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2019 Friends & Neighbors Breakfast Speech

Good Morning,

I’m Jean-Michel Giraud, President & CEO of Friendship Place. Welcome to our Friends & Neighbors Breakfast.

We are so honored that Council Member Mary Cheh has not only joined us here this morning and brought her friends, Mary has also been a great friend of Friendship Place through the years. Thank you so much, Mary!  

And, this a perfect time to thank the DC Council, the Department of Human Services, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness for their incredible support. I would also like to thank Ann Frank House and the Community Housing Trust for their help. We really could not do this without you!

There are two other important guests I would like to acknowledge: our founder, Jean Duff and our founding President, Don Boardman. Thank you both for being here today.

Just as importantly, we could not do our work without all of YOU here today! The City and Federal Government help us a lot, but their funding does not go all the way around. YOU make the difference for so many who come to us with nowhere else to turn to.

And this is why I am so glad to see all of you today—both familiar and new faces, old friends and new friends. Friendship Place needs all of you to grow into the future to find solutions for every person, every family, every child who comes our way for help. Solutions that rebuild lives so we don’t leave anybody behind, not a veteran, not a child, not an older person.

In order to continue to provide person-centric, solutions-based, compassionate care, we need your help—not only to provide funds for programs like the Welcome Center and AimHire, but for the emergent needs of our participants. These needs change all the time and we have to be able to respond to them in a nimble way.

The current numbers are encouraging. Homelessness is down in the city and the region. This is a tribute to the Mayor’s and the DC Council’s commitment to work on homelessness. But, our work is not done. We need to continue to build these systems that are strong enough to catch people on time so we can end homelessness. And, more people will come to us for help during the year.

At the end of this program, we will ask you to look in your hearts and do the very best you can. You will be happy to know that the gifts and pledges made today will be matched by very generous lead donors.

Our work moves me.

It moves me because my brother was homeless right here in Georgetown by the gate of the university in the middle of the winter many years ago.

It moves me because as a young LGBTQ immigrant at 18 I lived alone in the hotels ‘by the week’ downtown San Francisco in the Tenderloin. And, I saw a lot of poverty there. I think we were all struggling but some of us did not know it.

Our work moves me because somebody helped me then, they gave me a chance, they offered me a job, and this is why I think that every young person we meet on the street is employable.

Our work moves me because with so much poverty in Washington, helping is the right thing to do.

So you see the man in front of you and you imagine the young immigrant and maybe some of you are thinking, as I am, that with a little help, there is a pretty good chance that every young person we meet on the street, as alone as he or she is, will just turn out to be all right.

Friendship Place’s programs work.

They make a difference in peoples’ lives: Street Outreach, Shelter, Housing, Jobs, Medical and Psychiatric, Case Management to support youth on the street, veterans, moms and dads and their children, single people lost in the shuffle and older people pushed out of their apartments because they cannot compete in the rental market…Imagine retiring into homelessness…It happens every day…

In 2018, we prevented or ended homelessness for 1640 people, including 355 Veterans, and 572 children. These numbers prove that our programs work! Close to 1,000 households… 226 jobs…

The numbers also account for people whose lives have changed forever thanks to you…

You know sometimes what is missing is not much but being able to offer it…is huge

$35 dollars for a missing DC ID that was stopping a veteran living under a bridge from moving forward…

$150 dollars for a Metro card and food until the first paycheck arrives for a recently hired AimHire participant…

$500 dollars for a Mom, stuck in a big shelter, hopeless and alone without her 6-year old son, so she can clear her driver’s license, get back to work, get a place again and be reunited with her son…

$35, $150, $500…$685 dollars so two people and a family can end their homelessness…

None of these amounts represents a lot of money to many of us but if you don’t have it and you don’t know anybody who does, you’re stuck and you fall into more cycles of homelessness…

These are the dollars you give us…

Of course, some costs are higher, $1,000 goes a good way toward a security deposit to house a family or a single person, a job and housing subsidy at AimHire costs $4,600 with staffing…

But, every dollar counts…

Our work is possible because of you. It is truly remarkable how quickly and creatively we can act with private funding.

For as many people as we serve, we wish we could help even more people. …We wish we could do more for each participant we serve, so our help could go further toward rebuilding.

Without this Breakfast, Friendship Place would not be here today. Without your support, we couldn’t provide these services that help provide a second chance.

Private funding allows us to be innovative and practical:

To act now and with immediate impact;

To put people first, where they should be;

To find ways to say ‘yes’ to people who have heard “no” too many times;

To be creative and flexible…and work in a nimble way;

To give these second chances;

To meet people where they are and listen to participants to build programs that fit.

You know, Friendship Place has come to be known as the place you come to as a last resort when other groups can’t help you…thanks to you!

In 2018, we helped more than 3,700 people, and we are on track to help more in 2019. We want to do more work with veterans, with the singles I was telling you are falling through the cracks, with youth, with seniors so they can age in place with us.

Some people say I’m a dreamer…that I’m I idealistic to believe we can keep our flexible, person-centered, compassionate approach when we are helping so many. But I know otherwise – because we’re a community…we have you…

In the last 13 years, I have been here, we have raised more than $12 million dollars from people who have attended the Breakfast….and made sure each of these dollars was well spent…

I can assure you of two things: no two days are ever alike at Friendship Place, and without you, we wouldn’t exist. The road ahead is long but we walk it with joy, courage, and faith—together as a community.

I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for making us who we are—a vibrant and innovative community-solving homelessness one person at a time and for so many each year! You make this happen! Thank you so much!

Please keep your support coming. We need you.

Your Donation Helps End Homelessness!

Your support for Friendship Place has a lasting impact. In 2018, our programs ended or prevented homelessness for more than 1,500 people, including 472 children in families and 439 veterans. We empowered 226 people experiencing or at risk of homelessness to get jobs through innovative, state-of-the-art job placement services. Friendship Place's programs collectively served a total of 3,770 people in 2018. Make a donation today in support of our work to end homelessness. Questions? Please feel free to call our fundraising office, 202.503.2970.

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