DC Bar Foundation Awards $3,865,000 to Fund Civil Legal Services for the Poor

[District of Columbia, March 11, 2015] — The DC Bar Foundation today announced the FY15 recipients of the Access to Justice (ATJ) Grant Program, which awards grants to nonprofit legal services organizations that provide direct civil legal services to low-income DC residents. A total of $3,865,000 was awarded to 24 projects, of which five are new projects.

Funded by a grant from the District of Columbia Office of Victim Services (OVS), the ATJ Grant Program funds projects in three categories: (a) underserved areas; (b) housing-related matters; and (c) a shared legal services interpreter bank. The Foundation awarded 19 grants in the underserved areas category, totaling $2,555,000; four grants in the housing-related matters category, totaling $1,040,000; and one grant to the shared legal services interpreter bank, totaling $270,000.

The ATJ Grant Program increases access to justice to low-income DC residents, in every ward of the city, by providing direct legal representation on an array of civil legal issues, including domestic violence, child support, and public benefit matters, as well as workers’, returning citizens’, and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) rights. The program funds collaborative projects that range from strengthening medical-legal partnerships to providing day-of attorneys for those facing eviction.

Five new projects received funding. These projects will:

  • Reduce the wrongful eviction by providing counsel to every tenant in subsidized housing;
  • Fight for the educational rights of those in the juvenile justice system who are 17 to 22 years old;
  • Provide legal assistance to DC’s transgender community in the identity change process and represent transgender victims in employment and health care discrimination cases;
  • Assist survivors of torture obtain political asylum; and
  • Increase representation to domestic violence victims in custody, child support, and divorce cases.

The complete list of FY15 ATJ Grant Program grantees and projects is attached and available on the DC Bar Foundation’s website (www.dcbarfoundation.org).

The DC Bar Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization established in 1977, is the largest funder of civil legal services in the District. The Bar Foundation’s mission is to fund, support, and improve legal representation of the poor, vulnerable, and otherwise disadvantaged in the District of Columbia, and it is committed to the vision that residents of the District have equal access to justice, regardless of income. The Foundation provides grants and training and technical assistance to local non-profit legal services organizations and awards loans to D.C. poverty lawyers to help with their educational debt.

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FY15 Access to Justice Grant Program Overview

This overview provides a brief summary of the projects publicly funded by the FY15 Access to Justice Grant Program, which are awarded to civil legal services providers for projects that fall in one of these three categories: (1) a shared legal services interpreter bank; (2) underserved areas in DC; and (3) housing-related matters. The projects described below received new or continued public funding.

(1) Shared Legal Services Interpreter Bank

Community Legal Interpreter Bank
$270,000
Ayuda received continued funding for its shared legal interpreter bank, which provides assistance to legal service providers using trained community legal interpreters. The project serves as a national model for coordinated, point-of-service legal interpreter services.

(2) Underserved Areas

Generations Project
$25,000
Children’s Law Center received continued funding for its medical-legal partnership with the Children’s National Medical Center’s Generations program that focuses on teen parents and their children. The project provides legal representation on a wide range of issues and health outcomes for children born to teen parents.

Workers’ Rights Clinic Collaboration
$30,000
DC Employment Justice Center received continued funding for its Workers’ Rights Clinic Collaboration with Neighborhood Legal Services Program (NLSP). The Workers’ Rights Clinic serves DC resident workers located in Wards 5 and 7. The Collaboration also expands NLSP’s capacity to litigate employment cases on behalf of low-income workers residing in DC.

Direct Legal Representation & Advocacy Project*
$40,000
The School Justice Project (SJP) received new funding to protect and advocate for the special education rights of court-involved students, ages 17 to 22, during incarceration and throughout reintegration. SJP attorneys work to increase access to appropriate special education to improve educational, employment, and life outcomes for this traditionally excluded student population.

