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Jeremiah Project Report
No. 1 1998


Faith-Based Outreach to At-Risk Youth  in Washington, D.C.

By Jeremy White and Mary de Marcellus, Public/Private Ventures

Foreword

In the 1990s there has been a surge of interest in the potential of faithbased approaches to urban and social problems. Academic researchers from many disciplines have begun to push the envelope on “faithfactor” studies into how, if at all, religiosity, spirituality and churchgoing, variously measured, relate to a wide range of socioeconomic and public health outcomes. Leading journalists representing a diversity of ideological perspectives have published more stories about religion in the public square. The federal government has passed a number of new laws with profound implications for churchstate relations, most notably the “Charitable Choice” provision of the 1996 welfare law which permits expressly religious organizations that are in compliance with federal antidiscrimination regulations to receive federal dollars for the delivery of certain services. Major foundations have launched or expanded programs on religion, and major forprofit corporations have considered contributing directly to faithbased organizations that serve secular social and communitybuilding purposes. Meanwhile, pollsters continue to find that over 90 percent of Americans believe in God, and that over 60 percent of all Americans, including over 80 percent of AfricanAmericans, believe that religion in some form is vital to solving social problems.

In 1996, Public/Private Ventures (P/PV) began to investigate the empirical research evidence on faithbased approaches to social and urban problems. P/PV conducted preliminary fieldwork, and began an active dialogue with leaders of youth and community outreach ministries all across the country. In 1997, P/PV established its Partnership for Research on Religion and AtRisk Youth (PRRAY), and launched a multisite demonstration project designed to produce credible information that might help answer four important sets of questions:

1) What is the extent of faithbased youth and community outreach efforts in America’s innercity neighborhoods? How, if at all, do their efforts engage substantial numbers of atrisk youth? What, if any, partnerships do they have with secular nonprofits or government agencies? What range of services, programs or interventions do they provide? Do they tend to work in collaboration with other faithbased organizations? Across denominations? Via interfaith alliances?

2) What is the efficacy of faithbased youth and community outreach efforts? For example, under what, if any, conditions do they succeed in helping atrisk innercity youth to avoid violence, achieve literacy, and access jobs? How, if at all, do they accomplish other major youth development goals?

3) What is the capacity of faithbased youth and community outreach efforts? Even if we knew that certain types of faithbased programs worked under given conditions, we would still need to know how to foster those conditions. For example, what are the typical human and financial resource needs of these programs? How, if at all, can socalled communityserving ministries be strengthened via parachurch organizations that provide technical assistance and training?

4) What is the replicability of faithbased youth and community outreach efforts? For example, how, if at all, have faithbased antiviolence programs, which seem to have worked well in some places, been replicated in other jurisdictions or neighborhood settings?

This report is derived from the fieldwork of two very talented P/PV junior staff, Jeremy White and Mary de Marcellus. Essentially, the senior staff involved in planning P/PV’s systematic research on religion and at-risk youth was challenged by these two junior colleagues. They argued that a great deal could be learned about the extent of faithbased youth and community outreach efforts simply by the sort of intensive if episodic field research aptly characterized by the awardwinning Rochester University social scientist Richard Fenno as “soaking and poking, or just hanging around.” We took them up on their challenge, arranging to have them spend six months in Washington, D.C. and learn as much as they could about that city’s youth and community outreach ministries. This report highlights the main findings from their study, the complete text of which is available from P/PV.

As the authors stress, this report is not a “survey” in the formal sense, and the programs studied or profiled may or may not be representative of the District’s faithbased efforts targeted on atrisk youth. A formal survey of the District’s faithbased service providers was completed recently by The Urban Institute. The Urban Institute found that 95 percent of the city’s congregations perform outreach services. This finding is quite consistent with the findings of earlier formal surveys, including the sixcity survey released in 1997 by the Brookings Institution and conducted by Professor Ram A. Cnaan of the University of Pennsylvania for Partners for Sacred Places. Professor Cnaan found that 91 percent of congregations provided at least one social service. The average was four services per congregation, the main beneficiaries of which were neighborhood youth and adults who were not members of the congregation.1  Such findings spell “outreach.”

As noted candidly in The Urban Institute survey, “collecting information from religious congregations is challenging because many do not keep detailed records, do not have the time or staff to complete a survey,” and have other limitations that make objective, systematic data gathering on what they do difficult.2  Also, as the present report makes plain, much of faithbased outreach in the District occurs not via congregations as such but via faithbased nonprofit organizations with secularsounding names. If anything, therefore, the formal surveys completed to date probably underestimate the extent of faithbased outreach to atrisk youth.

