Congregants of the United Community Fellowship Ministries church in Southeast D.C. educated neighbors and friends on health and housing issues on Aug. 9 with a fair and block party. “Nothing has been done in this community for a very long time and we just wanted to do an outreach that teaches people about staying healthy and help those in need,” said Teresa Young, event organizer.
In addition to educating residents about community issues, the church gave away school supplies, including pencils, pens, crayons, notebooks, folders, and other necessary beginning of school items. “We’re an outreach community that’s not just here to have church behind closed doors. We want to show that we care for our community,” Young said.
Beyond the festive atmosphere of children waiting in line for snow cones, popcorn, cotton candy, and the moon bounce, a serious conversation on issues currently plaguing the residents of the community started with D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray.
He stopped by to congratulate the pastor of the church, the Rev. Alice Smith on the event. Gray then spoke about his housing budget, which aims to rectify the issue of homelessness in the city, particularly in Wards 7 and 8, deemed the poorest neighborhoods in the District.
Lucetta Brown, a disabled resident living in Southeast, asked the mayor how he is helping to get more people, especially elders, off the voucher list and into homes. Gray replied that he has nothing to do with the problem of residents who couldn’t get off the voucher list.
Brown, 53, who attended to the event with her daughter and two grandsons, said she wasn’t pleased with his response. “I have a couple of people that I have found houses for them or even an apartment but, they can’t get them off the voucher list,” she said. “They are saying that they have to wait. Why make them wait if they have somewhere to move in?”
“I felt as though he does have something to do with that,” Brown continued. “I would think that him being a mayor of the city make it his responsibility to have something to do with it.”
The party also sparked a conversation on keeping young people safe. Ward 7 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner (ANC) Janis D. Hazel informed residents about the ward’s Safe and Drug Free Youth Community Coalition, a piece of the legislation introduced by Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander. The bill demands a moratorium on liquor licenses and a decrease in the amount of advertising in liquor stores that target youth.
“A lot of the senior citizens in the neighborhood that are taking care of their grandchildren are not aware of the synthetic drugs that are out there and that are being marketed towards our youth,” Hazel said. “We have to provide this information to our community about the different types of drugs that are coming into our community for prevention and to decrease potential cause by our youth.”
The ANC is partnering with teachers, parents, churches, and clergy to advocate for a drug-free community, Hazel explained.