Photo courtesy of DC Doors.
DC Doors does more than offer support to immigrant Latino families and single women facing homelessness in Washington; as its mission statement declares, it provides “culturally competent and comprehensive support to move people from homelessness to permanent, stable and affordable housing.” All of DC Doors’ staff are both bilingual and immigrants, which helps them personally connect with clients and offer assistance that goes far beyond finding people a place to live.
One of the organization’s impactful services is the Accounting Technician Training Program. Launched in 2014, with the support of a grant from the Vilcek Foundation, the 12-week intensive class taught by licensed certified public accountants gives high school-educated Latinos the skills and knowledge to work as accounting technicians. “The program helps low-income individuals gain meaningful employment and achieve marketability,” said CEO Janethe Peña. “DC Doors is all about fighting homelessness, through breaking the cycle of poverty.”
For the program’s first session, the organization planned to enroll only eight students, but demand was so high that the class expanded to the absolute maximum of 12. The results were immediate: Every student graduated and was able to advance their career in some way. After the encouraging first year, the Vilcek Foundation’s board voted to support the program again with a grant of $5,000, which helped keep classes running by providing funding for essential supplies. Fifteen students are currently participating in year two of the program.
DC Doors began its fight against homelessness in 1999 as the Latino Transitional Housing Program. Based out of the Council of Latino Agencies, the program was created to help fill the sometimes neglected gap between shelters and permanent housing. In 2011, the program evolved into the independent nonprofit organization it functions as today.
DC Doors continues to run its initial program, providing 18 months of housing and supportive services to more than 80 individuals a year. While that number may seem small, the impact on participants has been enormous. “This program changed my life,” said Stephanie, a mother of three, speaking in a testimonial, “because it showed me stability—it showed me what it’s supposed to be like when you wake up in the morning and you’re in your own home.”
Check out DC Doors’ recently updated website to learn more about the remarkable work the organization is doing. And don’t forget to read the Vilcek Foundation’s other grantee spotlight from this year, featuring Somalian fashion designer SuSu Mohamud.