This informal survey is rich in precisely the ways that our junior colleagues predicted it would be, providing not only a credibly affirmative answer to the question “Are they out there?” but also a sense of how the “faith” in “faithbased” matters as both motive and method in what outreach workers do and how they do it. This report provides useful baseline information about the extent of faithbased programs in one city, and usefully raises crosscutting questions about how the intangible qualities of such programs (in particular, their leadership) may or may not matter to their efficacy, capacity, and replicability.

The authors wish to thank the people of the churches, schools and faithbased nonprofits without whose cooperation this report would not have been possible. They also wish to acknowledge the help of several agencies: The Mayor’s Office on Religious Affairs; World Vision; Greater DC Cares; The Southeast White House; the District Schools Community Relations Department; Metropolitan Washington Council of Churches; and the Skinner Farm Leadership Institute.

P/PV is grateful to the American Enterprise Institute and The Brookings Institution, each of which provided the authors with office space while they were conducting this study in the District. Finally, P/PV is grateful to the Manhattan Institute’s Center for Civic Innovation and The Jeremiah Project for sponsoring the release of this summary of the study.

John DiIulio
Senior Counsel
Member of the Board
Public/Private Ventures;
Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute

Youth Outreach in D.C.

In a sixmonth period between October 1, 1997 and April 1, 1998, we conducted an intense but informal survey of faithbased outreach to atrisk youth in Washington, D.C. As summarized in this report, our research helps answer the following five questions:

• What is the extent of faithbased3  outreach to atrisk youth in Washington, D.C.?
• What shape does this faithbased outreach take?
• What are some of the technical and financial needs of these organizations?
• How might the effectiveness of these programs be enhanced
• Would these programs and the youth they reach benefit from increased financial and technical support?

The organizations we selected to study were faithbased, served atrisk youth, and were located in Washington, D.C. Following these simple selection criteria, this report profiles a variety of community organizations, including church ministries, nonprofits, and schools of varying sizes, faiths, and purposes. Seven of the more interesting general aspects of our survey are as follows:

• Our survey clearly suggests that there is a critical mass of faithbased organizations in Washington, D.C. that work directly and intensively with atrisk youth. Most of these youth live in impoverished families or neighborhoods, come from singleparent backgrounds, and/or are confronted with drugs and/or violence on a daily basis.
• We interviewed leaders and volunteers in a total of 129 faithbased organizations which met our criteria (faithbased, youth-focused, and located in Washington, D.C.). The survey suggests that there are three main groups of programs: faith-based schools, faithbased nonprofits, and churchanchored outreach programs. We interviewed staff and volunteers in 13 faith-based schools, 52 faithbased nonprofits, and 64 outreach programs operated inside church buildings. (See table 1.)

Table 1

 

Church Ministries

Non-Profits

Schools

Total

Interviewed

98*

70

13

181

Fit criteria

64

52

13

129

Onsite interviews

21

46

13

80

Telephone interviews

43

6

0

49

*34 churches indicated that they had no youth ministry.
*Other programs include detention ministry, pregnancy counseling, foster care, group homes, sports, summer camp and domestic violence.
NOTE: Many programs provide multiple services so their primary focus was used for this chart.

Figure 1 - Faith-Based Programs by Type



• Excluding schools, the programs fell into five major categories: tutoring programs; youth groups; evangelization; gang violence prevention; and mentoring. (See figure 1 and table 2.)

• Few faithbased programs (5% of those we studied) focused exclusively on evangelization for children in the form of youth church, Bible study, or street evangelization.

Table 2

Faithbased Programs by Type

Tutoring

65

Youth Group

24

Evangelization

6

Gang Prevention

4

Mentoring

6

Other*

11

Total

116

*Other programs include detention ministry, pregnancy counseling, foster care, group homes, sports, summer camp, and domestic violence.

Volunteers were the backbone of most programs. Fiftysix percent of the programs were run entirely by a volunteer staff. Nine percent had one fulltime staff person, two-thirds of which were also fulltime clergy members. Thirtyfive percent had two or more fulltime staff. Almost all the organizations with paid staff were nonprofit organizations. (See table 3.)

Table 3

Volunteer

57

1 Paid Staff

9*

2 or more Paid Staff

35

Total**

101

*Six of these are paid clergy who coordinate youth programs.
**This information was not available on 15 programs.

