Across the United States, more than 2.65 million children live in grandfamilies — families in which grandparents, other adult family members or close family friends are raising children — with no parents in the home. Frequently, these families come together at a moment’s notice. In an instant the home of the new grandfamily is inadequate for their suddenly expanded household.
It was busy at Plaza West on a Wednesday evening.
Jamarl Clark, who manages the Grandfamily Community Life Program, led a crowd on a tour of the 12-story apartment building, where 50 of its 223 units are reserved for grandparents raising grandchildren.
Plaza West is an example of the specialized grandfamilies housing models that was celebrated in Generations United’s new State of the Grandfamilies Report, A Place to Call Home: Building Affordable Housing for Grandfamilies, which was released on Nov. 13.
Our Executive Director Donna Butts kicked off the event, mentioning that this report was the sixth in the annual report series that started in 2014.
Donna also thanked our sponsors: The Brookdale Foundation Group, Pfizer, and Matz Blancato and Associates.
Donna also highlighted our infographic on grandfamilies and vaccines.
“It really shines a light on the importance of vaccinations for caregivers,” she said, “whether you’re full time or part time, staying healthy to help take care of those children.”
Listen to Donna’s presentation below.
Next up was Dr. Heather Stowe, clinical director at the D.C. Department of Aging and Community Living.
Dr. Stowe brought a welcome from Mayor Muriel Bowser and shared her appreciation for grandparents and other relative caregivers raising children.
“ As a social worker in the District of Columbia for over 20 years, and someone who has seen what happens when families are not able to stay together,” she said, “the work done by…grandparents raising children really helps mend the fabric of our city.”
Listen to Dr. Stowe’s presentation below.
Ana Beltran, Generations United’s longtime special advisor and the report’s author, shared key findings and stories highlighted in the report.
Those stories included JJ Hitch and his family. His grandfather went bankrupt trying to get their house to state licensing standards.
In another story, Ana mentioned a grandfamily getting an eviction notice during an epic snow storm over the holidays because the grandmother’s private lease didn’t accept children. Those stories and others illustrated the unique challenges grandfamilies face.
Ana also shared the report’s recommendations to policymakers and developers.
In closing, Ana remembered what a grandmother told her about the specialized grandfamilies program she was in. She said, “This place is a godsend.” To that Ana added, “We need to create more godsends.”
Listen to Ana’s presentation below.
Following Ana, Kenyattah Robinson — president and CEO of the Mount Vernon Triangle Community Improvement District — recalled a presentation at a developers conference in Baltimore.
Kenyattah quoted the presenter: “The way you view your city determines who you end up serving in your city.”
To that he added of Plaza West, “This much needed affordable housing will make progress towards fulfilling our vision for a dynamic, diverse and inclusive neighborhood in the heart of downtown Washington, D.C.”
Listen to Kenyattah’s presentation below.
Sarah Constant, managing director of Mission First Housing Group, gave an overview of the Plaza West project.
“When we started on this journey, we knew we wanted to do something that was intergenerational,” Sarah said. “We had access to schools…recreation centers…grocery stores…real key amenities that are part of the community.”
Sarah closed by introducing Olivia Chase, one of our GRAND Voices Members and a Plaza West resident.
Listen to Sarah’s presentation below.
Then it was Olivia Chase’s turn.
In a story, she recalled that when Richard was 3 months, they met then-President Barack Obama.
“My, that’s a fine baby,” she remembered Obama saying, before asking if he could hold her grandson.
Olivia added, “When I looked at my grandson in the arms of the President of the United States of America, I knew then as I know now that everything is going to be alright.”
Listen to Olivia’s presentation.
Following Olivia, Donna closed the program before the second tour of Plaza West started. Listen to Donna’s closing below.
You can hear more from Donna, Ana and Olivia on our report and affordable housing for grandparents in our recent podcast episode (below).