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Blogging For Ward 7: Community Activist Susie Cambria

Blogging for Ward 7: Community Activist Susie Cambria

By Peter Nye Ward 7 blogger and community activist Susie Cambria has worked on District policy and public-interest initiatives for more than two decades, partnering with local nonprofits and the DC city government before launching Susie's Budget and Policy Corner in 2009. But she first got involved in community issues early in her childhood. Her parents led her in that direction: “Being an activist was just something that we did.” When she was seven, her father, a Shriner, took her to the Shriner’s Children’s Hospital in Springfield, Massachusetts. She was influenced by the patients’ problems, especially those of a seven-year-old amputee who pushed himself around in a cart. Susie promptly hosted a neighborhood fair to raise money for the patients. She raised seven dollars; impressed by her dedication, the Shriners donated twice as much. (more…)
Protecting The Veterans Who Protected Us

Protecting the Veterans Who Protected Us

By Ryan C. Wilson For veterans, applying for government benefits and housing can feel like David fighting Goliath. A confusing array of deadlines and eligibility requirements often choke veterans' efforts to get the benefits to which they are entitled. And when veterans attempt to find housing, post-service disabilities can expose them to slumlords who bypass the legal process and force them out onto the streets. The Washington Post recently highlighted two veterans who were forced to live in their Southeast apartment for months during the winter without heat and then locked out without their possessions. [more…]
Expungement Clinic In Anacostia

Expungement Clinic in Anacostia

By Caroline Fleming On May 17, DC Ward 8 Councilmember LaRuby May will host a record-sealing and expungement fair in Anacostia. At the fair, volunteer lawyers will help DC residents with the complicated process of sealing or expunge criminal records. If you're a DC lawyer or legal professional interested in pro bono work, it's a great way to volunteer for a discrete period of time. The fair supports the broader movement in DC to make it easier for people with criminal records to get jobs. In particular, the 2014 Ban the Box law prohibits certain DC employers from asking about criminal history on their initial application forms, and allows them to ask about criminal convictions only after making a conditional offer of employment. [...]
Preserving Homeownership In Deanwood

Preserving Homeownership in Deanwood

By Amy Gellatly At Neighborhood Legal Services Program, we want to make sure that longtime Deanwood residents are able to preserve their homes and pass them down to future generations. That’s why we are launching a new Homeownership Preservation program out of our Deanwood office. With this program, we will advocate on behalf of homeowners and make sure that they have access to the District’s services for homeowners in distress. (More…)
Poverty And Participation, East Of The River

Poverty and Participation, East of the River

By David Steib Exclusion begets poverty begets exclusion begets poverty begets exclusion begets poverty. “When the participation of people living in poverty is not actively sought and facilitated, they are not able to participate in decision-making and their needs and interests are not taken into account when policy is designed and implemented,“ said a March 2013 report by the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. ”Lack of participation in decision-making and in civil, social, and cultural life,“ the report added, is ”a defining feature and cause of poverty, rather than just its consequence.” (More…)

Job Seeker Workshop at Anacostia Library

Upcoming programs at DC Public Library East of the River will help District residents with criminal records search for a job. "Ban the Box," a DC law passed in 2014, says that certain employers are not allowed to inquire about criminal background on initial job application forms, and can ask about criminal convictions only after making a conditional offer of employment. A series of interactive workshops, facilitated by lawyers from Bread for the City and Neighborhood Legal Services Program, will teach residents about the new law and will walk participants through the process of filing a complaint if their rights are violated. The next workshop in the series takes place Wednesday, March 18, at 11:00 a.m. at the Anacostia Library on 1800 Good Hope Road SE. Additional Ban the Box workshops, along with more East of the River programming, is planned in the coming months as well.

Education News, East Of The River

Education News, East of the River

February has already brought two innovations to DC education, with particular benefits for residents East of the River and in other disadvantaged local communities. First, the DC City Council has teamed up with DC Public Libraries for an exciting new program, called Books from Birth, which provides DC kids with a free book each month from birth until they turn five. The goal is to get children reading as early and often as possible in order to close the "achievement gap" that many disadvantaged children face when starting school. Parents or caregivers can register their children here; books are mailed monthly and the kids can keep the books (and read them as often as they want). Second, and in another effort to address the achievement gap—as well as the "summer learning loss" that many kids experience over summer vacation—DC will implement an extended school year for ten schools starting this fall. The Post reports that the ten elementary and middle schools, nine of which are in Wards 7 and 8, will have 20 extra days added to their school years. The goal is to replace a summer-break model with a year-round model. On extra added days, kids will have opportunities for extra learning both in core subjects and in "specials" such as arts, languages, and physical education. Mayor Bowser praised the initiative, pointing out that by the time the students reach eighth grade, they will have received an extra year's worth of instruction. DC officials hope that the added learning time will help level the playing field, giving children in disadvantaged neighborhoods more opportunities to learn and thrive.