Only five programs charged a fee for their services. None of them charged a fee over twenty-five dollars a month. Those that did charge a fee for their services believed that charging a nominal fee encouraged parental investment in the program’s activities.

Excluding schools, we estimate that the faithbased organizations we interviewed, worked with a total of roughly 3,500 youth on a weekly basis. An estimated 49 percent of the organizations worked with a group of ten to thirty children on a regular basis. Thirtyfive percent worked with 31 to 60 children. Sixteen percent worked with over 60 children.
(See table 4.)

Table 4

Programs with 1030 children

43

Programs with 3160 children

31

Programs with over 60

14

Total number of programs*

88

*Twenty-eight programs did not provide an estimated number of children because attendance varies so widely.

Table 5

 7 days a week

4

46 days a week

46

23 days a week

16

Once a week

26

Once or twice a month

5

Seasonal

4

Total number of programs*

101

*Fifteen programs did not report set schedules in their work with the children.

Faith-Based Schools

Faithbased schools are often overlooked as an important source of outreach to atrisk youth in the inner city. Our survey includes thirteen faithbased schools located in atrisk neighborhoods in Washington, D.C.: six Christian, one Muslim, and six Catholic. We are aware of at least eighteen other Christian schools that do youth outreach in the District. The thirteen schools studied were affiliated with a particular church or mosque, from which they received support and guidance.

All the faithbased schools we studied seemed to work wonders as far as basic literacy was concerned. They took advantage of the opportunity to provide individualized academic attention as well as an atmosphere of encouragement and moral structure every day from 7am to often as late as 7pm.

Even though these schools took some of the most atrisk children in their communities, many of their students went on to attend college. Sister Elizabeth, principal of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, told us, “Around here it’s just expected that the child will go to college.” Most of the schools charged a tuition which generally fell between two hundred and three hundred dollars a month (far below the actual cost).

The principals did what they could to find scholarships and forgive debts for as long as they possibly could, and only rarely let students go for unpaid tuition. It was common in the schools we interviewed to find teachers going unpaid for months and students taking tests copied on the back of old letters and flyers. Most of the schools had six or seven students receiving some type of scholarship through scholarship programs such as One on One, the Washington Scholarship Fund, or the Black Fund. However, scholarships were rare and required involved parents, which many neighborhood children lacked.

Our survey suggested that the more a school’s leaders considered the school an “outreach program,” the lower the tuition and the more the school struggled to meet its most basic needs. The directors of each school commented on how many more atrisk students they would be able to enroll with increased funding.

A typical example of a faithbased school in D.C. is the Sacred Heart Catholic School. Sacred Heart is located in the Mt. Pleasant/Adams Morgan neighborhood, the city’s predominantly Latino community. The school’s budget is so tight that its teachers often are forced to buy their own supplies. Yet it excels at providing a nurturing environment that promotes positive reinforcement. The children are encouraged to be creative and to encourage one another. They are excited to learn. Many of the children have become literate since enrolling. The school, which was founded in 1932, enrolls 213 students in grades PreK through 8, eighty percent of whom are Latino.

Church Ministries

Although almost every church in D.C. has a youth ministry, many of them work only with the children from their church, who often come from suburban neighborhoods. We included in our survey only those ministries that worked with children from the atrisk, innercity neighborhoods surrounding the church.

Church ministries are an extension of the church activities and outreach. They are usually housed in the church and are often operated entirely on a volunteer basis by members of the church with little to no funding. Other ministries are part of the church’s regular activities such as church youth groups. These groups typically meet weekly and provide an informal outlet for the youth and an alternative to the streets. Church ministries are usually small and meet with an average of thirty children per week. They are designed with the needs of the community children in mind and rarely charge any fee for their services. Many churches we studied also had some form of a daycare program.

In response to an enormous need in innercity Washington to keep children wellfed, engaged in school, and off the streets, the majority of the ministries we interviewed offered afterschool tutoring programs with small meals. Other programs included sports programs, youth groups, and Bible study. Some met once or twice a week, and some met every day after school. Their doors always seem to be open.

Faith-Based Non-Profits

As noted in the foreword, a recent survey by The Urban Institute focused on outreach by congregations.4   The Urban Institute's survey was not designed to include faithbased nonprofits or those that have secular names (for example, Growing Together, The Unique Learning Center, The Fishing School, and the Neighborhood Learning Center). Because such nonprofits were not included in The Urban Institute study, it probably underestimates somewhat the extent of faithbased outreach that can be attributed to the District’s communities of faith.

