Community Palette

Kudos for Homeless Plan

March 3, 2016

Mayor Bowser’s administration deserves praise for presenting a plan to close the homeless shelter at the old D.C. General Hospital. We have long known it isn’t a fit place to house people, especially families. The plan presented to the public isn’t perfect but then a plan like this never will be. There will always be those complaining about a homeless shelter being located in their community.

The site proposed for Ward 5 appears to be problematic as it is in a largely industrial area, which would create a problem for the people living in the shelter. One of the reasons to disburse homeless people across the city would be to allow them to become part of a community and for those communities to be good neighbors and try to get to know those in the shelter and maybe help find permanent housing and jobs. We need to begin the process by accepting no one wants to live in a shelter.

A recent Washington Post column by Terrance McCoy reported on the community meeting on the shelter proposed for Ward 3, which brought out some supportive residents and some who fit the accepted acronym NIMBY (not in my backyard) for people opposing the shelter or any city service they don’t want moving into their neighborhood. Often these are the same people who say how awful housing is for the homeless and that they want the city to do something about it — just not near them.

The good people, and there are many in Massachusetts Heights where the Ward 3 proposed shelter would go, have a great neighborhood. It is near the Washington Cathedral and a conclave of many million-dollar homes. Upon hearing the plan “one neighbor sent an email to her neighbor saying she was “Betrayed.” The post went on to report the following: “The news has left the neighborhood in ‘utter turmoil,’ said Jane Loeffler, who is trying to sell her $1.4 million home in Ward 3. What will this mean for property values? What about crime? Bad things do happen around shelters — you can’t prevent it,” she wrote. “It goes with the territory.”

Now I don’t know Loeffler but have known many people like her when it comes to dealing with a proposed shelter in their neighborhood. As one-time Coordinator of Local Government for the City of New York, with jurisdiction over the city’s community boards, I have seen this play out time and time again. Otherwise well-meaning people get hysterical over having to live in close proximity to people who may not be as fortunate as they are. Yet according to the Post, “On average, researchers have found supportive housing facilities servicing the homeless and other vulnerable populations rarely lead to higher crime rates or a drop in property values.”  “Ingrid Gould Ellen, an urban planning expert who analyzed how 123 New York City housing facilities affected the surrounding neighborhoods, a few of which were wealthy said, “It is critical that these developments are well-built and well-designed, well-maintained and well-managed.” So it will be critical for the city to make sure this happens and for communities to monitor the city to ensure it’s done right.

It would be a breath of fresh air if Loeffler and the other residents of Ward 3 who may be frightened of what this new shelter will mean for their neighborhood, would instead of fighting it take a positive attitude and make sure more crime and lower property prices don’t happen. The proposed Ward 3 facility would house 38 families. It would be great if such a wealthy community, with many resources at its disposal, would find 38 community organizations, houses of worship or even individuals who would take it upon themselves to adopt one family each. As these families move in they could work with them, get to know them, and help out with integrating them into the community. This would be a great way to make this facility a benefit for the neighborhood and for those living in it. Each side would get to learn something and the community may just come to realize that, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

This article first appeard in The Washington Blade.

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Annual Gala to Support Children's National Celiac Center

January 31, 2016

For years, most people had never heard of Celiac disease and most doctors didn’t know how to diagnose it. Yet about one in 100 children has celiac disease, making it one of the most common conditions in children. It is a genetic, autoimmune digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food. 

Teddy, one of the Nationals Presidents (Photo by: Peter D. Rosenstein) Teddy, one of the Nationals Presidents

Today Children’s National is helping to improve the way pediatric celiac disease is diagnosed and treated. Working in partnership with concerned members of the community, their Celiac Disease Program brings together a team of expert physicians, nurses, nutritional consultants and professional counselors dedicated to developing a national model for detecting and treating celiac disease in children. The goal is to attack celiac disease aggressively through improved diagnosis, treatment and awareness. 

Saturday evening saw those concerned members of the community again hold the Annual Celiac Gala to support the work of the Celiac Center at Children’s National. But this year was a little different. The Gala was held at Nationals Park and joining benefactors Blair and Steve Raber, who began this Gala years ago because their daughter Kate has celiac disease, were joined by chairs Julia and Jayson Werth. 