Surviving the Blizzard with No Heat

Low-income residents, including many East of the River, spent Snowzilla hunkered down under blankets or huddled around small space heaters. The Post describes the plight of many poor D.C. residents during the recent blizzard. For instance, a woman in Washington Highlands had to leave her oven running, with the door open, because the heat in her apartment has been broken all winter. Lack of heat can result from several circumstances facing low-income residents. D.C.'s Office of People's Counsel reports that low-income residents are often afraid to complain about their heating problems because they are worried that other social services will be discontinued if the city learns of their poor housing conditions. As explained by a housing lawyer with the Legal Aid Society for the District of Columbia, many low-income residents don't complain to their landlords for fear of eviction. And some landlords just don't properly maintain their properties—as we have previously discussed. As a result, many of D.C.'s poorest residents who went without heat during this week's historic snowstorm will continue to face similar unsafe conditions throughout the winter, even after the snow has melted.

DC Attorney General Sues Congress Heights Landlord

The Post continues to follow the story of Congress Heights residents pushing to remediate their unsafe housing conditions. The DC Attorney General's office has stepped in to sue the landlords of four buildings in the Ward 8 neighborhood, where low-income residents have long complained of housing problems ranging from rats to mold to lack of heat and hot water.
Medical-Legal Partnership Helps Children East Of The River

Medical-Legal Partnership Helps Children East of the River

By Arooj Sami After eight-year-old Marie (name changed to protect her confidentiality) mentioned her fear of the cockroaches in her home, a doctor realized that there may be another way to help the young patient avoid more emergency room visits to treat her severe asthma. In the District, where 20 percent of children under age 18 have asthma, there are increasing efforts to go beyond clinical interventions and address the roots of this disease. Children’s Law Center, a nonprofit that provides free legal services to children and their families, has partnered with six health facilities around the District, including Unity Health Care’s Minnesota Avenue Clinic in Ward 7, to form Healthy Together. Lawyers from Healthy Together are on site at the partner facilities to train medical staff and answer questions about patients’ non-medical needs. The partnership reflects a holistic approach to children’s health. Although pediatricians advise parents on prescriptions or how to control allergens in the home, in many cases parents have little ability to manage their children's asthma. Some schools have poor air quality and may be unable or unwilling to take steps to reduce asthma triggers. In addition, low-income parents facing housing challenges often cannot prevent a child’s exposure to problematic mold in the home. More generally, management of asthma is affected to economic and social disparities, and low-income families face many barriers to effective management of chronic respiratory conditions. These families often experience instability in employment, housing, and family structure, and have fewer resources to fight for safe and sanitary housing conditions. Low-income working parents tend to lack paid leave or flexible work schedules, and are often unable to take children to doctor’s appointments scheduled during business hours. Areas in the District with the highest prevalence of asthma also have fewer primary care providers—for instance, children in Southeast DC visit the emergency room at a rate ten times greater than in Northwest DC. In light of these circumstances, health practitioners collaborating with Healthy Together attorneys are encouraged to ask about social and economic factors affecting patients’ health and make referrals to address those problems. Practitioners can also consult the Advocacy Code Card, which contains screening questions and resources for mental health services, housing, special education, and public benefits. This type of multi-pronged, collaborative approach is proving to be effective in tackling childhood asthma in the District. In addition to its partnership with Healthy Together, Children’s Law Center has worked with the DC Council to address mold in housing. Prior to 2014, the DC housing code did not cover mold; as long as there was no visible dampness, landlords were able to pass inspection by simply painting over mold.  But thanks to the advocacy of Children’s Law Center, the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, and other groups, the City Council passed a new law requiring landlords to remediate mold once tenants report it. As for Marie: she was referred to Children’s Law Center by Impact DC, an asthma research and treatment unit at the Children’s National Health System, after an emergency room visit. Children's Law Center arranged for a housing inspection through the DC Department of Environment’s Partnership for Healthy Homes. The inspection showed signs of cockroaches, excrement, decomposing cockroach bodies, and mice in the HVAC system—all triggers for asthma. After legal action was threatened, the landlord agreed to move Marie and her family to sanitary housing. Marie's health improved drastically after her family moved into better housing conditions. She had fewer acute episodes and did not have to be rushed to the emergency room. When her asthma was poorly controlled, Marie was missing school, or she was tired and unable to concentrate in class. Her mother, who was losing sleep staying up nights to care for Marie when she was wheezing, found it difficult to maintain steady employment because her daughter’s health required urgent attention. The family has since regained a sense of calm and an improved quality of life—all thanks to help from Healthy Together.