The church ministries described above are often the incubators for faithbased nonprofit organizations. Church members motivated by their faith provide the original ideas and initiative, while the church provides the facilities, volunteers, and the funding to get a ministry off the ground.

While many ministries remain within the church, some grow to a point where church funds are no longer sufficient to support their increasing expenses. Often they decide to apply for 501C3 status in order to seek foundation funding that will allow them to expand.

Faithbased nonprofits provide much the same services as churchbased ministries. Due to larger budgets, which allow for more staff, nonprofits generally provide these services with more depth. For example, many nonprofits have the time and staff to visit with parents and teachers to monitor each child’s progress. Like ministries, the majority of the nonprofits we interviewed provide afterschool programs with meals and oneonone tutoring.

We found that faithbased nonprofits were constantly stretching their budgets to the limit so as to provide more services for the children. Like the church ministries, nonprofits constantly encountered difficulties in recruiting participation by the parents of the children they served.

Other nonprofits are best described as parachurches. They had a particular purpose, such as tutoring the children each day after school, but also considered themselves a church and conducted their own worship services. For example, Love Thy Neighbor, a nonprofit, began in an impoverished section of Southeast D.C. While the organization’s primary purpose is to minister to the children within the tutoring program, Sara Thompson, its founder, also used her facilities as a place of worship, ministering to those who came on Sundays and going to her students’ homes when counseling and prayer were requested.

Throughout our survey we repeatedly encountered five issues which shaped the work of the faithbased nonprofits and church ministries: leadership, faith, funding, location, and teen participation.

Leadership

Most ministries and faithbased nonprofits we studied were borne of the vision and initiative of one individual. Almost without exception, each organization we visited conjures up one name: Children of Mine, Hanna Hawkins; The Fishing School, Tom Lewis; The Children’s Center, Myrtle Loury; Calvary Baptist, Paget Rhee; The Unique Learning Center, Sherry Woods; and so on.

These leaders usually worked alone or with a few volunteers, and made enormous sacrifices of time, money, and even health to keep their ministries afloat. We frequently interviewed directors who worked long hours, often unpaid for months.

The directors we interviewed demonstrated deep religious and moral convictions. They felt a call to reach out to innercity youth. Their faith is contagious. Through daily demonstrations of what we can only describe as unconditional love, they seemed to be able to motivate the children and staff to accomplish incredible feats.

The type of leadership which drives these nonprofits is best expressed through their stories. Sara Thompson founded Love Thy Neighbor Community Center five years ago after tiring of seeing the community’s children left with nothing better to do than to kick bottles around in a parking lot each day after school. With no other space available, she opened her basement to the children, allowing them a place to receive help with their homework and to play games. Most importantly, it kept them off the streets. When she could, Sara would take as many children as she could fit in her car on field trips. Soon she quit her job, spent her meager life savings, and opened the community center in a storefront.

Through the community center, Ms. Thompson was able to provide everything from clothing and food to bus tokens and other supplies that the children often needed (all paid for largely from her own pocket). She said “If I had more money, I could do more [for the children]…sometimes I wonder how I’ll keep the roof over my head.” However, Sara always had an ample supply of the invaluable commodities of love, kindness, patience, faith, and devotion to the 40 or 50 young people she guided. Her willingness to serve did not end with the children. It extended to the entire community as she provided drug and family counseling and job referrals to many of the members of the community.Her work did not go unnoticed. Love Thy Neighbor received coverage from local television news stations as well as a few articles in The Washington Post. Ms. Thompson and her children were even visited by Oprah Winfrey (she displayed the pictures to prove it). Still, financial resources were often hard to come by and it was during the times when the rent was overdue and the future of the center was in doubt that Sara Thompson’s faith was tested, although not broken. Time and time again she was able to pull resources from individuals and other sources to keep the doors of the center open. Even when she was diagnosed with cancer and was restricted to her hospital bed she continued to pay the center’s bills. On March 27, 1998, Sarah died. To the end, she struggled to support the center. Today, the doors of her center are closed and its future, like the futures of the children she served, is in doubt.

The devotion and faith of the program leaders are often the key element to their success. They work up close and personal with and for youth whom many other people would not help. They do this work where the children live, in places where many dare not go. It is the strong commitment and faith of the leaders of these nonprofits which sustains them in spite of dire circumstances and long odds against success.

