DC nonprofit that houses young mothers threatened by budget cuts

A safety net for young mothers between the ages of 18 to 24 could be in danger of fraying.

Funding for Olaiya’s Cradle, a program operated by Sasha Bruce Youthwork, faces a $190,000 gap after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development denied a request to keep funding the program. The program received a low score on its most recent grant application.

That decision is being appealed.

Olaiya’s Cradle operates two group homes in Southwest D.C. The program is aimed at providing housing stability for young mothers who otherwise would be homeless. Without the funding, one of the two homes could have to shut down, leaving five of the young mothers — and their children — without the support the program offers.

Danny Rico, chief development officer at Sasha Bruce Youthwork, said his organization got the news about the funding denial in February.

“We didn’t necessarily hear why [the funding was denied],” Rico said.

Out of 43 projects applying for funding, Olaiya’s Cradle was ranked 41st, according to The Washington Post, which cited documents evaluating the organization’s application.

Rico told WTOP: “Our rankings have been all over the place. There have been years when we have been at the top of the list. There’s others where we’ve been towards the bottom.”

Rico said he believes the ranking system prioritizes housing programs for older adults who are in need of stable housing. He said providing the housing through Olaiya’s Cradle is a strategy that works.

“We know that if you invest in youth, and prevent homelessness as a youth, they are less likely to become homeless as an adult,” he said.

Under the program, Rico explained, the young women are offered stability while trying to plan their next steps to becoming independent. Some of the women in the program have lost both parents, others have had what Rico calls “family challenges” that left them relying on friends or extended family for housing for varying periods of time.

WTOP has reached out to HUD and D.C.’s Interagency Council on Homelessness to learn more about the local ranking committee’s rating and the appeals process.

One bright spot, Rico said, is the action by a donor who committed to match up to $100,000 per year for three years. He also said that the nonprofit has received a total of $100,000 in donations from individuals and businesses.

Rico said he expects to hear more on the appeal within the next four weeks: “But regardless of the decision, we are committed to fight to make sure that this program remains open.”

Part of that action includes engaging in fundraising.

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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