“Today, and it breaks my heart to say it, finding a homeless person who has died of cold, is not news. Today, the news is scandals, that is news, but the many children who don’t have food – that’s not news. This is grave. We can’t rest easy while things are this way.”
The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless envisions a just and inclusive community for all residents of the District of Columbia, where housing is a human right and where every individual and family has equal access to the resources they need to thrive.
Our mission is to use the law to make justice a reality for our neighbors who struggle with homelessness and poverty. Combining community lawyering and advocacy to achieve our clients’ goals, our expert staff and network of volunteer attorneys provide low barrier, comprehensive legal services at intake sites throughout the District of Columbia, helping our clients to access housing, shelter, and life-saving services. Rooted in the experiences of this client work, we effectively blend system reform efforts, policy advocacy, community education and client engagement to advocate for long term improvements in local and federal programs that serve the low- and no-income community.
Patty Mullahy Fugere, Executive Director, (202) 328-5504, email@example.com
A co-founder and former Board president of the Legal Clinic, Patty has served as our Executive Director since 1991. Patty is responsible for the overall management of the Legal Clinic and guides the organization’s work toward realizing its vision of a just and inclusive Washington, DC.
Renata Aguilera-Titus, Communications Manager, (202) 328-1263, firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact about: Interview requests, Guest blogging opportunities.
Renata manages the Legal Clinic’s external communications, coordinates blog and social media content, and supports the strategic communication aspect of Legal Clinic projects, initiatives, and development work. She is the point of contact for press and media enquiries.
LaJuan Brooks, Administrative Assistant, (202) 328-5500, email@example.com
Contact about: upcoming intake sessions, inquiries about legal services, administrative questions.
LaJuan is the first point of contact for all Legal Clinic clients and potential clients, working to ensure that our neighbors who are homeless or low income are connected to the assistance and resources that best fit their need. LaJuan supports our volunteers, helping to facilitate their connections with their clients, and provides general administrative support for the Legal Clinic team.
LaJuan joined the Legal Clinic in 2007, and is a proud veteran of the US Army. Prior to joining the Legal Clinic, LaJuan developed experience assisting the Fair Budget Coalition and being an advocate for the homeless population in DC.
Caitlin Cocilova, Staff Attorney, (202) 328-5516, firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact about: People Power Action meetings, Know Your Rights talks.
Caitlin represents clients seeking access to emergency shelter and affordable housing, and conducts Know Your Rights talks at singles’ and family shelters. Caitlin co-created People Power Action, a community group within the Legal Clinic, and engages in community and policy advocacy efforts.
Akela Crawford, Staff Attorney, (202) 328-5516, email@example.com
Contact about: Representation of tenants associations, preservation of affordable and public housing.
Akela is a staff attorney with the Affordable Housing Initiative, which she joined in January 2018, after initially becoming part of the Legal Clinic staff as a Legal Assistance Project staff attorney in 2017.In additional to maintaining her own caseload of individual clients, Akela works to prevent displacement and preserve affordable housing in the District through legal representation of tenant associations, policy advocacy, and partnership with community organizing groups.
Akela has experience working at DC Public Schools, where she focused on IDEA compliance and policy. After leaving DC Public Schools, Akela joined the law firm, Hiligh-Thomas & Jones, where she focused primarily on corporate and regulatory compliance, business transactions, and consumer affairs. Prior to joining the Legal Clinic staff, Akela was the managing attorney at the Law Office of Akela D. Crawford where she focused on small business representation, consumer affairs and family law. Prior to joining the Legal Clinic staff, Akela was a volunteer attorney with the Legal Assistance Project, and was the recipient of the Legal Clinic 2016 Rising Star Award. She also serves on the Community Volunteer Circle for Girls on the Run-DC and The Washington Bar Association- Young Lawyers Division.
Akela majored in history and political science at North Carolina Central University, and received a law degree from North Carolina Central University School of Law.
Amber W. Harding, Staff Attorney, (202) 328-5503, firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact about: Disability rights, Budget and policy advocacy with DC Council, Hypothermia litigation.
Amber leads the Legal Clinic’s policy and budget advocacy. Much of her work focuses on enforcing DC’s legal and policy commitments to safe and appropriate shelter. She also works to increase civil rights protections for people experiencing homelessness, including reducing barriers in shelter and housing for people with disabilities, people with criminal records, and people with poor credit and rental histories. She advocates for increased funding for affordable housing as the primary solution to homelessness. She is on the steering committee of the Fair Budget Coalition and The Way Home Campaign.
Kristi Matthews, Kressley Fellow For Grass Roots Advocacy and Grass Roots Advocacy Coordinator, (202) 328-1262, email@example.com
Contact about: Grassroots advocacy, testifying at DC Council, People Power Action Meetings, Scheduling Know Your Rights talks.