Faith

Our onsite interviews revealed enormous variety in the way programs chose to translate their faith through their services, not only between the different denominations but within denominations as well. Some programs were founded in churches and involved volunteers from the church who were motivated by their faith, yet provided no faith component in their activities with the children. Others were not affiliated with any religious institution but shared their faith with the children on a regular basis through Bible study or prayer.

Even determining what is faithbased and what is secular became difficult when interviewing organizations that, while not directly linked with a community of faith, made very strong expressions of faith and featured some religious teaching. This was particularly true of the faithbased grassroots organizations.

For example, the Barry Farms Community Center, directed by Mrs. Dorathea Ferreal, was not officially connected with a religious organization. However, Mrs. Ferreal is very strongly motivated by her faith. As one enters the center a sign on the door reads “Relax, God is in charge” and the programs involve “God talk” with the children and Bible study with the reverend of a nearby church.

Our interviews suggested that the directors of faithbased organizations make enormous, seemingly irrational, sacrifices to reflect God’s unconditional love in their love for the children; and yet few programs focused solely on evangelization. Instead, they centered on filling the daily practical needs of the children by providing a safe haven, tutoring, and productive activities. For us, the seeming paradox of faithmotivated outreach workers who evangelize mainly or solely by example is resolved by the Biblical injunction, “Ye shall know them by their works.”

The directors felt that by being the object of this unconditional love, children learned to love themselves and to understand that they are loved by God and are part of a greater plan. It is this spiritual plan, they confided, which alone can make sense of the child’s world filled with chaos and pain. In the lives of many atrisk children, answers to the complex problems they face often have spiritual components as well as practical ones. A program that offers a child a hot meal, tutoring, and other assistance is beneficial. But the program that provides those things as well as a sense of selfrespect, faith, and hope to combat their often depressing surroundings offers a different approach and maybe “something more.” Perhaps it is that extra something borne of faithbased human relations that helps turn atrisk youth into resilient youth.

Funding

Faith and effective leadership are the only absolutely crucial elements of ministry. However, funding quickly becomes necessary to allow those in ministry to dedicate themselves fulltime to the needs of the children.

Almost all of the faithbased outreach organizations that we have interviewed, grassroots and nongrassroots, are in need of funding in order to continue their work and strengthen their outreach capacity. Some programs, such as Love Thy Neighbor, were in clear need of financial assistance just to keep their doors open. Throughout our interviews and site visits we discovered many common difficulties faced by nonprofits as they sought funding.

First, many of the faithbased organizations we interviewed have difficulty finding the time and resources to put together proposals, yet have basic needs such as rent, food for the children, a playground, school materials, or a salary that allows fulltime ministry. In addition, many of these organizations lack the training to create a proposal and the funding to hire someone to do parttime or fulltime development work.

Second, one of the nonprofits’ greatest needs was funding for the salaries of staff. As an organization grows and increases the number of children it serves, it naturally requires more staff to ensure that each child receives the individual attention he or she needs. However, many organizations said they found that foundations and corporations were willing to fund special projects but that few were willing to fund any general operating expenses.

Third, many nonprofits found that seeking grants placed them in the position of possibly compromising or obscuring the faith component of their program, even where, as was almost universally true, evangelization was more motive than method and the programs served purely secular purposes such as keeping kids safe, fed, literate, and so on. For example, in order to seek funding from foundations, government, and corporations, ministries must file for 501C3 status. Several organizations we interviewed were agonizing over the decision to become a nonprofit, fearing that it might weaken their strong ties to their church and thereby weaken the faith expressed in the program.

Furthermore, as faithbased programs apply for funding, they are compelled to present a radically secularized version of their mission to their funding source. For example, in a great number of nonprofits we interviewed, Bible study or prayer is described as “character building” or “spiritual awareness.” Similarly, we found that many of the directors were very careful to mention that religious activities were voluntary and downplayed the Bible study. Still we found that a large number of organizations that received grants from numerous foundations continued to include prayer time and Bible study in their daily activities with the children.

The majority of the organizations we interviewed shied away from government funding. Although they were concerned that it would restrict religious study, they were primarily concerned with two practical limitations incurred by government funding. First, they felt that the enormous paper work and guidelines required by government grants would take away their autonomy and flexibility, not to mention their time with the children. Second, government grants would bring a large influx of funds into the program only to have them disappear with the next budget cut, leaving the organization floundering.

Location: Grassroots vs. Suburban

Despite their enormous variety in terms of activity, size, and religious affiliation, the programs fell into two distinct groups: those church ministries and nonprofits which drew their leadership and resources from outside the atrisk communities they served, and those that drew resources only from within these communities.