East Of The River Profiles:  Meeting The Community’s Legal Needs

East of the River Profiles: Meeting the Community’s Legal Needs

East of the River Profiles highlight the work of lawyers,  law professors, and law students who serve low-income residents in Wards 7 and 8.  Poverty in the District of Columbia is concentrated in certain communities east of the Anacostia River. Lawyers are critical to helping low-income residents in these communities navigate challenges such as finding housing, stabilizing families, and finding jobs. Providing the necessary legal services to those who live East of the River requires minimizing geographic barriers to accessing legal aid, motivating pro bono lawyers and law students to travel across the river to assist clients, and ensuring that legal aid lawyers are visible and accessible in the community. With East of the River Profiles, we hope to encourage these changes by highlighting the needs of those who live East of the River and the work done by the lawyers serving these communities. In addition to telling these important stories, we've collected some East of the River resources. We also invite you to participate in the East of the River Casehandlers group. Finally, we’d love to hear from you! If you have stories, successes, or resources that you’d like us to share, please contact Caroline Fleming.

Humanitini, East of the River

The Humanities Council of Washington DC, an organization dedicated to sharing local history and culture of neighborhoods throughout the District, is hosting its December Humanitini event East of the River. Humanitini—"where happy hour meets the humanities"—is a monthly event bringing together local experts and residents for discussion, education, and debate. December's event features panelists from the Anacostia Coordinating Council, the DC Federation of Civic Associations, and the Eastland Gardens Civic Association, as well as a local scholar of DC anthropology. They'll be discussing the complex and varied histories of neighborhoods East of the River with an eye towards the future of this vital part of the District. The December Humanitini event will take place on December 27, 2015, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Uniontown Bar and Grill in Anacostia. Admission is free.

Law Firm Partnership with Legal Aid Expands East of the River

DC law firm Kirkland & Ellis has recently expanded its partnership with the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, providing increased access to legal assistance for East of the River residents. As part of the growing partnership, Kirkland attorneys are now helping to staff the Anacostia office of Legal Aid. Located at the Anacostia Professional Building at the "Big Chair," the East of the River office now offers general intake on Mondays and Thursdays between 10:00 am and 1:30 pm. It's just one of the reasons we're honoring Kirkland at our 2015 Awards Ceremony!

Redevelopment Plans Cause Concern for Congress Heights Residents

Residents in four rent-controlled buildings in the Congress Heights neighborhood of Southeast DC fear losing their homes to redevelopment, the Post reports. As housing costs increase across the city, residents worry that plans for a new housing complex near the proposed Washington Wizards practice facility in Ward 8 will force them out of some of the last affordable housing in the city. Of the 47 units in the current complex, only 19 are currently occupied; residents claim the property owners are failing to make repairs in an attempt to "push people out." Although denying any attempt to force residents to vacate units, the owners confirm that they are "not currently making capital improvements" to the buildings in anticipation of the development project. Meanwhile, 19 families will likely soon be searching for affordable housing in a city that's increasingly inhospitable to low-income residents. According to Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless attorney Will Merrifield, who is representing the Congress Heights residents, the DC rental market "is so out of control that if you’re displaced from a rent-controlled apartment, it is essentially impossible to find housing." Similarly situated Ward 8 residents recently won abatement of unsanitary, unsafe housing conditions in a Congress Heights neighborhood, with the help of pro bono services from Howard and Catholic University law students.

