“We were able to fund a cat cafe in hours – can we show the same interest in helping a member of our own community find housing?”


“Dear PoPville,

I am writing on behalf of a friend, a woman who spent four years in prison for a non-violent offense and has been tirelessly working to get her life on track and to stand up for other female returning citizens. Time and again she has had doors shut in face, she has been abused by organizations that are supposed to help her and she has struggled to find real support. Within the past few months she has been dealing with a mental heath housing organization, which is now evicting her with no where to go. She is trying to raise money for rent, so that she can safely address her own trauma and start an organization to speak out for others. She started a YouCaring page – and has a blog. Her blog is beautifully written and details the day-to-day struggles of reentry, and the impact of trauma throughout that process.

This is an opportunity to support one person who I believe will have a broader impact on the community of female returning citizens. She is living proof of the housing crisis in DC that we rant about, the failing mental systems and the challenges of reentering society after a period of incarceration.

We were able to fund a cat cafe in hours – can we show the same interest in helping a member of our own community find housing?”

23 Comment

  • I think it’s a lot easier to guilt trip people in person rather than online. That’s why you see frivolous spending on things like cat cafes but the homeless are ignored. It’s also sometimes very difficult to verify who this money is going to and for what purpose but with a business it’s usually more clear.

    • dumplingdreams

      THIS exactly. Unfortunate, but reality: “It’s also sometimes very difficult to verify who this money is going to and for what purpose.”

      • I’m not sure how that logic makes this donation less worthy. Here there is at least some change the money is going to someone in need. In the other example, best case scenario the money was going to an already wealthy and highly educated person. How on earth is this possibly less worthy?

        • +1, Sort of. Just donated. Her lovely blog gave me a few moments of reading pleasure, and if nothing else my donation is a thank you for putting that out in the world.

        • Not a justification, just (one person’s idea of) an answer. I imagine very few “worthy causes” disguise themselves as something ridiculous like a cat cafe, so when funding a cat cafe, you know there’s a nearly 100% certainty that your donation is going to something frivolous, be it a cat cafe or something else. A scammer is much more likely to disguise themselves as a “worth cause,” so when funding a “worthy cause,” you actually have reason to wonder whether you’re actually getting what you paid for.

  • I think that many people look at these sort of situations and feel that it is not their responsibility to have to pay for other people’s mistakes especially if you do not really know where the money will actually go and how the person got themselves into this situation in the first place. I have experienced times where a homeless person asks for money for food but when you offer to buy them food instead of giving them cash they decline your offer and move on to the next person…unfortunately situations like this really don’t give you a lot of confidence to give away money.

    I have seen overwhelming support from communities when people need help in situations where a loved one was lost tragically in an accident or from an illness so that shows that people do care for their community.

    With things like that cat café people are helping out a small business and investing in something that will bring value and an enjoyable service to them and the community.

    It is sad that not everyone in the community is going to be helped/funded by others but that is the type of world we live in and with stories out there about corrupt charities and people taking advantage of other people’s generosity it makes it harder to willingly give money away. That’s my opinion

    • Wait, so you’re more willing to give to the cat cafe because the person doesn’t actually need it?

      • How do you know if the person needs it or not. We can’t assume all business owners are super wealthy a lot of businesses are some businesses.

        So what you are saying is that just because someone isn’t homeless or went to jail we shouldnt help them out because God forbid a person with and education and perhaps some money should profit from deciding to be an entrepreneur and use a little community help

  • It’s a little disingenuous to assume that people don’t help those in need. An enormous percentage of the city’s funds goes to the homeless and low income individuals and families. in FY 2016, 34.3% of gross funds – $4.4 billion – went to departments that focus on health and human services. Maybe the bigger complaint from the OP is that people aren’t willing to spend more that 34% of their taxes on these programs, and instead would prefer spending a couple of dollars on something that makes them happy, like a cat cafe.

    • I agree with you

    • I would think ultimately, then, the focus should be on why $4.4 billion isn’t getting the job done? How much of these funds actually goes to helping the people they’re supposed to help, and how much goes to padding government coffers or paying people to do nothing?

      • First off, the $4.4 billion *is* getting the job done in a great number of ways. Are retirement and disability checks getting to our most vulnerable neighbors? yes. Has HIV testing and awareness campaigns helped to stop the acceleration of HIV incidents? Probably.
        The focus is rightly and *constantly* on how $4.4 billion can get more things done.
        For one example, it turns out, there’s much about mental health problems that cannot be cured (yet?). There’s some meds that may help some conditions in some people some of the time, but even then you can’t legally force people to take them. So we have a patch work of support to triage best we can; you’re simply not “solving” that one.