Kristi focuses on helping families, individuals, and youth in the District develop advocacy skills, use their power, and understand the importance of working towards systemic change. Kristi also helps people develop testimony and write letters to city officials to ensure that their stories are heard, and she coordinates our Know Your Rights training schedule. Kristi co-created People Power Action, a community group within the Legal Clinic, and works on increasing the Legal Clinic’s community engagement by supporting various community-led initiatives throughout DC.
Scott McNeilly, Staff Attorney, (202) 328-5508, firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact about: Legal Assistance Project, Miriam’s Kitchen intake site and Mobile Intake Team; Public Benefits, specifically SSI/SSDI.
Scott has been a case-counseling attorney in our Legal Assistance Project, supporting the volunteers at our Miriam’s Kitchen site. He also participates in the training and general support of the volunteers. Scott serves as a mentor and support to pro bono attorneys and legal services staff members throughout DC, with a particular expertise in SSI cases.
Will Merrifield, Staff Attorney, (202) 328-5502, email@example.com
Contact about: Representation of tenants associations, preservation of affordable and public housing.
Will leads the Affordable Housing Initiative, which – through legal representation of tenant associations, policy advocacy, and partnership with community organizing groups – aims to prevent displacement as well as build political will for the preservation and expansion of affordable housing. He advocates with various DC government agencies for the creation and preservation of affordable housing, appearing before the Zoning Commission and DC Council.
Becky O’Brien, Staff Attorney, (202) 328-5507, firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact about: Legal Assistance Project, Street Sense Media and Thrive DC intake sites.
Becky is a case-counseling attorney with the Legal Assistance Project, supporting volunteer attorneys who take cases through the Thrive DC and Street Sense Media intake sites. Becky also engages in systemic advocacy related to DC’s public benefits programs.
Leslie Plant, Administrator
Leslie has been with the Legal Clinic as our administrator since 1988. She is responsible for fiscal operations, including bookkeeping, payroll, budget preparation, reporting, filing organizational and tax reports, and annual audit. Leslie also provides fundraising support, and office and information management. She troubleshoots our technology and other office systems.
Ann Marie Staudenmaier, Staff Attorney, (202) 328-5509, email@example.com
Contact about: Legal Assistance Project, So Others Might Eat (SOME), and Unity Health Care Minnesota Ave. NE intake sites, anti-criminalization of homelessness related to encampments and training for police officers and Business Improvement Districts (BIDs).
Ann Marie is a case-counseling attorney for the Legal Assistance Project, supporting volunteer attorneys at our SOME and Unity Health Care Minnesota Avenue intake sites. She coordinates our police-related civil rights work, including monitoring police treatment of people who are homeless in DC; conducting Street Rights seminars; and educating local government and BIDs regarding the rights of people who are homeless in public spaces. She also conducts “Homelessness 101” trainings for all Metropolitan Police Department recruit classes and other law enforcement agencies in DC.
Max Tipping, Staff Attorney and Spitzer Fellow, (202) 328-5514, firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact about: Rapid Re-housing in DC and families in the DC shelter system.
Max’s work is focused on addressing the inadequacies of the DC homeless services system, especially with regard to capacity and quality. Max advocates for policy and programmatic reforms that support a homeless services system that protects and meets the needs of DC’s residents who are homeless, and ultimately helps them move on to stable, affordable permanent housing. Previously as our Equal Justice Works fellow, Max developed a particular expertise in DC’s Rapid Re-Housing Program.
Kelsey Vaughan, Volunteer Coordinator, (202) 328-1024, email@example.com
Contact about: volunteering as an attorney or legal assistant, submitting Legal Internship applications, upcoming trainings.
Kelsey manages the Legal Assistance Project (LAP) volunteer training program and intake calendar, and is responsible for volunteer recruitment, sustainability, and coordination for both LAP and outreach to families experiencing housing crises. Kelsey is the liaison between the Legal Clinic and a number of law firms and schools throughout the District of Columbia. In addition, Kelsey organizes volunteer events, discussion series, and community presentations on behalf of the Legal Clinic.