Apply for a Legal Job East of the River

We know you are passionate about improving the lives of DC residents, and in particular ensuring that East of the River residents have access to quality legal service and help defending their rights. Here's a chance to put that passion to work! The Neighborhood Legal Services Program is currently accepting applications for a Staff Attorney to work on housing and community development in the Deanwood neighborhood of Northeast DC. The Staff Attorney will focus primarily on implementing a project to prevent loss of home ownership in Deanwood, including organizing and conducting outreach to residents, particularly those living in deteriorating properties, on common threats to home ownership and protections against loss of equity or ownership; developing strategies to address deteriorating, abandoned, or blighted housing; and developing responses to predatory lending and fraudulent renovation practices that threaten home ownership. Information about the position, including application instructions, can be found here.

Celebrate Pro Bono Week East of the River

DC Pro Bono Week is here! Among the events taking place from October 25 to 31 is an opportunity to learn more about the Healthy Together program, a medical-legal partnership between the Children's Law Center and health care facilities in the District. On Thursday, October 29, from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m., visit Unity Health Care's Minnesota Ave NE health center to meet with an attorney from Healthy Together and learn about the ways in which attorneys and health providers are coming together to help families gain access to the legal services they need to improve their children's health outcomes. More information about this site visit, including registration information, is available here.

Ward 8 Councilmember LaRuby May

Ward 8 Councilmember LaRuby May

By Alex Kurtz After an election so close that it almost automatically generated a recount, in April LaRuby May won the Ward 8 seat on the DC City Council. Although she won by a narrow margin, Councilmember May has continued to garner support even after being sworn in; she encourages constituents’ participation in their community with the goal to “see Ward 8 rise.” Her newsletter, The Rise, first published just a month into her term, keeps Ward 8 informed about her work, providing residents with necessary information to actively participate in their community through community meetings and “pop-up” offices. It also helps them meet their own families’ needs, providing public safety contact information and agency response timeframes. It was her work with children, in part, that led May to law school and to her current position. While working for a nonprofit that served children, and teaching them about the importance of giving back to their communities, May was urged by the children to become a lawyer. Their enthusiasm played an important role in her decision to attend law school at the University of the District of Columbia, where her legal education was influenced by a strong commitment to public service. Since then, she has dedicated herself to serving others. Councilmember May assured the children and families that she serves that her actions would be consistent with her words, and she has strived to honor this commitment since entering office. As an ambassador for Ward 8, she and her colleagues at organizations such as the Neighborhood Legal Services Program have worked closely to ensure that constituents are connected with the legal services they need. When May finds a particular legal need that isn’t covered by the available services in the District, she seeks help from law firms. She also recently co-introduced legislation with Councilmember Brandon Todd that, if approved by her colleagues on the Council, would provide seniors with access to legal clinics. May is also the first Councilmember to introduce Pop-Up Office Hours in Ward 8. Her goal is to connect residents with resources from various government agencies in DC, such as onsite emergency benefits and immunizations so that students can start school on time. May believes that the government shouldn’t always expect people to come to them, and that it should bring services to the people who need them most. Alex Kurtz is a student at Washington College and a former intern at Washington Council of Lawyers.

Know Your Rights! Housing Discrimination Workshop Sept. 22

The DC Office of Human Rights is sponsoring a Know Your Rights Workshop at the Anacostia Neighborhood Library on Tuesday, September 22, at 7:00 p.m. The workshop will cover fair housing issues, focusing on discrimination against people with vouchers or other subsidies, discrimination against people of color, people with disabilities, and other protected communities. The Anacostia Neighborhood Library is located at 1800 Good Hope Road SE, and can be reached by Metrobus routes 92, V5, W6, and W8. To request a reasonable accommodation or interpretation for the workshop, please contact Teresa Rainey at (202) 727-5343 / teresa.rainey@dc.gov  by September 11.

