Is the American Dream Dying? Answer: Depends on Your Zip Code

How Building Civic Engagement Can Combat Poverty 

A recent study, The Equality of Opportunity Project, showed significant variation in the economic outcomes of children from low-income families across different areas in the United States. In the District, a child raised in the lowest income bracket has a 9.5 percent chance of rising to the top fifth income bracket. To compare, the city with the greatest mobility is Salt Lake City at 11.5 percent. Youth in Atlanta, however, have a four percent chance of rising from the bottom to the top. The disparity between these cities seems to counter the American Dream; for decades, Americans clung to the belief that every individual can overcome adversity through strength and perseverance.

Yet despite our best efforts, this dream seems to be slipping from the grasps of many.

Researchers identified four broad factors that may affect the chance of income mobility in U.S. cities: 1) size and dispersion of the middle class; 2) two-parent households, 3) stronger school districts and 4) more civic engagement. In terms of civic engagement, the researchers highlighted the prevalence and strength of religious and community groups.

Here at CFLS, we focus on civic engagement as an escape from poverty. We provide services to homeless and low-income families and individuals that build strong ties to the community. We strive to provide our clients with the tools they need to move out of poverty into economic self-sufficiency. Through our “Go Green” environmental summer camp, we strive to inspire civic engagement in youth. Community beautification, for example, builds a sense of personal commitment and pride in the city.

Environmental "Go Green" Summer Camp

We believe that programs like this helped D.C. rise to 25th  in income mobility out of 100 U.S. cities. Through this five-week program, 70 students developed stronger reading, writing and oral skills as they learned about environmental preservation. From cleaning the Anacostia River to planting gardens, these programs instill personal responsibility and build life-long skills.

Whether these children plan to leave the city or not, we are confident they are developing the tools necessary to achieve their goals. If everyone continues to support our youth, we can restore faith in the American Dream and prove that zip code should not define who you are.

Fourth of July

Most associate Independence Day with the boom of fireworks and the fanfare of parades, with the waving flags and singing “God Bless America.” But this day celebrates more than the colonists’ separation from the rule of Britain; it celebrates our rights and freedoms as Americans, and serves as a reminder that a few brave individuals can change the world.american-flag-wallpaper

CFLS recognizes the struggle that so many of us have and continue to face for civil, social and economic equality. We celebrate all those who have come before us in this fight and know it’s our job to continue to protect and preserve equality for all citizens.

Here at CFLS, we recognize the importance of small changes. Securing an individual job means more than just a steady pay-check; it means having the opportunity to move beyond poverty and build a home. Every individual CFLS touches fits into the larger picture.  One person alone cannot change the face of homelessness but together we can make a BIG difference.

From 2011 to 2012, the homeless population declined by 2,235 people. At 7.2 percent, the homeless veteran population saw the largest decrease. From our community breakfast events to our supportive housing programs, we tirelessly work to continue this decline. Yet on a single night here in the District, 6,865 persons are without a home. Of those counted homeless, 512 are unsheltered and 473 of whom are veterans.

Independence Day reminds us that any act, large or small, can change the fabric of our nation. So, amidst all the excitement of fireworks and parades, remember that TOGETHER we can make a difference.

Fourth of July Festivities

As the Fourth of July rapidly approaches, so does the yearly question: “what are my plans for today?” Here in the District, there are a plethora of opportunities for everyone to enjoy something on this patriotic holiday. Below you will find five events taking place throughout the day, almost all of which are FREE.

