Founded in 1974, Sasha Bruce Youthwork is a safe haven for youth fleeing dysfunction or destitute circumstances, a saving grace for those who need a place to rest their heads and warm their hearts. Located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, Sasha Bruce provides a supportive atmosphere for young people transitioning out of the foster care system or from homelessness.
The staff work tirelessly to help the youth achieve and maintain good physical and mental health and explore opportunities in education and careers. Youth stay with Sasha Bruce for up to 18 months, receive supportive services, work part-time, and attend school. Once youth are able to move out on their own, Sasha Bruce’s Independent Living Program (ILP) counselors help them find apartments and provide follow-up support to help them achieve stability.
LISC provided a $32,900 capacity building grant to support and increase Sasha Bruce’s ability to serve formerly homeless youth, ages 17-20 years old, in the ILP. This past summer, with supervisory support, eight youth in Sasha Bruce’s workforce development program renovated their transitional youth shelter, creating four additional units (bringing the total to 12 units) and brought about cost-saving improvements to the building’s heating and air conditioning system.
LISC’s grant was also an investment in the skills-building and training of the participants in Sasha Bruce’s workforce development program. These eight individuals selected the construction trade as their occupational training goal and received instruction on carpentry and construction. Participating in the renovations provided the trainees with hands-on experience, increasing their competitiveness in the job market.
One of the youth trainees was Arthur Halmon Daniels, a 21 year-old formerly homeless DC native and graduate of Sasha Bruce’s workforce development program. He and fellow trainees broke down walls, laid beams, put up dry wall, and painted. Arthur also helped construct the wheel chair access ramp at Sasha Bruce, which included demolition and pouring concrete.
This past May, Arthur shared some of his story during LISC’s Elevating Equity One Year Anniversary Celebration. The Sasha Bruce shelter falls within the boundaries of the Elevating Equity Initiative, LISC’s $50 million commitment to fostering equitable and inclusive development in the neighborhoods surrounding the future 11th Street Bridge Park.
We wanted to follow up with Arthur to see how he is faring now, and to learn a little bit more about the role that Sasha Bruce plays in his life. Although, it has been almost a year since Arthur graduated from Sasha Bruce, he still remains involved. Arthur currently lives with his older sister, 12-year-old nephew and 9-year-old niece.
At the age of 19, Arthur was kicked out of his mother’s home due to her depression creating a tumultuous atmosphere. His cousin told him about Sasha Bruce and this introduction essentially changed his life. “The most important thing that Sasha Bruce gave me was stability,” Arthur said. I am so happy to be a part of the Sasha Bruce family. To be in the predicament of not having a home made me feel like I was at an all-time low, but the people at Sasha Bruce showed me that there was a way out. They gave me hope, he added.
Arthur was paired with Rhonda Deskins, Program Manager of the Workforce Development program. Rhonda assisted Arthur with his career/post-secondary goals and encouraged him to develop strategies for achieving his goals. “She was great at listening to me and offering advice,” Arthur noted. Rhonda helped Arthur study for his GED, develop a resume, and complete job applications.
Arthur dropped out of high school at age 17, because he felt that the pressure of school coupled with the pressures at home was too much to bear. “I had to teach myself to have self-confidence. I decided that what I want to accomplish in the immediate future is to earn my GED, and then major in community science at a college. I will work as hard as I can,” Arthur stated. “I’ve learned that it’s impossible to make someone do something that they don’t want to do, but if you give them the opportunity for a better life, they will likely take it. Here at Sasha Bruce, we all have a chance to do well,” Arthur added.