Breaking Barriers To Employment: Jobseeker Legal Clinics At The DC Public Library

Breaking Barriers to Employment: Jobseeker Legal Clinics at the DC Public Library

By Daniel Choi In a small room at the Francis Gregory library in Ward 7, a staff attorney from the Neighborhood Legal Services Program is ready for a different kind of legal clinic—one targeting the needs of people trying to get jobs. The librarian makes an announcement over the speaker, and in the course of two short hours, seven people stop by for free one-on-one legal consultations about their criminal records, discrimination, wage theft, credit reports, suspended drivers licenses, and other barriers to employment. NLSP launched Jobseeker Legal Clinics in October 2014 as part of its larger Breaking Barriers to Employment project. An NLSP attorney visits DC Public Library branches across the District, including those, like Francis Gregory, located East of the River. NLSP is hoping to reach low-income and homeless library patrons who are seeking work but whose legal barriers are preventing them from obtaining and keeping stable employment. Since the project began, NLSP has held nearly 60 Jobseeker Legal Clinics and 10 know-your-rights presentations, and has performed over 165 individual legal consultations at various branches of the DC Public Library. Jobseeker Clinics will resume in fall 2015. Why hold clinics at the Library? While the overall economy is improving, this is not true for all residents of Washington, DC.  According to December 2014 numbers, Wards 6, 7, and 8 had respective unemployment rates of 6.2 percent, 13 percent, and 16.3 percent; the national unemployment rate was 5.6 percent during the same period. With the transition from paper to electronic job applications, and the high cost of computer and internet access, more and more unemployed DC residents are turning to the Library as a resource for their job application needs.  In fact, according to the American Library Association, nearly two-thirds of libraries provide the only free computer and internet access in their communities. Fortunately, DC Public Library is leading a national trend in transforming library spaces from passive information repositories to active social-service centers. With 25 branches around the city, including seven locations East of the River, the DC Public Library is already in communities where help is needed. The Library recently hired a full-time social worker, and many librarians are already systematically assisting patrons with computer skills, cover letters, and resumes. From the legal end, NLSP provides assistance and resources to librarians and patrons alike.  With an official partnership in place, NLSP is trying to connect low-income library patrons with legal and social-service organizations throughout the city. NLSP is interested in expanding our partnerships and involving more pro bono attorneys in the library. Ultimately, the goal is to break down barriers to employment—both systemically and one barrier at a time. For more information about NLSP, the Breaking Barriers to Employment Project, or Jobseeker Legal Clinics, please visit www.nlsp.org.  For specific questions, please contact Heather Hodges, Pro Bono Counsel, at hhodges@nlsp.org or (202) 269-5119.

Housing Victories In Congress Heights

Housing Victories in Congress Heights

By Domonique Williams and Gavette Richardson On a hot day in late August 2014, a group of law students from Howard and Catholic Universities, along with supervisory attorneys from the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, converged east of the river to meet our new clients—a group of tenants in a Congress Heights neighborhood who reported serious health and safety violations in their apartments. These residents had come together as a tenants association and had engaged with the WLCH to stand up for their rights and bring about change. Along with our colleagues at Catholic’s clinic, we were asked to represent seven tenants facing numerous housing code violations. Although we had been given a brief overview of the situation in our clinic classes, nothing quite prepared us for the breadth of violations we encountered, or the stories that the tenants told us about their fight to improve their living conditions. We inspected each unit and found multiple violations— including infestations of mice and bedbugs, hanging and exposed electrical wires, lack of exterior lighting, broken locks on exterior doors, leaks, floods, and more. As the late afternoon turned into evening, our group of students and lawyers stood outside to do a final assessment of the building’s conditions. We found standing water and sewage in a common hallway, rust in tubs, mold on walls, and a building-wide water heater that stopped working every time it rained (the basement flooded, extinguishing the pilot light). We also took note of the rats playing in large trash piles of old couches and dilapidated furniture outside the building, and the lack of proper safety lighting in the back. We were left asking why any property owner would allow residents to live in such conditions. Considering that the communities surrounding Metro stations are some of the most coveted residences in the city, why would any owner allow buildings to fall into such disrepair? The WLCH lawyers suggested a horrifying answer: the worse the living conditions in the buildings, the higher the number of tenants who leave on their own, ultimately making it easier to redevelop the apartment buildings. After notifying the housing provider of the numerous violations and receiving no response, we filed a Housing Conditions suit in Superior Court. At our initial hearing, the housing provider's lawyer admitted that the buildings were unlivable but suggested that, because the buildings were slated for redevelopment, the housing provider should be responsible for making only the most basic repairs—even though the redevelopment could be years away. We objected to the idea that when housing providers hope to raze or sell a building they somehow become exempt from the housing code. Many of our clients spoke up to describe the horrible conditions in their building, and it was their voices that seemed to persuade the judge that enforcement of the housing code should not turn on the housing provider’s redevelopment plans. In the months after our initial hearing, we worked tirelessly for our clients. We sent letters to property managers, participated in court-appointed housing inspections, worked with opposing counsel to organize repair efforts, and represented our clients in court. Ultimately, all of the conditions were abated, but the redevelopment of the area is still pending. In light of this experience, we have also tried to amplify our clients’ voices in the redevelopment process; we recently testified at a Zoning Commission hearing related to the redevelopment. Our experience representing these clients was invaluable. It not only gave us courtroom experience but also opened our eyes to the severity and ubiquity of housing problems faced by DC residents, particularly those in disadvantaged neighborhoods east of the river. We still think about these tenants and wish them the best in their ongoing efforts to protect and enforce their right to safe housing. Domonique Williams and Gavette Richardson are rising third-year law students at the Howard University School of Law. They represented tenants from the Congress Heights neighborhood in housing litigation as part of their work with Howard’s Fair Housing Clinic.

