Coffee & Conversation 2019
Coffee & Conversation is a new program featuring a deep-dive into a topic of interest to our members. This hourly discussion allows Women's Policy Forum to dig deeper into an issue and invite additional experts to educate and raise awareness of challenges our community faces.
Women's Health : Learning from Agencies Working to Improve Women's Health
At our second Coffee & Conversation event, WPF members Anjali Desai and Patricia Alridge formatted a stellar panel of experts and community leaders to talk about Women's Health.
The Women's Center of Tarrant County
Alisha Byerly, Assistant Director of Crisis Services focused on their crisis services, including providing sexual assault advocates to victims during their medical examination. See presentation.
March of Dimes
Aly Layman, March of Dimes Executive Director for DFW, told a personal story of her own twins born prematurely and how that inspired her work with March of Dimes. She also gave sobering stats of the maternal death rate and premature birth in the U. S. and in Texas. See presentation.
UNT Health Science Center's Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas
Dr. Amy Raines Milenkov, Assistant Professor in Department of Pediatrics and Women's Health, spoke of the Building Bridges to Cancer Prevention program and its work with refugee women.
Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas
Amy Vickers, Executive Director, spoke about the work of Mothers' Milk Bank providing safe provisions of pasteurized donor milk for premature and critically ill infants with a medical need. See presentation
Planned Parenthood in Tarrant & Denton County
Astrid Fuentes, Community Outreach Specialist, spoke about the variety of services provided and the legislation that will help expand care in Texas. See presentation
SaveHaven of Tarrant County
Mary Beth Kopsovich, Vice President of Non-Residential Services, spoke of their work with those affected by domestic violence. See presentation
Homelessness, Poverty and Families: A Discussion with Policy Makers and Change Agents
Christie Eckler, board member for Tarrant County Homeless Coalition, coordinated the discussion and recruited the four panelists. Flora Brewer , who has worked hard to address homelessness as a business owner and community activist, served as moderator.
Panelists included Mary-Margaret Lemons, President of Fort Worth Housing Solutions; Tammy McGhee, Executive Director of Tarrant County Homeless Coalition; Tori Sisk, Coordinator for the Student Outreach Services at Arlington ISD; and Cindy Casey,
Director of Client Strategy Services for Catholic Charities Fort Worth.
Each panelist explained their role in addressing homelessness. Tammy McGhee, Executive Director of Tarrant County Homeless Coalition (TCHC), shared
results of the 2019 Point in Time Count which showed a total of 2,028 homeless on any given night in Tarrant and Parker counties. The largest number of those are in Fort Worth, although the count in Arlington is growing faster.
As the homeless liaison for Arlington ISD, Tori Sisk talked about her experiences working with students who are classified as homeless. She said the Department of Education has a broader definition of homelessness (including hotel and motel stays), which causes confusion and frustration for families as they try to seek help. In Arlington, there are currently 25% of students in hotels, compared to the state average of 7%.
Cindy Casey, sharing her experiences in case management through Catholic Charities, emphasized the need for continuous case management to follow families to ensure they can maintain employment and manage rent expenses once placed in an apartment. Often, she said, even with available vouchers, there will be a gap in monthly rent, which Catholic Charities assists with. "Eviction is by far what we struggle against daily," she said.
Mary-Margaret Lemons spoke about the mixed-income housing programs at Fort Worth Housing Solutions. Citing a lack of vouchers to match the need, she said there is a 5-year wait list with 5,000 on the list, which is currently closed. In a survey administered last year by the Department of Housing and Urban Development which included Fort Worth as one of five cities to determine landlord acceptance of housing choice vouchers, Fort Worth showed the highest level of discrimination against renters with vouchers. Lemons said she has subsequently met with some property managers and has seen some changes in those attitudes.
For more information on the issues discussed, please visit the following links:
The first Coffee & Conversation program was held on Thursday, May 23 from 8:00-9:00 a.m. at the James L. West Center Chapel. Members and guests from the community attended the program to learn more about the issue of homelessness in our area.
Panelists (l-r): Tori Sisk, Mary-Margaret Lemons, Tammy McGhee, Cindy Casey and moderator Flora Brewer.