Letter from the Executive Director
Last fall, Mr. Thomas walked into a nonprofit legal clinic in Southeast DC, operated by one of our grantees, and explained to the coordinator that he was scheduled for eviction the next day.
A veteran, Mr. Thomas suffered from PTSD and had been hospitalized after attempting suicide, followed by time in an inpatient drug treatment facility. While under care, Mr. Thomas fell behind on his rent. And during treatment, his disability and food assistance benefits had been terminated when he missed a request for information. He also missed a court date, which led to the scheduled eviction.
Legal aid staff were able to restore his food and disability assistance benefits, and then they turned to the more complicated housing problem. Since Mr. Thomas had a pending application for housing assistance, his attorney used this to request a stay of the eviction. His application – now expired – could be re-submitted and processed, thanks to a reasonable accommodation request. Back rent was paid, and his housing secured.
Equal access to justice for Mr. Thomas – and so many other low-income DC neighbors like him – transforms lives. It’s why our Civil Legal Counsel Projects Program (CLCPP) exists and has support throughout the District.
And it’s why this month we launched an independent evaluation of the CLCPP, the most extensive evaluation of one of our grant programs to date. This investment prioritizes improving the program to provide the best support and secure the best results for the most vulnerable residents our grantees serve. It allows our work to become increasingly focused on outcomes (not just “outputs”) and to refine grantmaking approaches that truly create change.
Working with NPC Research for this evaluation brings us into the national conversation about eviction right-to-counsel. It allows us to benefit from their experience evaluating the Sargent Shriver Right to Counsel initiatives in California, an ambitious right to counsel pilot program providing legal counsel to low-income parties in housing, custody, and guardianship cases. The CLCPP evaluation will also give our grantees new tools and processes for improving their own programs and services, equipping them to provide life-changing legal aid to more of the District’s residents in greatest need.
On behalf of every DC resident like Mr. Thomas, we are committed to learning new things, improving our approaches, and meeting the future together. Thank you for your support!
Kirra L. Jarratt
Tags: Issue 32 (March 2019)