Spring Open House
On April 10, 2013 almost 100 AAWGT members and guests gathered at Historic London Town and Gardens for the organization’s annual Spring Open House. The theme for the evening was “Give and Learn”. President Julie Schuelke presented an overview of AAWGT and details on how the organization “gives” to the community. She was followed by Vice President Karen Smith, who spoke about how members “learn” through education sessions offered to members and guests approximately four times a year. Karen introduced Education and Programs Chair Maureen Cavaiola, who described recent sessions AAWGT has hosted on critical issues facing Anne Arundel County, including topics such as affordable housing and homelessness, caregiving, transportation and the Community Foundation's semi-annual county needs assessment study, Poverty Amidst Plenty. Members and guests were then able to socialize and enjoy the wonderful grounds.
AAWGT's First Educational Bus Tour - Housing and Homelessness
Nearly 50 AAWGT members and guests participated in the March 13 fact-finding bus tour exploring how and why affordable housing continues to be such a critical problem in our community. On the way to Arundel House of Hope in Glen Burnie, AAWGT’s Education Assistant Chair Mary Grace Folwell, an attorney specializing in affordable housing, and Mary Grace Chacos-Faircloth, a D.C. native and 20-year Annapolis resident who is a licensed Commercial Real Estate Broker and presently works as a Business Performance Advisor for Insperity, provided an overview of the history of and contributing factors to the county’s shortage of affordable and public housing.
Arundel House of Hope Executive Director Mario Berninzoni then took the group on a tour in Glen Burnie of four of its housing units, including a mix of permanent residences where chronically homeless people can live indefinitely; temporary housing for non-chronic homeless looking to turn their lives around; and the new Patriot House, which provides transitional housing and services for veterans who need help getting back on their feet. Residents pay rent of up to 30 percent of their income, which may range from $75 up to market rate. Berninzoni noted that all of the housing is close to Ritchie Highway, which offers the only public transportation in the area. “Most people don’t want more public transportation in Anne Arundel County,” he said. “They want less.” Read More>>
Videotape of the bus presentation can be found here.
Women Thrive Worldwide President Ritu Sharma Shares Insights on Improving Lives of Women Around the Globe
Annapolis resident Ritu Sharma, the Co-Founder and President of Women Thrive Worldwide, was the featured speaker at AAWGT’s Sixth Annual Women and Leadership Event, “Connecting to the Global Community: Lessons from Abroad.” Fellow Annapolitan and Baltimore Sun columnist Susan Reimer asked insightful questions that led to a fascinating dialogue on how improving the lives of women and girls living in poverty can make the world a better place. The event was held at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Annapolis on February 13, in part to help celebrate International Women's Day, which took place on March 8.
Women Thrive Worldwide is a global organization that cooperates with locally based women’s groups, often in the most troubled parts of the world, and advocates for change to promote opportunity, economic prosperity, and freedom from fear and violence for women. The organization brings the voice of these women and girls to decision makers in Washington, which often includes bringing to DC the women themselves to serve as their own powerful advocates. A watchdog organization, Women Thrive also independently monitors US government actions and funding for programs that help improve women’s lives around the world. The organization accepts no government funding in order to remain an independent advocate for women in poverty. Read More>>
View photos of the session here. View full video of the session here.
First Education Session - the Real Picture of Homelessness
AAWGT’s first 2013 Educational Session, “The Real Picture of Homelessness,” was held at the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts on January 9. A large turnout heard Dr. Sheila Crowley, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), give an overview of the national picture; while Christine Poulsen, Special Programs Manager for Anne Arundel County Social Services, focused on the County’s situation. County representatives from Arundel House of Hope, Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake, and Lighthouse Shelter also gave brief overviews of their challenges and successes in recent years.
It is difficult to accurately count the homeless population. Crises triggering this status are not just financial, but include mental and physical health, abuse, divorce, weak family support, and many others. Some homeless people require only temporary assistance, but for others the need is long-term. Many of them have jobs.
Dr. Crowley explained that in 1970, the United States had a small surplus of affordable housing for extremely low-income residents (those making 30 % or less of an area’s median income (AMI)). Since that time, the demand has far outstripped the supply, to the point that the national deficit has now reached 5.5 million units. The figure for Anne Arundel County is 3,740 units.
The County’s situation is exacerbated by its high cost of living. It takes an hourly wage of $23.67 for a household to afford a two-bedroom unit at the 2012 HUD-determined Fair Market Rent. Also, it is necessary to build or acquire affordable housing one unit at a time, as there is opposition to grouping such units together.
Since no one makes money building affordable housing, government and private help is essential. However, the recent economic downturn has led to drastic cuts in government aid. The Maryland Department of Human Services has cut its homeless funding in half over the past decade. The local Lighthouse Shelter receives only 9% of its funding from government sources, but has been fortunate enough to receive 91% of needed funds from within the community. The Lighthouse Shelter is a past recipient of an AAWGT grant. Read more>>>
Poverty Amidst Plenty IV: Surviving the Economic Downturn
Presentation of CFAAC’s needs assessment study stresses that affordable housing, low-cost childcare and transportation are greatest economic challenges facing county's struggling low and middle-income families.
Every two years the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County sponsors a Needs Assessment Report that measures community well-being in a number of different areas. Dr. Pamela M. Brown, Executive Director of the County’s Partnership for Children, Youth and Families, who researched and compiled this year’s report, “Poverty Amidst Plenty IV: Surviving the Economic Downturn,” presented her findings to AAWGT members and friends at an educational session held at the Annapolis Maritime Museum on November 14.
Videotape of this session can be found here.
Dr. Brown reported that, as increasing numbers of people lost jobs in the recent economic downturn, many middle class families who never thought they would have to seek help fell behind on their mortgages and other obligations and were forced to do so. More County residents are now hungry, have unmet health care needs, underwater mortgages, and face other challenges in trying to remain self-sufficient. Read more>>