As I reflect on our recent announcement of new grant awards, I want to share a colleague’s story.
Imoni Washington, Director of Programs at the DC Bar Foundation, is a DC native. She grew up in a middle-class family with a Foreign Service Officer dad, stationed for many years in West Africa. There she witnessed deep poverty, and vividly remembers visiting slave castles as a child. She later attended a Quaker high school focused on community service and equality, further shaping her vision.
Today, Imoni’s widowed mother still lives in the family’s District home. Imoni is a resident of SE: “Where I live, I see the need every day. There is no escaping it.”
Imoni’s experiences have impacted who she is and how she approaches our work at DCBF – including our grantmaking, informed by local data.
People are often surprised at the District’s statistics. We are a highly educated community with residents from all over the world. But extreme gaps divide the haves and have-nots. A staggering number of residents live in poverty, including nearly 50% of children in Ward 8. Families of color carry the brunt of the disparities. As Imoni sees daily, some wards of our city are so deeply marginalized that equal access to justice is an essential battle cry.
“We have a strong pro bono ethic in DC, yet it’s still not enough to bridge the gap for those who desperately need legal aid. It’s why I have the best job in the world: making a difference at home.”
Like Imoni, I recognize how fortunate DCBF is to fund one-of-a-kind projects, such as the Community Legal Interpreter Bank (which has no equivalent anywhere in the nation). And I value our ability to fund collaborative approaches to providing legal services. Many of our grantees partner with non-legal organizations to help remove barriers to access to justice.
In innovative grantmaking and all we do at the Foundation: Your support makes it possible. Thank you!
Kirra L. Jarratt
Over the past year, DC Bar Foundation has awarded nearly $3.5 million for free legal assistance to low-income DC tenants facing eviction. (More than triple 2017’s awards!) Our longtime grantee DC Law Students in Court (DCLSIC) is among these recipients, awarded $777,000 this year to provide free-same day representation in eviction cases at the DC Superior Court.
DCLSIC’s assertive, comprehensive plan will expand access to justice for residents who may not know they are eligible for free legal assistance in eviction cases. Amplified by funding received from another DCBF grant program, their robust and collaborative litigation and outreach plan will help save affordable housing in DC.
DCLSIC is projected to substantially benefit households led by African-American females located in Wards 5, 7, and 8 with annual incomes below $25,100 for a family of four. They will achieve this goal by:
- Increasing the number of eviction-defense attorneys in Landlord-Tenant Court to 12
- Offering expanded and Saturday hours at their court-based office for legal advice
- Utilizing law students for door knocking and outreach in buildings with rampant eviction, and
- Coordinating a formal referral system with Neighborhood Legal Services Program to fill gaps in service.
Learn more about our work to increase representation of low-income tenants in eviction cases and our most recent grantees.
Each month, we highlight individuals working to make the justice system more accessible to DC residents. Meet Lucy Newton, Supervising Attorney and Co-Director of the Eviction Defense Unit for DC Law Students in Court.
Supervising Attorney and Co-Director, Eviction Defense Unit
DC Law Students in Court
Years on the Job
Less than a year, although I have been a legal service attorney in DC since 2005.
Where did you grow up?
What brought you to DC?
What was your first job in DC, and what did you learn?
I worked at a large nonprofit, and I learned a lot about coalition building and policy work.
What is your relationship to DCBF?
Favorite Vacation Spot
Anyplace with trees and stars
I am a classically trained singer. I sing a lot.
Your News Source(s)
The Washington Post, mostly
One thing (other than your phone) you never leave your house without is…
You get to paint a mural on the side of the White House. What do you paint?
The Statue of Liberty
If I hadn’t become a lawyer, I would be a…
Most rewarding element of your work
The connection with my clients.
Legal aid is important to me because …
Access to justice shouldn’t be about your income.
The most pressing civil legal aid issue in DC is…
Lack of access to affordable housing.