East of the River Casehandlers Meeting: July 29!

Practicing Public Interest Law East of the Anacostia River: 5th Annual Summer Panel Discussion with the East of the River Casehandlers Wednesday, July 29, 2015 12:30 pm - 2 pm Deanwood Neighborhood Library 1350 49th Street, NE Washington DC, 20019 Metro: Deanwood (Orange Line) The Program The East of the River Casehandlers group invites all legal interns, summer associates, law students and pro bono attorneys to come find out more about practicing public interest law east of the Anacostia River. This informal panel discussion will feature attorneys from DC legal services providers that serve the low-income residents of these diverse and vibrant neighborhoods. Imoni Washington from the DC Bar Foundation will join us after the provider panel to discuss the Loan Repayment Assistance Program for public interest lawyers working in the District and the recent grants the DCBF has made to legal services providers east of the river. We will also have information available on fall student internship and pro bono opportunities with EOTR legal services providers. Panelists We anticipate having panelists this year from Whitman Walker Health, NLSP, Bread for the City, the Public Defender Service, Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, Washington Lawyers' Committee, Childrens Law Center, Covington & Burling LLP, and more. Registration To register, contact Heather Hodges at (202) 269-5100 or hhodges@nlsp.org. This program is intended to be highly interactive and driven by your questions. We encourage you to submit any questions you have with your registration request. About Us The East of the River Casehandlers meet every three months at the Anacostia Library to share program information and discuss strategies for dealing with issues of common concern to our low-income clients in Wards 7 and 8. We also conduct legal information programs for community members and legal services attorneys. If you would like to join our listserv, please send an email to EastoftheRiverLawyers-subscribe@mail.lawhelp.org.

East of the River Casehandlers Meeting – June 26

The East of the River Casehandlers is a group of legal services providers, law professors/students, and pro bono lawyers who meet every three months at the Anacostia Library to share program information and discuss strategies for dealing with issues of common concern to our low-income clients in Wards 7 and 8. We also conduct legal information programs for community members and legal services attorneys. The group welcomes guest speakers who would like to provide information or training on programs and services that you provide to low-income residents of Wards 7 and 8. Please email or call Heather Hodges if you would like to attend or be added to the agenda. Date: Friday, June 26, 2015 Time: 10 am to 11 am Place: Anacostia Neighborhood Library (1800 Good Hope Road, SE) Contact: Heather L. Hodges Neighborhood Legal Services Program of the District of Columbia 680 Rhode Island Avenue, NE Washington, DC 20002 (202) 269-5100

Making a Difference at DC Employment Justice Center’s Workers’ Rights Clinic

By Caroline Fleming Other than a few projects in school, Carla Chambers didn’t have much experience volunteering when she contacted the DC Employment Justice Center. A trained paralegal, Carla sought to volunteer with the DCEJC as a way to expand her experience and knowledge while simultaneously helping others. It ended up becoming one of the most rewarding experiences of her professional life. Carla has served as a DCEJC intake volunteer since June 2014, and she is the primary point of contact with clients seeking help with employment problems. She meets with clients, learns about their workplace issues, and consults with DCEJC’s volunteer attorneys to provide the best advice for each client’s situation. Carla has helped workers with their employment problems but has also noticed that these issues are “very personal in terms of the pride people have in working and wanting to continue to work.” Apart from the professional experience she’s gained in employment law, Carla has been moved by what she calls the “huge responsibility to thoroughly tell my clients’ stories.” Carla has been struck most by the dignity and work ethic of the individuals who seek help from DCEJC. Although her clients have a wide range of employment issues, Carla has noticed a trend: they are all “determined to resolve their issues and move on with their working lives.” Carla encourages everyone to take time to volunteer. In addition to learning new skills and growing professionally, she has discovered the rewards of helping workers solve their employment problems and move forward. Wherever her career takes her, Carla plans to continue volunteering to help people who “just need a little advice and help through the process, whatever the process is.” To learn more, or to volunteer for the Workers’ Rights Clinics sponsored by the DCEJC, email the Clinic Coordinator or visit the Volunteer Page.  