This difference between grassroots and suburban organizations greatly affects the shape of their outreach and their ability to find resources. The organizations that are not grassroots generally offered more structured programs. They, too, were in need of funding, but with their education and connections to more affluent neighborhoods, they were able to write successful grant proposals that could pay a small staff and support an office. They generally focused on a group of innercity atrisk children, but were less likely to be involved with the families or communities of these children. In a word, they were not “holistic” even though they were marginally better funded.

In contrast, about half of the grassroots programs we studied had almost no funding and relied entirely on a handful of volunteers who dedicated their own money and their time to their ministry in addition to holding down a job. These organizations tended to be very small and were located in the heart of the atrisk neighborhoods. The volunteers were members of the community and personally knew the families of the children involved in their activities.

Children are attracted to the grassroots programs for a variety of reasons. The staff is from the neighborhood and is familiar with the children’s families and the difficulties they face. They will visit the homes of children to pray and counsel with the family. The programs meet the children where they are. This is particularly true of gang prevention programs. Their doors are left open in the most dangerous sections of the city so that youth feel safe to come and just hang out.

Programs like these are “below the radar screen” as far as foundation and corporate support is concerned. The volunteers who staff these ministries often do not have the contacts and education needed to draw resources from foundations and the wealthier organizations in D.C. Their numbers are limited because without any funding these programs often fold (not fail, but close) after two years due to an inability to pay rent, find materials, or support a fulltime staff member.

Another characteristic of most of the grassroots nonprofits is a sense of frustration, bitterness, and skepticism about the middle class. They have seen a line of media, celebrities, and foundations come to their communities, use their stories, and leave no funding behind. They struggle every day with life and death and want to know who is going to help for real.

This divide has grown in the past forty years as families have left the atrisk inner-city neighborhoods to live in surrounding communities in Maryland and Virginia. Despite suburbanizing, many of these families continue to attend their innercity churches. This seems particularly true of mainline denominations.

Washington is full of churches located in the inner city whose congregations do not live in the surrounding community. Many of the “commuting congregations,” not all, lose their ties to the communities and to their needs. In addition, these congregations also tend to be elderly and often do not have the energy to place into projects with youth. Many of the congregations want to tune into their communities but don’t know how. There is real potential for some of the willing churches that may have few youth, but plenty of resources, to get involved. They need to know where they can offer help and how they can be of assistance.

Many of the grassroots organizations expressed frustration that they had received neither volunteer nor financial support for their projects from the neighboring churches. They complained that each church had its own political turf and its own projects and did not work on community projects.

In our study we found that, despite these differences, both grassroots and suburban leadership ran meaningful youth programs. The ability of suburban programs to reach the most atrisk youth seemed to weigh heavily upon their ability to cross the urban/suburban divide and make the sacrifices necessary to root themselves in the lives of the children, families, and communities. For some, like Steve Park of Little Lights, this means moving into the communities they serve. Indeed, many programs see the need (and for a few it is a requirement) to live in the community. The struggles for the grassroots organizations lie in maintaining the organization necessary for applying for 501C3 status, locating funding sources, and presenting a structured program.

Teen Outreach and Gang Prevention

One obstacle, which confronted nearly every outreach organization we interviewed, was the difficulty of reaching the teenagers, particularly males who were already involved in atrisk activity. Programs tried a variety of tactics to attract teens off the streets and into their programs. Some programs, such as Calvary Baptist, were able to draw a small group of teens through a basketball program. Others, like New Community Center, created special teen hangout zones. Still others, like the Unique Learning Center, had a handful of teens, which had grown up through the program and now helped with the younger children. Many programs, such as Love Thy Neighbor, encouraged their teens to stay involved by using them as counselors. However, most had difficulty retaining their teens.

The only programs that seemed able to maintain a relationship with a substantial number of atrisk teens were a handful of extremely grassroots gang-intervention programs. The three main programs in Washington are CeaseFire: Don’t Smoke the Brothers, Alliance of Concerned Men, and Barrios Unidos. The leadership of these programs consists without exception of men, some of them exfelons, who from a very early age were involved in the street life of Washington themselves.

The work of these programs is often late at night on the streets and ad hoc. For example, Luis Cardona of Barrios Unidos spends much of his time roaming the streets in his car late at night looking for various groups of teens hanging out. He hangs out with the homeboys, who he knows by name. Sometimes he plays ball, sometimes he just talks, and sometimes he takes them home. Although the program is not structured, many of his homeboys are now in college.