  1. America’s National Independence Day Parade
    An annual staple in the Nation’s Capital. The parade features marching bands from all over the country, military and specialty units, patriotic floats, national dignitaries and celebrity appearances. If you plan on spending a long day in the city, this is a perfect way to kick off your festivities. The parade starts rolling at 11:45 AM at Constitution Ave. and 7th St. NW. and is free of charge.
    Nearest Metro station – Archives, Federal Triangle
  2. Washington Nationals vs. Milwaukee Brewers
    Not big on parades? Catch your hometown Nats play America’s favorite pastime. First pitch will be thrown out at 11:05 AM at Nationals Park - early enough to enjoy the rest of the day’s activities. Tickets go for as little as $18 each.
    Nearest Metro station – Navy Yard
  3. A Capitol Fourth
    Gather on the Capitol’s West Lawn for a free 90-minute concert featuring music celebs like Barry Manilow, Candice Glover, Scott McCreery, Darren Criss, Megan Hilty and the National Symphony Orchestra. Gates open at 3:00 PM and the concert begins at 8:00 PM. No tickets necessary. Can’t make it out to D.C. to see the show in person? Tune into PBS for extensive coverage of the concert and the following fireworks.
    Nearest Metro station – Union Station, Judiciary Square (also close to CFLS!), Capitol South
  4. United States Air Force Band’s “Airmen of Note”
    Head over to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on Independence Ave. to listen to 18 of the most talented jazz musicians in the country. This concert starts at 6:00 PM and is free of charge. This is also a great place to relax and watch the fireworks.
    Nearest Metro station – L’Enfant Plaza, Federal Center SW
  5. Fireworks on the Mall
    The age-old tradition of fireworks launched from the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool to light up the sky over the Washington Monument. Fireworks start when it gets dark (around 9:15 PM). Rain date for the fireworks is July 5th. Make sure to grab a good seat and early, this is one of the busiest and most crowded times of the year to be in D.C.!
    Various Metro Stations
  6. (Bonus) Best places to view the fireworks:
    The Capitol, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, East Potomac Park, FDR Memorial or National Mall between 14th and the Capitol. But remember, if you can’t see the Washington Monument from where you’re sitting, you’re not going to be able to see the fireworks either!

If you plan on taking public transportation, remember to utilize the Metro Trip Planner to find the best routes, prices and times to and from your destination.

When you get back from your fun-filled day, comment and let us know what event you attended and how it was. From everyone here at CFLS, we wish you a very happy Fourth of July!

Getting to Know CFLS: the Employment Services Program

“I want to thank you for getting me into this class. You made sure I didn’t give up and I just want to thank you so much for pushing me.” – CFLS Employment Program Participant

Help Wanted

A lack of affordable housing in Washington, DC often leaves low-income families living paycheck to paycheck. Unemployment and underemployment can trap someone in a cycle of poverty or homelessness. It’s hard to imagine, but living paycheck to paycheck means one crisis can be the difference between keeping your home or homelessness.

Here at CFLS we strive to provide community members the reassurance of a steady paycheck through our Employment Services Program. Eligible clients are offered a wide array of events, resources and one-on-one counseling sessions to get them back into the job market. We work with clients step by step to ensure success. All initial clients receive an employment assessment. If you’re completely new to the working world, we offer resume development and guidance on appropriate work habits and attitudes. Maybe you have a job that you’re unhappy with; our employment counselor can work on networking and consultation with employers and community organizations to get you into a better-suited environment.

Clients enter our program with the potential, but maybe not the means, to obtain employment or move upward through the job market. Whatever your needs may be, our goal is to provide you with the opportunity to gain the skills and tools you need to excel.

A recent success story about one of our clients:

A client initially came to CFLS through our supportive housing program at Trinity Arms. She felt trapped and unfulfilled at her current job.  However, during a session with our employment counselor, she indicated that she received a paralegal associate’s degree in 2006. The employment counselor then helped update her resume and began to network with local law firms.

A lawyer hired her as an intern after receiving a character reference from CFLS. She then rearranged her work schedule to accommodate this internship. With the promise of a full-time position, she worked tirelessly at the firm. However, she continued to provide for her family and work long hours at the restaurant. In May 2013, following her internship, the firm offered her a full-time position with benefits, including funding to continue her education.

All anyone really needs is a chance. A job may not be a guarantee to prosperity, but at the very least, it holds the promise of a brighter future.

If you’re in need of Employment Counseling or know anyone who is, please contact Stefani Jackson at 202-347-0511, x207 or via email at

10 Reasons to Donate to CFLS During Do More 24

DM24 logo websitesmallCommunity Family Life Services (CFLS) is proud to be a part of Do More 24: a DC-area 24-hour donation marathon taking place on June 6th. This is an opportunity for local residents to show support for their favorite nonprofits and help them win prizes – like $15,000 for the organization with the most donors!

Come June 6th, you’ll be faced with hundreds of DC nonprofits vying for your attention and donation dollars. Need a reason to give to CFLS? Here are 10:

