In 1938, Langston Terrace in Northeast DC opened its doors as the first public housing in the District, and only the second in the country. Its 274 units cost $6 a month, or about $100 today. At a time of drastic housing shortages, Langston Terrace was a highly-prized opportunity.
Nearly 80 years since, DC is faced with a rapidly worsening housing crisis. Rent for residents with an income of about $22,000 has increased by $250 a month over the last decade (adjusting for inflation) while incomes have remained flat. Meanwhile, DC has half
as many low-cost homes (with rents less than $800 a month) as it did in 2002. Affordable housing is moving further and further out of reach.
This April, DC celebrates Fair Housing Month, honoring the anniversary of the 1968 passing of the Fair Housing Act and recommitting to the elimination of housing discrimination and the creation of equal opportunity across our community.
Funded by the DC Bar Foundation, many of DC’s legal aid lawyers work to prevent the elimination of remaining low-cost homes, stop wrongful evictions, keep families in their homes, and uphold the Fair Housing Act. With your help, we continue to ensure this vital work, keeping DC residents in safe, reliable housing.
Kirra L. Jarratt, Executive Director
This week’s announcement of the 2017 recipients of the Access to Justice (ATJ) Grants Program marks ten years of the program. The ATJ Grants Program was established in 2007 for the purpose of placing attorneys in the poorest and most underserved areas of the District in order to ensure that DC residents, regardless of income, have access to legal assistance.
Since the program’s founding, the availability and accessibility of free legal assistance for low-income DC residents has greatly increased. With the $2.9 million appropriated for the ATJ Grants Program in 2007, the DC Bar Foundation funded 21 projects and placed 32 full-time equivalent attorneys in the community. Since then, the DC Bar Foundation has successfully stewarded close to $37 million in grants to DC legal aid organizations and increased the number of experienced, skilled attorneys helping DC residents by 63 percent.
In 2017, the DC Bar Foundation awarded $4,552,000 to 33 projects. Today, more than 22,000 low-income DC residents receive legal assistance through projects funded by the Initiative, and more than half of these residents live in Wards 7 and 8, the poorest wards of the city. The projects provide legal assistance on a variety of legal issues: from stolen wages and wrongful evictions to civil protection orders and record expungement. Legal aid is critical in leveling the playing field and ensuring that the nearly 110,000 DC residents living in poverty have an equal chance at justice.
Click here to learn more about the DC Bar Foundation’s 2017 Access to Justice Grantees.
The Foundation would like to acknowledge the organizations that have answered the 2017 Call to Action campaign. The generous support of our law firm and corporate donors continues to strengthen DC’s legal aid network and provide life-changing legal assistance to the city’s poor and underserved.
We would especially like to recognize this year’s Platinum level Call to Action donors – Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, Alston & Bird LLP, Eversheds Sutherland (US) LLP, The Sidley Austin Foundation, and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. These organizations contributed $25,000 or more through the campaign.
Click here for a complete list of donors and to learn more about how you can invest in justice with the DC Bar Foundation.
Imagine being forced to live on the streets because you cannot secure subsidized housing due to a prior conviction. At nearly 70 years old, Mr. A applied for subsidized housing at three separate properties and was rejected each time. Properties rejected his application because of a seven-year-old, non-violent, non-drug related misdemeanor conviction and a later-overturned 1991 conviction. Because he could not afford housing without a subsidy, Mr. A became homeless.
A DCBF grantee is now leading the effort to address DC’s criminal history policies for subsidized housing. Through this effort, the grantee and Mr. A hope that this case will set a precedent so that all DC residents will have access to fair, safe, and affordable housing.
Click here to learn more about the important work of DCBF’s grantees.
Each month, we highlight the efforts of those who work to make the justice system more accessible for DC residents. This Partner Profile features Rochanda Hiligh-Thomas, Executive Director of Advocates for Justice and Education, Inc and recipient of the 2017 Scoutt Prize.
Advocates for Justice and Education
Years on the Job
Almost 13 years
Little Known Fact About Your Organization
Our first office was located in Allen Chapel AME Church on Alabama Ave., SE
Where did you grow up?
What brought you to DC?
What was your first job in DC, and what did you learn?
Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment. I learned word processing.
Prayer with my children
Favorite Vacation Spot
Chocolate chip cookies and milk
One Item from your Bucket List
Travel to South Africa
Reading fiction and writing poetry
Your News Source
Newspapers, radio and t.v.
One thing (other than your phone) you never leave the house without is…
Most rewarding element of your work
Empowering others to self advocate
If I hadn’t become a lawyer, I would be a…
Legal aid is important to me because . . .
It provides access to basic necessities
My dream for the legal system is…
Equitable access to fair & just resolutions
The most pressing civil legal aid issue in DC is…
Economic stability & habitable housing
Would you like to tell us about your role in DC’s legal aid community? Fill out our Partner Profile Survey and share your story in an upcoming newsletter.