Expanded Representation to Domestic Violence Victims in Custody, Child Support and Divorce*
$40,000
DC Volunteer Lawyers Project (DCVLP) received new funding to expand their existing program representing domestic violence survivors in extended custody, child support, and divorce matters. DCVLP utilizes a network of volunteer attorneys to address the severe shortage of free legal assistance for low-income people in the District who have urgent family law needs.

Pro Bono Asylum Program*
$40,000
Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC) received new funding to expand its Pro Bono Asylum Program (PBAB), which provides free legal services to survivors of torture who reside in DC and are seeking political asylum. PBAP helps survivors prepare their applications, affidavits, and evidence for asylum, as well as prepare survivors for interviews and represent the clients in their asylum interview.

Community Lawyering Project
$58,000
Bread for the City received continued funding for its innovative community lawyering work located at its site on Good Hope Road, SE (border of Wards 7 and 8). The public grant continues to fund the project’s lawyers, who work directly with the community, help identify options to address concerns, and provide substantial direct representation to individuals in the community. The project will advise residents of Kenilworth Parkside on relocation and represent groups of residents and individuals in housing-related matters at Barry Farms, Bass Place, Mayfair Mansions III and Terrace Manor.

Transgender Legal Service Project*
$69,500
Whitman-Walker Health received new funding to assist DC’s growing transgender population on a variety of legal issues including discrimination in the workplace, at school, in housing, and in health care; public benefits; immigration; private health insurance; future planning; and obtaining accurate identity documents. The grant will also increase Whitman-Walker Health’s capacity to serve those transgender clients seeking assistance at its name and gender change clinic, which started in June 2012.

Project Eradicating Notario Deceit (Project END)
$75,000
Ayuda received renewed funding to advise, counsel and represent immigrant victims of fraud in potential immigration, civil, and criminal processes stemming out of fraudulent acts by “representatives” purporting to serve the immigrant community. These representatives are often known as “notarios” or “immigration consultants.” The intended beneficiaries of Project END are low-income immigrants residing in the District who have been defrauded by a notario claiming to provide immigration legal services.

Brief Services Unit Project
$80,000
Neighborhood Legal Services Program received renewed funding to maintain a staff attorney in its Brief Services Unit. The attorney performs an initial diagnosis of legal problems and provides advice or brief service when such limited assistance may be sufficient to enable the individual to resolve the problem. The beneficiaries of the project are DC residents living in Wards 5, 7, and 8.

Homebound Elderly Project (Project HELP)
$95,000
Legal Counsel for the Elderly received renewed funding for an attorney to assist low-income homebound elders in need of wills, advance directives, and public benefits audits, as well as those affected by consumer scams and housing-related issues. The attorney brings legal services directly to those low-income seniors who cannot get out to meet with an attorney. The Project HELP lawyer also draws on support of a pool of pro bono lawyers and other volunteer professionals to provide increased legal services to homebound seniors.

School Discipline/Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) Extended Project
$115,000
Advocates for Justice and Education received continued funding to address the increasing demand for legal representation and support in suspension and expulsion proceedings. The project provides on-site free legal assistance (information, advice and counsel and/or brief services) to parents, guardians, or students at the students’ disciplinary hearings before the Office of Administrative Hearings.

DC Jail & Prison Advocacy Project
$140,000
University Legal Services (ULS) serves as DC’s federally mandated protection and advocacy organization – charged with working for the rights of people with disabilities. ULS received continued funding to support attorneys who provide legal services and direct advocacy for inmates in the DC Jail and other DC correctional facilities with mental disabilities. The staff attorneys have established good relationships and work closely with DC Department of Corrections, DC Department of Mental Health and Federal Bureau of Prisons regarding DC prisoners.

Domestic Violence Community Legal Services Project
$140,000
Bread for the City received continued funding for its Domestic Violence Community Legal Services Project, which provides legal services, including civil protection orders, divorce, child custody, and public benefits, to low-income District residents who are experiencing violence within the household. The project’s target populations are domestic violence survivors living in Wards 5, 6, 7, and 8.