Unfortunately, the same characteristics that draw the teens also make these programs difficult to support. Because their activities are sporadic and unstructured, it is difficult for them to demonstrate to foundations exactly where time is spent and what shape their activities will take from one month to the next. The other conundrum is that the most effective “witnesses” to gangs are former gang members themselves. Some former members have criminal records and negative opinions of and/or reputations with law enforcement. This complicates their outreach for two reasons. First, foundation support becomes scarce when the criminal history of the directors is revealed. Second, collaboration with the police (which is vital to gang programs) is often difficult either as a result of program directors’ distrust of the police or vice versa. Despite the difficulties of working with these faithbased organizations, they remain perhaps our “last best hope” for reaching the atrisk teens who seem “unreachable.”

Recommendations

There are several means of ensuring that support, both technical and financial, reach faithbased organizations that are working with the most atrisk youth on a daily basis. These steps lie in a number of funding, collaboration, and mobilization strategies.

Funding. There is no shortage of worthwhile causes where programs for atrisk youth in Washington are concerned. By using this report to become acquainted with churches and nonprofits in the atrisk communities through site visits, interested individuals and organizations could:

• Administer small grants to faithbased nonprofits, reaching a whole segment of atrisk youth, which up to this time most grants have been unable to reach.
• Encourage corporate givers to support the work of faithbased nonprofits in Washington.
• Draw attention to faithbased nonprofits by publishing studies and articles on their programs. (Love Thy Neighbor, a small tutoring program in Southeast, was able to quantify the financial benefit of a newspaper article about the center at about $4,000.)

Church Mobilization. With anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 churches in Washington, there is practically a church on every corner. The potential for the churches to become safe havens for atrisk youth is enormous. Although most churches have not developed an outreach to atrisk youth, many have. However, their outreach remains small and focuses on retaining only the younger children. Training in youth ministry could empower these ministries to reach the older youth out on the streets.

Collaboration Strategies. Supporting the work of faithbased nonprofits involves facilitating the collaboration and the sharing of resources between organizations. Often, we found organizations with the same goals and just down the street from each other that were not aware of each other’s existence. As a result, many grassroots programs had to reinvent the program wheel simply because they were not aware of the solutions and resources discovered by other organizations.

Many of those we interviewed commented that one of the most useful services we could provide was a copy of our list of nonprofits. In response, we are creating a resource book which includes not only all the faithbased programs we have contacted but also secular organizations with resources often sought by faithbased organizations, such as the Prevention Partnership which gives free technical training to small nonprofits. There are also many new government initiatives that could also be instrumental in any collaborative effort, such as HUD’s Public Housing Graduates program, which pays students to stay in school while demanding study and service hours in return.

Finally, churches and nonprofits are often busy with the interests of their own congregation and are reluctant to place scant resources into projects other than their own. However, if the faith community–with the aid of the corporate sector and foundations—can be mobilized to “save” the youth of the city, then we could witness a radical reduction in youth violence, and an overall improvement in the lives and well being of Washington’s most truly disadvantaged children.

1 Diane Cohen and A. Robert Jaeger, Sacred Places At Risk (Partners for Sacred Places, 1997), p. 4.
2 Tobi Jennifer Printz, “FaithBased Service Providers in the Nation’s Capital: Can They Do More?,” Charting Civil Society (The Urban Institute, April 1998), No. 2.
3 “Faithbased organizations” are defined as organizations or programs which claim to be affiliated with a religious congregation, or those organizations that are independent from a religious congregation or order, but who express a religious motivation for working with atrisk youth.
4 Tobi Jennifer Printz, “FaithBased Service Providers in the Nation’s Capital: Can They Do More?,” Charting Civil Society (The Urban Institute, April 1998), No. 2.

Executive Summary

As summarized in this report, our research helps answer the following five questions:

What is the extent of faithbased outreach to atrisk youth in Washington, D.C.?
What shape does this faithbased outreach take?
What are some of the technical and financial needs of these organizations?
How might the effectiveness of these programs be enhanced?
Would these programs and the youth they reach benefit from increased financial and technical support?
 

Our survey clearly suggests that there is a critical mass of faithbased organizations in Washington, D.C. that work directly and intensively with atrisk youth. Most of these youth live in impoverished families or neighborhoods, come from singleparent backgrounds, and/or are confronted with drugs and/or violence on a daily basis.

