The HSRA is a crucial tool in our mission to use the law to break down barriers to justice facing our neighbors experiencing homelessness in DC.
The root causes of homelessness cannot be solved by narrowing the front door to shelter, or by imposing arbitrary time limits on housing.
Given that poverty and a lack of affordable housing are the driving forces behind skyrocketing family homelessness in the District, policy makers must focus on preserving and building deeply affordable family housing and tenant vouchers rather than continue to champion short-term programs that offer less effective, shorter term solutions.
Yesterday, the DC Council, in its final legislative meeting of this session, passed several bills that will make it easier for low-income residents to obtain and maintain employment and housing. While much of the attention on the Council and in the press was, deservedly, on a game-changing paid family and medical leave act, a bill passed unanimously that could be a game changer for many DC residents seeking housing: the Fair Criminal Record Screening Act for Housing (FCRSAH).
Since 1990, people experiencing homelessness, advocates, activists, and other community members have used the Winter Solstice – the darkest day of the year – to celebrate the lives and mourn the passing of those who died homeless during the year. This year 51 people were mourned.
Yesterday, Covington & Burling LLP, along with the Washington Lawyers Committee, filed a lawsuit challenging Mid-City Financial’s plans to demolish the 535 units of affordable housing that sit on over 20 acres of land and currently make up the community known as Brookland Manor. This represents a significant step forward in the longstanding battle to preserve affordable housing at this historic site in the Northeast quadrant of Washington DC. The complaint alleges that the current redevelopment proposal put forth by Mid-City seeks to exclude and displace up to 150 African-American families by eliminating family-sized units (three-, four- and five-bedroom units). The complaint further states that this elimination will have a discriminatory and disproportional impact on families with minor children. The lawsuit seeks an order from the court halting the proposed redevelopment, contending that Defendants’ proposal violates the federal Fair Housing Act and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act. For the last two years, the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless has represented the Brookland Manor/Brentwood Village Residents Association. The Residents Association is in full support of the above lawsuit being filed and stands in solidarity with the named plaintiffs to the action. All members of the Residents Association currently live at Brookland Manor and have been actively engaged in resisting the proposed demolition of their community. This resistance has come in the form of challenging the redevelopment at the Zoning Commission and working with their fellow residents to organize and take control of this development process at the grassroots level. The local community group ONE DC has also been a crucial ally to the Residents Association in helping to organize members. From the beginning, the Residents Association at Brookland Manor has been clear that they will not allow themselves to be displaced and have their community erased by this redevelopment. Further, they have demanded to be treated in a dignified and respectful way by Mid-City. To date, the developer has balked at these notions of respect and dignity and has instead engaged in underhanded tactics to clear the property of existing residents in hopes of demolishing the building without the “inconvenience” of having to deal with the families that currently call this community their home. You can read more about these underhanded tactics here and here. Earlier this month, a private security company hired by Mid-City threatened to arrest organizers from ONE DC and some Legal Clinic staff at the property. The “crime” alleged by security was that the attorneys and organizers were attempting to speak to tenants at the property and inform them of their right to organize and of how the proposed redevelopment would affect them. Unfortunately, Brookland Manor is just one example of many instances of dishonest...