John R. Jacob, Esq., Akin Gump, (2008 – present), President
Susan M. Hoffman, Esq., Crowell & Moring, (2006 – present), Vice President
James E. Rocap, III, Esq., Steptoe & Johnson, (2009 – present), Treasurer
Sterling Morriss Howard, Esq., Equal Justice Works, (2014 – present), Secretary
Ericka Aiken, Esq., Wilmer Hale, (2017 – present)
Alan L. Banks, (2018 – present)
Cheryl K. Barnes, Freelance Homeless Activist, (1997 – present)
Nancy Tyler Bernstine, Esq., (2016 – present)
Laurie B. Davis, Esq., (1987 – present)
Nkechi Feaster, (2018 – present)
Wesley R. Heppler, Esq., (1989 – present)
Allison M. Holt, Esq., Hogan Lovells, (2016 -present)
John Monahan, Esq., Georgetown University, (2017 – present)
Sam Mondry-Cohen, The Washington Nationals, (2016 – present)
David E. Rogers, Esq., Winston & Strawn LLP, (1994 – present)
Valerie E. Ross, Esq., Schiff Hardin LLP, (2013 – present)
Tianna Russell, Esq., (2017 – present)
Jeff Schwaber, Esq., Stein, Sperling, (1988 – present)
Effie Smith, Executive Director, Consumer Action Network, (2000 – present)
Marsha Tucker, Pro Bono Coordinator, Arnold & Porter, (1997 – present)
Laura Tuell, Esq., Jones Day, (2010 – present)
David Wittenstein, Esq., Cooley LLP, (2002 – present)
Legal Assistance Project (LAP): Through LAP, our attorneys and network of over 250 volunteer lawyers and paralegals assist clients on a broad range of civil legal issues. Volunteers see clients at our six community sites, located at day centers, dining programs, and a shelter-based medical clinic, providing the legal assistance necessary to help these clients address the issues that keep them mired in homelessness. LAP allows us to tap the generosity of the DC legal community and, each year, leverage millions of dollars in donated legal services.
Project Link-Up: Link-Up aims to assure that families who are homeless have access to the resources and supports they need to be safe, remain strong and ultimately move their and their children’s lives to a better place. Through Link-Up, we help families to secure and retain shelter and housing, and we work with families to assure their access to supports such as transportation assistance so their children can remain in school, counseling for survivors of domestic violence, mental health treatment or substance abuse counseling and employment supports.
Affordable Housing Initiative (AHI): Crafted as a homelessness prevention tool to preserve and improve affordable housing opportunities for low- and no-income District residents, AHI uses a combination of direct representation, systemic reform and policy advocacy to meet client and community needs. We represent tenant associations to enforce members’ rights and work with the District government to preserve existing affordable housing units, and promote policies and practices that respect the rights of low and no- income tenants.
David M. Booth Disability Rights Initiative: Our disability rights advocacy targets the District’s shelter and housing programs to assure that they are physically and programmatically accessible to people with disabilities.
Other Systemic Advocacy Efforts: Beyond these initiatives, our advocacy addresses issues such as: the adequacy of homeless services, especially during hypothermia season; the criminalization of homelessness; the public benefits safety net (TANF, IDA and SSI/SSDI); and public funding for a range of programs serving no- and low-income District residents.
Since 2003, the Public Welfare Foundation has provided our office space in the historic True Reformer Building, located on U Street in the Shaw community of Washington, DC. The Foundation’s generosity has allowed us to devote our resources more fully to our work. In giving a home to the Legal Clinic, the Public Welfare Foundation has been a faithful partner in our efforts to ensure that all residents of the District of Columbia have a place to call home.
The Legal Clinic was founded in 1986 with the encouragement and support of the DC Bar and DC Bar Foundation, with the goal of breaking down the barriers that prevented the homeless and low-income population in Washington, DC from accessing legal assistance through traditional methods. Since that time, the Legal Clinic has played a major role in protecting the rights and advancing the interests of those who are homeless in the nation’s capital. Set out below is the story of the Legal Clinic’s growth and the District’s response to homelessness.