Excluding schools, the programs fell into five major categories: tutoring programs; youth groups; evangelization; gang violence prevention; and mentoring.

Few faithbased programs (5% of those we studied) focused exclusively on evangelization for children in the form of youth church, Bible study, or street evangelization.

Volunteers were the backbone of most programs. Fiftysix percent of the programs were run entirely by a volunteer staff.

Excluding schools, we estimate that the faithbased organizations we interviewed, worked with a total of roughly 3,500 youth on a weekly basis.


Throughout our survey we repeatedly encountered five issues which shaped the work of the faithbased nonprofits and church ministries: leadership, faith, funding, location, and teen participation.

Most ministries and faithbased nonprofits we studied were borne of the vision and initiative of one individual. Almost without exception, each organization we visited conjures up one name: Children of Mine, Hanna Hawkins; The Fishing School, Tom Lewis; The Children’s Center, Myrtle Loury; Calvary Baptist, Paget Rhee; The Unique Learning Center, Sherry Woods; and so on.

Our interviews suggested that the directors of faithbased organizations make enormous, seemingly irrational, sacrifices to reflect God’s unconditional love in their love for the children; and yet few programs focused solely on evangelization. Instead, they centered on filling the daily practical needs of the children by providing a safe haven, tutoring, and productive activities.

Throughout our interviews and site visits we discovered many common difficulties faced by non-profits as they sought funding.

First, many of the faithbased organizations we interviewed have difficulty finding the time and resources to put together proposals, yet have basic needs such as rent, food for the children, a playground, school materials, or a salary that allows fulltime ministry. In addition, many of these organizations lack the training to create a proposal and the funding to hire someone to do parttime or fulltime development work.

Second, one of the nonprofits’ greatest needs was funding for the salaries of staff. As an organization grows and increases the number of children it serves, it naturally requires more staff to ensure that each child receives the individual attention he or she needs.

Third, many nonprofits found that seeking grants placed them in the position of possibly compromising or obscuring the faith component of their program, even where, as was almost universally true, evangelization was more motive than method and the programs served purely secular purposes such as keeping kids safe, fed, literate, and so on.

Programs like these are “below the radar screen” as far as foundation and corporate support is concerned. The volunteers who staff these ministries often do not have the contacts and education needed to draw resources from foundations and the wealthier organizations in D.C.

There are several means of ensuring that support, both technical and financial, reach faithbased organizations that are working with the most atrisk youth on a daily basis. These steps lie in a number of funding, collaboration, and mobilization strategies.

Funding.  There is no shortage of worthwhile causes where programs for atrisk youth in Washington are concerned. By using this report to become acquainted with churches and nonprofits in the atrisk communities through site visits, interested individuals and organizations could:

-Administer small grants to faithbased nonprofits, reaching a whole segment of atrisk youth, which up to this time most grants have been unable to reach.
-Encourage corporate givers to support the work of faithbased nonprofits in Washington.
-Draw attention to faithbased nonprofits by publishing studies and articles on their programs. (Love Thy Neighbor, a small tutoring program in Southeast, was able to quantify the financial benefit of a newspaper article about the center at about $4,000.)

Church Mobilization.  With anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 churches in Washington, there is practically a church on every corner. The potential for the churches to become safe havens for atrisk youth is enormous. Although most churches have not developed an outreach to atrisk youth, many have. However, their outreach remains small and focuses on retaining only the younger children. Training in youth ministry could empower these ministries to reach the older youth out on the streets.

Collaboration Strategies.  Supporting the work of faithbased nonprofits involves facilitating the collaboration and the sharing of resources between organizations. Often, we found organizations with the same goals and just down the street from each other that were not aware of each other’s existence. As a result, many grassroots programs had to reinvent the program wheel simply because they were not aware of the solutions and resources discovered by other organizations.

 


Center for Civic Innovation.

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SUMMARY:
This report analyzes the existing capacity of faith-based outreach programs to youth in our nation’s capital.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Executive Summary

Foreword

Youth Outreach in D.C.

Faith-Based Schools

Church Ministries

Faith-Based Non-Profits

Leadership

Faith

Funding

Location: Grassroots vs. Suburban

Teen Outreach and Gang Prevention

Recommendations

Funding

Church Mobilization

Collaboration Strategies

Appendix A:  Note on Study Procedures

Appendix B:  Compendium of DC Youth Outreach Programs

Appendix C:  Contacts at DC Youth Outreach Programs

 


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