped Yarn Works

Alison Gurley, Resident Advocate at DASH, recently lead a knitting program with DASH residents. The pictures are just a portion of the yarn that was donated by DC business Looped Yarn Works. We are incredibly grateful for their generosity! Here Alison talks about how she came to DASH and the project:

I am originally from Massachusetts, but I went to a small college out in Minnesota called St. Olaf College. I graduated in 2010 and decided that I needed to be somewhere warmer so I moved to DC. I am a resident advocate. A resident advocate at DASH does pretty much what the title suggests, we advocate for our residents and partner with them throughout their stay at our transitional housing program. During their two years here, advocates work to support residents are they work toward their goals, seek permanent housing, connect to community resources and etc. Advocates are available to share their knowledge of community organizations and resources, government programs and benefits and to generally provide  a listening ear. We also plan much of the programming that occurs within our Cornerstone housing facility.

I first got involved with DASH as a full-time volunteer through Lutheran Volunteer Corps (kind of like AmeriCorps) in March 2011. I had been working at an organization doing advocacy work on federal immigration and refugee legislation, and I wanted a chance to do direct service work. DASH had an opening for a Resident Advocate so I applied to work here through Lutheran Volunteer Corps. DASH hired me as a full-time advocate outside of Lutheran Volunteer Corps in August 2011.

Resident Advocate Chanel Meadows, knitting with DASH residents

A number of residents had expressed interest in starting a knitting/crocheting group. One resident in particular was interesting in teaching crochet. For me, knitting is an important stress relieving activity, I find it wonderful and satisfying to create a tangible product. I thought it was a wonderful idea for DASH to help the women take some time for themselves and build community together. One of the founders of Looped Yarn Works used to work with a DASH staff member at Our Place, DC, so I got in touch with her to see if we could have supplies donated to make the group possible. Looped does drives quarterly to help make knitting/crochet groups possible for a number of non-profits.

As a resident advocate, my first priority is to build a relationship of mutual respect with the women I work with at DASH. The most important thing to me is that we approach the work we do together as a partnership. I want to make sure that the women have self-determination in the goals that they set for themselves and the life they build for themselves while they are in our Cornerstone program.

Donations from Looped Yarn Works

Knitting is a great way to build community. When your hands are busy, it’s amazing what will come out of your mouth! Building a strong community among the residents in our Cornerstone program is very important to DASH. Survivors are the people best equipped to help other survivors, we always want our residents to be able to turn to one another for support, as well as to staff.

Thank You from DASH!

DASH wants to extend a huge and heartfelt thank you to everyone who donated to our gift drive this holiday season.  Due to the incredibly generous donations we received from individual donors, groups, and organizations throughout the DC region, we were able to provide gifts to the over 50  women and 70 children in our housing programs who would otherwise receive nothing during the holiday season.

On Thursday, we held our first annual DASH Holiday Store (complete with a gift wrapping station) with all of the generous donations we received, enabling the women in our program to come and “shop” and wrap gifts for their children and pick up the gift cards and gift bags for themselves.

It was a truly wonderful day at DASH.  Our residents and staff were so thankful and amazed by the generosity of all of our community partners whose donations made it all possible.  Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.

DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Key School, TD Bank, Metropolitan Police Department; Victoria’s Secret, United Way-National Capital Area, DuPont Governmental Affairs Office, Planned Parenthood Federation of America,  The Red Derby, MOII, The Clearing Inc., Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, Park Road Community Church, Bank of America Women’s LEAD Group, Washington Business Journal,  Gifts for the Homeless, Women’s Law Society, Christian Law Society, Sports and Entertainment Law Society of UDC Law School, Hoppmann Audio Visual, Marriott Hotels, Kettler Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP, andour many generous individual donors.

We wish everyone a very happy holiday season and thank you all for your continued support!

DuPont and Pricewaterhouse Coopers Day of Service at DASH through United Way

On Monday, December 5, volunteers from DuPont and Pricewaterhouse Coopers teamed up for a United Way Day of Service to beautify Cornerstone’s outdoor space and assist in some heavy lifting around the building. Staff and residents were overwhelmed by the incredible work that they accomplished. From moving the contents of three programming rooms in only a half an hour to weeding, pruning, and even mulching the building’s front and side lawn, the volunteers exceeded all expectations and made Cornerstone an even more welcoming place for its residents. Thank you to our partners at United Way, DuPont, and Pricewaterhouse Coopers for your phenomenal contribution to DASH!

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District Alliance for Safe Housing | PO Box 91730 Washington, DC 20090
202-462-3274 | info@dashdc.org | 501(c)(3) | #71-1019574