  • As a side note, I’d just add that her blog is well-written and very engaging. She should consider getting in touch with the folks at talkpoverty.org to write about her story.

    • Agreed! Her blog is really well written. To another point: I think people in this comment thread are being a bit too picky about how it is disingenuous to assume that people don’t help those in need, or that our taxes should take care of everything. OP was trying to make the point that this woman has attempted to get help through those services, and has had difficulty with it. And yes people do make mistakes and its not always our responsibility to fix them. You feel that way until YOU are in a bind and need help just like she does. At the end of the day, remember that we are all here on this earth to make a difference, so why not just have faith that helping this woman might turn her life around.

      • Agreed that we shouldn’t expect our taxes to take care of everything, I wasn’t trying to be glib (I realize it sounded a bit “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?!”-scroogy of me!) I think we do need to re-evaluate how we help or don’t help people, individually and as a society.

  • After donating money to a friend’s kickstarter campaign to help pay for her high medical bills, then seeing photos the whole next year of her traipsing across the continent on various vacations, I’ve sworn off “helping” people this way. I know it’s sad, but I can’t help but feel like a personal investor, which then entitles me to judge how my money is spent. All in all, I’m am just crowd-sourced out.

  • Maybe the people at the cat cafe who were the recipients of all that $$$ can give her a job? Or the people at Bad Saint who also seem to have been the inexplicable beneficiaries of people in DC with deep pockets and nothing better to do with their money than hand it off to already wealthy millennials.

  • It’s more than a bit disingenuous to try to guilt me into paying this woman’s rent by negatively comparing the donation to one for a cat cafe. If that’s the standard, then by what right do I get to spend *any* money on myself beyond the bare minimum, when there’s a person in need? And then further, why should I donate to any particular person in need when there’s a more worthy charity somewhere else?

    Personally, I have a set amount I give to charity, and I give it to the organizations that, in my opinion, do the most good. I don’t give money to random people on the street who ask me to pay for their food so they don’t have to eat at a shelter, I don’t give money to people who would like me to pay for them to live in a high-rent city, and I certainly don’t prioritize gifts to convicted felons when there’s plenty of non-felonious organizations out there that are already not getting any of my pool. And yes, the rest of my money is spent on non-charitable stuff that I like, which may or may not include a cat cafe.

  • burritosinstereo

    Just donated. Her blog is truly moving.

  • For anyone wanting to donate to a truly tested and enormously helpful organization – please look at Miriams Kitchen. They have an extraordinary program – “soup kitchen” yes, but also housing assistance, psychiatric help, clothing – all sorts of help for all the various needs.


  • I am a real person and someone told me that my youcaring page had been posted here and I started reading the posting. Some of it hurt my feelings, but mostly I felt sad that people don’t know my story and the story of others like me. First of all I’m not uneducated and everyone that goes to prison isn’t guilty and FYI. I always take my medication. But to answer your questions and shed a little bit of light on why I am about to become homeless in 10 days I posted a blog for you all. https://ammevoz.wordpress.com/2015/06/12/questions-judgments-curious-minds-want-to-know/

    I stand on truth and I fight everyday to want to make my life better and worth living.

    ps to the poster smerd. Guess what? Talkpoverty.org contacted me via my blog. If it was you who passed on my info warm warm regards. They want me to write for them. A little sunshine in the rain. A little light in the darkness.

    Be well,

    • Did I miss something? I didn’t see anyone judging or criticizing you here. Some people just wanted to be sure the money was being used in a way that would genuinely help someone, which is hard to verify when donating to an individual online.
      Your blog is funny and interesting though! I especially like the stories about riding the 90 bus, which I take all the time. 🙂 Best of luck to you.

    • Your blog has truly touched me. I wish I was in a position to help you, but unfortunately I am not.
      There are major issues in this city, and the dichotomy of rich an poor seems to be an undercurrent running through it all. I see people like you (like me!) who are desperately trying to be a productive part of society all the time, fighting through issues such as mental health, past abuse/trauma, economic hardship, language and communication barriers, etc. I truly hope that some of the people who are more fortunate who read this will help you.
      Don’t let this break your spirit Amme!!

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