Domestic Violence Underserved Communities Representation Project
$140,000
Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia received continued funding to provide focused outreach and legal services to domestic violence survivors in poor and underserved communities in DC. The project attorneys have also established an office at the NW Domestic Violence Intake Center located in DC Superior Court.

Max Robinson Center Legal Services
$170,000
Whitman-Walker Health (WWH) received continued funding to provide legal representation, counseling, and outreach to people living with HIV/AIDS and other low-income residents in Wards 7 and 8 through lawyers based at its Max Robinson Clinic in Southeast DC. WWH offers its free legal services to LGBT individuals and families in DC regardless of HIV status, and to health care patients at WWH regardless of HIV status, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

Healthy Together
$270,000
Children’s Law Center received continued funding for its Healthy Together Project in Southeast DC. In this medical-legal collaboration, the lawyers provide services through the two Southeast clinic offices of the Children’s National Medical Center (CNMC). The lawyers work with families of CNMC patients to identify and resolve non-medical solutions to children’s health issues.

Child Support Community Legal Services Project
$298,500
Bread for the City and Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia received continued funding for their Child Support Court-Based Legal Services Project. The project’s partners maintain a court-based legal services office at the Paternity & Support Branch of the DC Superior Court. The public funding supports staff attorney positions to improve individual outcomes for custodial and noncustodial parents in their child support cases, enhance the fairness of the court process, and increase the efficiency of the Paternity & Support Branch.

Polk Street Office – Ward 7
$325,000
Neighborhood Legal Services Program (NLSP) received continued funding to provide neighborhood based legal services in housing, family law, and public benefits. This funding supports the salaries of lawyers located in Ward 7 in NLSP’s neighborhood legal services office on Polk Street, NE.

Southeast Neighborhood Access Project
$404,000
Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia has received continued public funding to support lawyers who work with clients from offices co-located with other service organizations in Wards 7 and 8. Lawyers work out of two neighborhood offices located in Southeast and provide a range of civil legal services.

(3) Housing-related Matters

Housing and Community Development Project
$45,000
The Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center (APALRC) is the region’s legal advocate for the legal and civil rights of Asian Americans in the Washington metropolitan area. Through the Housing and Community Development Project, APALRC received continued funding to provide legal assistance to the District’s low-income Asian immigrants with limited-English proficiency regarding evictions, threats, illegal rent increase, and bad housing conditions, as well as illegal relocation, denial of access to housing applications, and lack of language access in Section 8 developments.

Attorney-of-the Day
$97,500
DC Law Students in Court received continued public funding to support attorneys to work at the Landlord-Tenant Court in collaboration with the Landlord-Tenant Court Based Legal Services Project. This grant leverages additional legal assistance from law students on matters residents bring to Landlord-Tenant Court.

Housing Right to Counsel Pilot Project*
$310,000
The Housing Right to Counsel Pilot Project received new funding and is a collaboration project between Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, Bread for the City, and Legal Counsel for the Elderly. The project grows out of the DC Right to Housing Initiative, which is a collaborative effort among legal services providers, the DC Bar Pro Bono Program, and the DC Access to Justice Commission and addresses the lack of safe, affordable, accessible, stable housing for DC’s low-income residents. The project’s goal is to reduce eviction by significantly expanding representation for tenants facing eviction who live in subsidized housing.

Landlord-Tenant Court Based Legal Services Project
$585,500
Bread for the City and Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia received continued funding to maintain lawyers in the Landlord Tenant Court Based Legal Services Project to provide legal services to low-income tenants in DC through an “attorney-of-the-day” project. Tenants receive same-day representation in matters they have in court and long-term help on housing matters. By increasing representation in Landlord Tenant Court, lawyers help keep families in housing, address code violations, and keep housing affordable.

*The projects with an asterisk are new projects; all others received renewal funding.