1)  CFLS was selected as one of the best community-based nonprofits and will be featured in the 2013-2014 Catalogue for Philanthropy: Greater Washington. Charities were selected for excellence, cost-effectiveness, and impact.
2) CFLS operates two supportive housing programs, Trinity Arms and Milestone Place, housing 17 families and 35 individuals respectively.
3) Nearly one in three children in DC lives in poverty. This is double the national average. CFLS has transformative youth development and mentoring programs that work with many of these children to prevent the cycle of poverty!
4) There are currently 42 families in our Family-to-Family mentoring program gaining the tools and skills needed to strengthen relationships, find employment, stabilize living arrangements and home life, and become self-sufficient.
5) CFLS distributes emergency food and clothing to approximately 800 persons each year.
6) CFLS treats you not like a client, but like family.  That is the feeling you have when becoming a client of CFLS. I could not feel even more blessed to be chosen and take part of this fantastic organization”
7) CFLS provided gifts to over 700 children and adults over the holiday season through our Give-a-Gift and Adopt-a-Family holiday programs.
8) CFLS hosts a free monthly breakfast for homeless and low-income community members.
9) This past year, CFLS created employment opportunities leading to economic sufficiency and prosperity for 42 persons.
10) Over 95% of participants in our HIV Case Management Program are “treatment adherent” with 90.9% “virally suppressed.” The likelihood of our clients infecting others in reduced by 95%.

CFLS is transforming lives in DC and we need your support! From mentoring children and families, supporting persons living with HIV/AIDS, to providing housing and employment counseling, CFLS is counting on your donation!

For more information on Do More 24, email Rebecca Ely at, check our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter. We hope to see you on June 6th and thank you for your support!

Getting to Know CFLS: Tdisho Pendleton and the Volunteer Mentoring Partnership

Tdisho Pendleton began working at Community Families Life Services (CFLS) two years ago; first as a Program Assistant and now as the Acting Program Manager for our Volunteer Mentoring Partnership (VMP). The VMP works with DC Child and Family Services Agency to provide caring and compassionate mentors for 125 youth ages 6-21 in the foster care system. The mentoring process involves listening, supporting and empowering. VMP provides youth with sustainable positive adult relationships and enrichment activities to prepare for college, achieve academically and gain life skills such as self-advocacy and financial self-sufficiency.Tdisho Pendleton

Ms. Pendleton begins the process by reviewing potential mentor applications for the youth. The first step includes extensive background checks on the federal, state and local levels. As soon as the mentors are cleared, Ms. Pendleton completes comprehensive one on one or group training on becoming an effective mentor.

Once Ms. Pendleton has a good idea of who the mentors are, she completes an intake assessment with the mentee. At the end of the assessment mentees and mentors are paired based on mutual interests and hobbies. An initial meet and greet is then conducted with mentee, mentor and youth caretaker. Finally, mentee and mentor are free to communicate and begin to build a relationship.

Ms. Pendleton started working here as a way to give back to her community. She really enjoys being able to impact it both directly, by participating in events with mentors and mentees, and especially indirectly, by doing the behind-the-scenes work like conducting background checks and pairing mentors with mentees.

“Recently I made a really good pair, it was like the perfect match,” she remembered. “That is one of the most rewarding parts, seeing a mentor and mentee hit it off without any glitches.”

Working at CFLS has been a learning experience for Ms. Pendleton. It has taught her patience. It has taught her the inner workings of a mentorship program. But most importantly, it has taught her that there is so much that can be done for foster youth.

“VMP is a program that builds and supports foster youth so that they may reach their highest goal.”

Getting to Know CFLS: Betty Washington

Betty Washington picBetty Washington began working with us five years ago, after CFLS provided transitional housing for her and her children.

“I wanted to give back to an agency that provided so much to my family and I during a difficult time,” she recalls.

This gratitude and loyalty led her to work as an assistant with the Family-to-Family mentoring program: a service that matches qualified mentors with 50 low-income families in the effort to empower them to move toward a better future. These mentors spend four to six hours a month with the families helping the families to stabilize home environments, find employment, strengthen family relationships and whatever other help is necessary.

The Family-to-Family program also hosts classes on parenting and financial management, with an overall focus on self-efficacy. These classes allow “them to maintain identity and culture while moving effectively through corporate America.”

As a program assistant, Ms. Washington screens mentors and finds suitable matches for them among the families in need. She also orchestrates events and monthly outings to provide the families with support and motivation.

For instance, her most rewarding experience with CFLS occurred at the “Dress for Success” fashion show last May. Ms. Washington saw a young woman, shy and withdrawn, evolve into a more outgoing and confident leader amongst her peers.

 “I’ve learned that a person’s final identity should not be noted at their lowest point in their life,” she says. “Your situation does not dictate who you are. You always have the opportunity to grow and change.”

Betty Washington serves as a constant reminder of this. We’re proud of her efforts to help others do the same.


Ms. Washington is excited to host another “Dress for Success” fashion show on Saturday, June 8th. This is an opportunity for young women to showcase their transformations. To support these women, join us in room A-5 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Libary  from 2 to 4pm. Admission is free and donations are suggested. We will serve light refreshments, as well as offer door prizes and face painting.