Elevating Voices on Poverty Issues: A Q&A with Digital Hope

It begins tomorrow- the official launch of our consulting projects for our newest cohort of grantees. Get to know all of our grantees better! Street Sense is not new to the DC social innovation scene, but their new marketing professionals program is. We are proud to include Digital Hope ( formerly Street Sense Digital Marketing Certification Program) as part of our newest cohort of grantees.

Participants in the Street Sense Digital Hope Program meet for class

Participants in the Street Sense Digital Hope Program meet for class

Describe your professional background and current job.

Brian Carome has served as executive director of Street Sense, DC’s street newspaper, since November 2011. He has over 30 years of senior management experience at non-profit homeless service and child welfare agencies in the Washington, DC metro area. Previously he served as Executive Director at Housing Opportunities for Women, Project Northstar and A-SPAN. Additionally he worked at New Hope Housing, Sasha Bruce Youthwork, the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless and the Father McKenna Center. Brian helped design and implement several innovative transitional and permanent supportive housing programs in partnership with local and federal agencies, including the National Institute of Mental Health, and the US Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Health and Human Services. He has lectured on homelessness and at risk populations at the Catholic University of America’s School of Social Service and Georgetown University Law School. He holds a BA from Boston College and an Executive Certificate in Non-profit Leadership from Georgetown University’s Center for Public and Non-profit Leadership.

Tell us about your program that received support from DCSIP: what does your program do and what are its goals?

Digital Hope, part of our growing media center, is a new marketing professionals program that trains a small class of veteran writers from our newspaper to hone their skills in order to write blogs commercially.

Providing and refining digital skills is necessary for anyone to enter today’s workforce. Learning how to leverage these skills independently and online goes a step further to remove other employment barriers individuals may face, such as the expectation of a certain appearance or a spotless past.

What accomplishments has your program made so far?

The group has already completed work for a California health clinic and used lessons from that work to inform the class’ structure. Work for a new client began January 29, 2015.

Any specific success story of a participant in your program that you’d like to share?

Ibn Hipps became a Street Sense vendor soon after his release from a prolonged prison sentence. In his late 40s, upon release from prison, Ibn was both homeless and unemployed. Seeking a better life for himself, and eager to begin contributing to the upbringing of his children, he found his way to Street Sense and began taking advantage of the opportunities the organization offers.

Ibn begins his work day well before 9 AM, during the morning commuter rush hour, distributing the paper. He also began making time to write for the paper during breaks from his work. It was through his writing that he came to the attention of Adam Motiwala, the workshop’s creator. Late last year, Ibn cleared of parole after five years.  In speaking about his work with the Street Sense Digital Hope program, Ibn says, “When you talk about making money you have to talk about commitment. This isn’t just for me, it’s for my kids.”

So many people see a problem in their community but don’t do anything about it; what motivated you to actually do something?

Street Sense has been changing the story of homelessness for over 11 years. We understand that the men and women living outside in our community desperately want opportunities to work and to contribute. Ours is a simple model. We harness the talents, aspirations and willingness to work hard of men and women who’ve become homeless and have been left behind by the economy. Through our work we’ve had the privilege to discover that these men and women when given the chance can be defined by their talents and their character rather than their housing situation.

What did winning the early support from DCSIP mean to you personally?

Receipt of the DCSIP grant helped confirm that we are on the right track with this new project.

What impact did DCSIP and the support you received have on your program? Did it help attract more resources or help your program grow in some way?

In addition to providing the materials necessary to expand the program, DCSIP and the match funding, and the technical assistance that comes with it, will be used test the sustainability and scalability of the project. In the meantime, it will provide a clear avenue for participants in 2015 to pull themselves out of poverty.

Read more about Digital Hope here and find them on their website.

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