DC Employment Justice Center Expands Resources For East Of The River Workers

DC Employment Justice Center Expands Resources for East of the River Workers

By Caroline Fleming Recognizing that workers living East of the River needed greater access to their services, last September the DC Employment Justice Center launched an expanded monthly clinic in Fairlawn. The clinic, which had previously been open every other Friday morning, is now open to clients on one Saturday each month. The clinic offers help with a full range of issues addressed by the DCEJC, including Family and Medical Leave Act violations, unpaid wages and overtime, unemployment compensation, workers’ compensation, unlawful discrimination and harassment, and wrongful termination. As the DCEJC's Executive Director Barbra Kavanaugh explained, clients East of the River were finding the weekday-only clinic difficult to fit into their busy schedules. The DCEJC moved the clinic to Saturdays as a way to provide greater access for residents. Because the need for workplace justice continues to grow, the DCEJC has also introduced a second clinic with a new partner, the Neighborhood Legal Services Program. This clinic takes place during the week, allowing workers whose schedules don’t permit Saturday visits to receive employment law assistance as well. The schedule changes were spurred by the DCEJC’s interest in community lawyering. The expanded access shows that the DCEJC is committed to helping the East of the River community ensure that workplace justice is fully available. To learn more, or to volunteer for the workers’ rights clinics sponsored by the DCEJC, email the Clinic Coordinator or visit their volunteering page. The DCEJC weekend clinic takes place on the last Saturday of each month, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., at the Fairlawn office of long-time DCEJC partner Bread for the City (1640 Good Hope Road, SE). The DCEJC/NLSP clinic takes place on the first and third Friday afternoons of each month, from noon to 3:00 p.m., at 2811 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE. 

Community Policing East of the River

With the killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Freddie Gray, police-community relations have come under increasing scrutiny, particularly in disadvantaged neighborhoods such as those East of the River where trust has disintegrated between officers and residents. The Post recently profiled Lieutenant Teresa Brown, a District native and long-time D.C. police officer who's working to bring back community policing in Ward Seven. Brown is focusing on reaching out to community members to get to know her neighborhood and rebuild some of that trust. "We gotta build that trust on the front end. Treat everyone like humans, like they could be your mamma or your brother.” Our recent three-part Racial Justice Series addressed many of these same issues, focusing on how the deaths of African Americans at the hands of police has highlighted a growing need for lawyers to help eradicate discrimination and violence against people of color and build an inclusive society that enables everyone to succeed.

Ward 8 Votes Tomorrow to Fill Council Seat

Tomorrow, April 28, is the special election to fill the Ward 8 Council seat vacated by the death of Marion Barry.  WUSA has a handy guide to polling hours (7am to 6pm), locations, and candidates. Meanwhile, the Post's early coverage focuses on the possibility that Barry's legacy will be carried on by his son, Marion Christopher Barry, who is one of the 13 candidates standing for election.

Economic Inequality Concentrated East of the River

A new report from the Urban Institute shows an increasing concentration of "economically challenged" communities East of the Anacostia River. Washington City Paper notes that while many areas in Northwest have grown more affluent in the past twenty years, "the challenged areas became increasingly consolidated east of the river, with new patches in Congress Heights, Washington Highlands, and along Pennsylvania Avenue SE and Southern Avenue SE in Ward 7." The Urban Institute proposes a variety of steps the city and the new Mayor can take to ease economic inequality, focusing on "inclusive housing, DC schools, open data, economic development, social and economic mobility, and public safety." Providing pro bono legal services to East of the River residents is another important element in ensuring that all DC citizens have equal access to justice, regardless of income.