The University of the District of Columbia (UDC) television studios, UDCtv, provides the Washington, DC area with programming geared to foster health, political and environmental awareness. Dr. Katherine Marshall Woods hosts this UDCtv show entitled “A Healthy Mind” featuring guests from a myriad of professions lending information to promote healthy living and lifestyles. Entries entitled: “A Healthy Mind” share these interviews.

On November 23, 2020, Meghan Carton, was invited onto the show to discuss the support that DASH offers within the community. Meghan has dedicated over 10 years with the government and public service stressing importance on gender roles and civil rights. Meghan has trained thousands of law and code enforcements on how to recognize and respond to potential domestic victims in culturally and trauma-informed ways. Meghan loves to explore new challenges and use her background in analytics training/ learning, and diversity, equity and inclusion to help organizations become the best versions of themselves. Meghan has worked for Polaris as a Strategic Initiative Specialist; she is also the founding board chair of Collective Liberty. Meghan is currently the Deputy Director of DASH (District Alliance for Safe Housing), in DC, and enjoys developing innovative, strategic programs to improve the world.

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Dr. Marshall Woods: “Hello, I’m Dr. Katherine Marshall Woods, adjunct professor of psychology at the George Washington University, and your host for this edition of A Healthy Mind. The purpose of this video series is to educate and inform the public about mental health, from public policy and environmental factors to the various disorders that affect healthy minds.”

“Studies report that more than 80% of homeless mothers with children are survivors of intimate partner violence or IPV. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence survivors of IPV are higher risk for many mental health concerns that include: alcoholism, depression, suicidal behavior, and substance abuse. There’s a shortage of safe harbors to flee from domestic violent circumstances. However, agencies such as District Alliance for Safe Housing, DASH, are a part of the solution. DASH is the largest provider of safe housing for survivors of domestic and sexual violence in the DC Metropolitan area, and addresses the lack of housing and social services for victims of domestic violence and their children.”

“With me today to discuss DASH and how their services facilitates trauma recovery is Deputy Director, Meghan Carton. Meghan Carton currently serves as the Deputy Director for the District Alliance for Safe Housing. As Deputy Director, Meghan is responsible for delivering innovative and trauma-informed programs. Prior to coming to DASH, Meghan spent over a decade in government and public service, with the majority of that work focused on advancing gender rights and improving services to youth. Over the years, Meghan has worked at the US Agency for International Development, Washington DC, public schools, Polaris, and Collective Liberty. In her roles, Meghan has frequently been asked to combine soft skills like, training in adult learning with more technical skills like, data analysis and system change. Meghan has used this background to bridge gaps and understanding on cultural competences and diversity equity; and inclusion between public servants and the communities they serve. Meghan, Welcome to A Healthy Mind!”

Meghan Carton: “Thank you for having me!”

Dr. Marshall Woods: “Of course, so tell me a little bit about DASH, and the services that you offer.”

Meghan Carton: “Yeah, so obviously I’m biased. “(Laughs)” “Umm, but I truly believe DASH has a wonderful model because we really look at the individual and the unique needs they bring to us. No survivor is the same; so no way we serve them can be the same. DASH has a spectrum of services that we provide based on the stated needs. Our biggest belief is that we don’t want to be like our abuser. Their abusers would constantly say, “ I know what you need, I want to be able to control you, I want to tell you to be able to tell you what to do.” “So, we work from the very beginning to empower them and say, what do you need? How can we help you meet that need?”

“Sometimes, we’re really lucky and what they really need is someone who can just help them advocate for their rights. For instance, a lot of people don’t know that they do have the right to have their landlord change the locks on their doors. Especially, those who have filed police reports or have some kind of legal documentation stating they’ve escaped a domestic violence situation, you have the right to be safe in your own home, and your landlord needs to make that happen. For those who don’t feel safe in their own home and need additional services we provide a range of things; everything from our building that we own out right, we hide in plain site with an apartment style building, where we house upwards of 42 individuals and families and we are one of the only ones who house everyone. So we house both men and women, cis and trans, immigrant family and not immigrant family. It really shouldn’t matter where you come from, it matters that you’re working to survive and thrive in the future, and that’s really what we work to do. We also run what we call scatter site, so that’s those who are a little more able, for safety reasons or for economic reasons, able to be in the community; so they’ll select an apartment, DASH helps with rent; obviously because we’re trying to house them, but also with additional advocacy, helping them figure out where to go next. A lot of that involves economic empowerment and financial independence. And then, we have a pretty awesome program that we call our Survivor Resilience Fund. We’re one of the first in the country to pilot it, and its really being taken up around the country, and actually around the world. It’s a flexible fund that’s used for a state of survivor need, so sometimes that housing. It might be let’s say security deposit, because you can pay your first months rent but that extra security deposit is above what you can handle. It might be for moving cost, but it also might be for things that are unique to survivors.”

“For instance, we had a survivor who had all of her teeth knocked out in a pretty terrible physical assault and wasn’t able to cover all of the dental repair. It’s pretty hard to maintain your place of residence if you can’t maintain your employment, and you can’t maintain employment if your always out trying to get funding for dental work; so we were able to cover that. But, we we’re also able to cover things like childcare, or we’re able to cover things like text books for those who just want to finish a semester at school. So, it’s really about what is that one unique barrier that’s going to keep you housed. So, for an average cost of about $1,800 – $2,000 we’re usually able to make sure that, anywhere between 60-75 families are safely housed for a year, which is pretty fantastic. So, overall you’ll see that DASH will serve around about 150 survivors in a given year, with all of our different programs that doesn’t include all of the advocacy we do and the great work we do with our partners in the field, we’re really lucky to be apart of a coalition, here in DC. So, it’s really about making sure we have a spectrum of service, and a spectrum of partners and resources to call on to make sure we’re taking care of every need that a survivor has.”

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