D.C. Councilmember Anita Bonds (D-At-Large) held a so-called Community Action Summit on Dec. 7, bringing residents and community activists from wards 1, 5, 7 and 8 together for a discussion on D.C. housing and unemployment.

The first phase of the summit included experts from non-profit sectors and educational institutions who spoke about the long-standing problem with housing and workforce development and ways to address community needs in those areas.

“This is our first effort to really bring civic leaders and citizens together who have from time to time been talking about this issue of affordability of housing and job,” said Bonds. “As you know, we are in Ward 7 today where one of the highest occurrences of unemployment exists.”

Connie Spinner, executive director of the Community College Preparatory Academy, addressed the group about the importance of adult education and training to workforce development.

According to Spinner, the most profound indicator of a 4-year-old child’s possible success is the education level of the mother. “If we don’t get their moms educated, we are not going to get this kid’s problem solved. This is a part of workforce development too,” Spinner said.

D.C. Council member Yvette Alexander (D-Ward7) said a fresh approach is needed to reduce stubbornly high unemployment levels in Southeast Washington, where unemployment has reached 25 percent in some neighborhoods.

“Who are those people who are unemployed, what is their level of education, what is their expertise?” Alexander said. “We have to fit the people with the jobs or we have to prepare those people to get the jobs that are actually out there.”

Bob Pohlman, executive director of the Coalition for Non-Profit Housing and Economic Development, said his organization is pushing for production, preservation and financing of affordable housing in D.C.

Some residents who attended the summit seemed skeptical that the city’s leadership is concerned about improving the jobless rate.

“I want to know how many D.C. residents are currently employed,” Ward 7 resident Naomi Carthens said, referring to Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s initiative to put unemployed city residents back to work.

Drew Hubbard, an associate director of the D.C. Department of Employment Services, said that about 8,000 D.C. residents have found work in the two years since the One City One Hire jobs program got underway.

Bonds said she the next Community Action Summit will be held on Jan. 11, 2014 and will focus on housing and neighborhood development. 

Maria Adebola

Special to the AFRO