Nationals Park in winter (Photo by: Peter D. Rosenstein) Nationals Park in winter

Jayson is known as the slugging all-star member of the Washington Nationals. He is a hero to baseball fans and in 2010 was signed to a seven year multi-million dollar contract. What people don’t know is Jayson has an autoimmune disease and lives on a gluten free diet. His son also suffers from the disease. Jayson and his wife Julia, both community oriented, joined Blair and Steve to make this the most successful Gala ever. Guests were given a tour of the stadium and allowed to take batting practice. The Nationals had one of their President’s, Teddy, help with the live auction and everyone wanted a picture with Teddy. Through this Gala and support from the Rabers, Werths and the hundreds in attendance, more children can be cared for and served at Children’s and more research and community education can take place. 

We do know people who have celiac disease are permanently intolerant to gluten, a protein found in all forms of wheat, rye, and barley. When ingested by affected individuals, an autoimmune reaction causes inflammation and damage to the nutrient-absorbing villi in the small intestine. If left unchecked, damage can occur in nearly every system in the body: skeletal, reproductive, neurological, and dermatologic to name a few. Currently the only treatment for celiac disease is a gluten-free diet. 

The specialists at Children’s have the expertise to make the diagnosis and help families manage the disease. The actual diagnosis is usually a blood test to measure for higher than normal levels of certain autoantibodies in their blood. Fortunately, the disease is well managed with a change in diet.


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Dr. Phil Sharp Awarded Schlesinger Medal

January 24, 2016

Former Congressman Phil Sharp (D-IN), long time resident of the District of Columbia, was awarded the Schlesinger Medal for Energy Security by the Secretary of the Department of Energy (DOE) Ernest Moniz. The medal is named after the first United States Secretary of Energy James R. Schlesinger.

Dr. Sharp and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Dr. Sharp and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz

Sharp had a distinguished twenty year career in the Congress. He was elected in the class designated as the Watergate babies taking his seat in 1975 and retiring in 1995. During his time in Congress one of the committees he served on was the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where he chaired the Fossil and Synthetic Fuels Subcommittee.  Sharp took key leadership roles in the development of landmark energy legislation. He was the driving force behind the Energy Policy Act of 1992 which led to the restructuring of the wholesale electricity market, promoted renewable energy, established more rigorous energy-efficiency standards, and encouraged the expanded use of alternative fuels. 

Upon leaving congress he joined Harvard’s Kennedy School where he was a lecturer in public policy and also served as director of Harvard’s Institute of Politics. Since 2005 Sharp has served as President of the prestigious think tank Resources for the Future (RFF).

Sharp is widely recognized in the world as a leader in the energy area and currently serves on the board of directors of the Energy Foundation and on the external advisory board of the MIT Energy Initiative. Previously he was named by President Obama to serve on the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future and served on the National Academies’ Committee on America’s Climate Choices. When president Obama was choosing his first cabinet Sharp’s name was circulated as a potential Secretary of the Department of Energy and I am sure if Hillary Clinton is elected he will again be on a short list for that position.

Dr. Phil Sharp (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Dr. Phil Sharp

The ceremony honoring Dr. Sharp included a distinguished panel discussion titled ‘A New World: Global Energy Security”. Panelists who all praised the work of Sharp included General James Jones, USMC, (ret.) who was formerly commander of U.S. European Command and supreme commander, Europe, where he led all military operations for NATO. He served for two years as President Obama’s national security advisor; Dr. Anna Palacio who is currently a member of the Council of the State of Spain, the supreme consultative body to the Spanish Government on legislation and regulation. She is also a member of the Atlantic Council of the United States and was the first woman in charge of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Spain; Mr. Adam Sieminski administrator of the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) and Mr. Jason Bordoff currently on the faculty of Columbia University where he went after serving President Obama as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Energy and Climate Change on the staff of the National Security Council.

This was a well-deserved honor for Dr. Sharp. The impressive ceremony was attended by family and friends of Dr. Sharp, government energy officials and other distinguished guests including former Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN).


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