Timeline of Homelessness in DC and the Work of the Legal Clinic
November 1984 – DC voters overwhelmingly support Initiative 17, establishing a “right to shelter” in the District, the first statutory right to shelter in the nation
Summer 1985 – DC attorney David Crosland convenes the Ad Hoc Committee for the Homeless under the auspices of the DC Bar
December 1985 – First recruitment session for volunteer lawyers, held at the DC Bar
1986 – Pro Bono lawyers begin to serve four pilot intake sites, supported by volunteers Gloria Flanagan and Faye Williams
Summer 1986 – DC Bar Foundation makes first grant to support the pilot project of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Homeless. The DC Bar, through both Bar leadership (Judge Paul L. Friedman was then-President of the DC Bar) as well as its Office of Public Service Activities (now the DC Bar Pro Bono Program), lends its full support to the project
Fall 1986 -The project hires first staff person, Susie Sinclair-Smith, as coordinator
May 1987 – The pilot project becomes the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, an independently incorporated non-profit organization. Mental Health Law Project (now the Bazelon Center) served as fiscal sponsor until tax-exempt status was granted
1987 – DC Bar wins the Harrison Tweed Award for its role in launching the Legal Clinic
Fall 1987 – GULC students, led by Jeff Schwaber, hatch the idea to hold a basketball game pitting Members of Congress against Georgetown Law Faculty to raise money for a homeless charity
1987 – Legal Clinic moves from DC Bar PSA’s office to space donated by Pettit & Martin
1987 – DC council passes law requiring that homeless families be sheltered in an apartment-style setting rather than in run-down motels (the “Crawford Legislation”)
March 1988 – First Home Court game raises $42,000 for the Legal Clinic
1989 – Judge Harriet Taylor finds DC shelters to be “horrendous” and “virtual hell-holes” in Atchison vs. Barry, brought by Howrey & Simon
1990 – Shea & Gardner “adopts” the Legal Clinic from Pettit & Martin and provides office space to the growing program
June 1990 – Then-Mayor Marion Barry signs law repealing the District’s Right to Shelter
July 1990 – Anti-homelessness activist Mitch Snyder dies
October 1990 – Judge Richard Levie finds the District’s family shelter system out of compliance with DC law in Fountain vs. Barry, brought by O’Melveny & Myers
November 1990 – Advocates’ attempt to reverse the repeal of the District’s Right to Shelter fails when Referendum 005 lost by a 51% – 49% vote in the general election
December 1990 – Franklin vs. Barry is filed by Crowell & Moring, challenging the District’s failure to process emergency food stamps in compliance with the law
1992 – The Legal Clinic joins with Hogan & Hartson in filing Little vs. Barry, challenging the District’s scaling back of the General Public Assistance Program, which provided cash support to individuals with disabilities
April 1993 – The Legal Clinic receives a Commendation from President Clinton in his Volunteer Action Awards Program
1993 – WLCH vs. Kelly is filed by Howrey & Simon, challenging illegalities in the District’s family shelter intake system and seeking to protect counsel’s right of access to their clients
1993 – The Legal Clinic joins with Covington & Burling to file Pearson vs. Kelly, challenging the unlawful operation of the District’s public housing program.
1993 – U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announces the “DC Initiative,” a partnership with the District government and local non-profit organizations to pilot the development of a “Continuum of Care” shelter system
November 1993 – The Legal Clinic issues “Cold, Harsh and Unending Resistance: The District of Columbia Government’s Hidden War Against its Poor and its Homeless,” which chronicles the utter breakdown of government services and programs for low income DC residents.
November 1993 – Yetta Adams dies homeless in a bus shelter in front of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development
1994 – Judge Steffan Graae orders the DC public housing program placed into eceivership (Pearson); the District appeals
Summer 1994 – The Legal Clinic co-convenes advocates and service providers who unite to challenge unfair budget cuts in the wake of the District financial crisis. This effort becomes the Fair Budget Coalition
August 1994 – The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness issues its Operational Plan for Year 1 of the DC Initiative
Late 1994 – The Legal Clinic testifies before Congress regarding the impact of DC’s financial crisis on residents of DC who are homeless
1994 – The Legal Clinic helps to establish Campaign for New Community, a multi-faceted advocacy effort to break down the barriers created by neighborhood opposition to the siting of programs for people who are poor, homeless or disabled
1995 – Legal Clinic expands to include an outreach component and intensifies efforts to provide assistance during hypothermic conditions
1995 – Financial Control Board appointed to take over management of the District
1995 – Fair Budget Coalition and other community groups seek to have “Declaration of Emergency” in the District because of the shredded social safety net and palpable suffering of DC’s low income residents
Spring 1995 – David Gilmore becomes receiver of the DC Housing Authority (Pearson)
1996 – District repeals local Emergency Assistance and General Public Assistance programs
Fall 1996 – The Legal Clinic expands our work with homeless families
December 1996 – Mental Health department placed into receivership
1997 – Legal Clinic convenes the Welfare Advocates Group to participate in, and monitor, welfare reform efforts in the District
1998 – District abolishes the Tenant Assistance Program, a locally-funded rent subsidy program serving low-income DC residents
1998 – DC Initiative ends; the Legal Clinic continues to push for reforms concerning the management of homeless services
1998 – The Legal Clinic begins training of Metropolitan Police recruits on issue of homelessness
1999 – The Legal Clinic and Fair Budget Coalition sponsor Campaign for a Just and Inclusive Community, whose Creed of Justice and Inclusion was adopted by 300+ community organizations and District residents
1999 – The Legal Clinic joins with Akin Gump to file Hackett vs. JMC Associateson behalf of more than 200 mental health consumers whose benefits had been stolen by a Department of Mental Health contractor
March 2000 – The Legal Clinic convenes advocates to challenge District’s proposed condemnations of Columbia Heights apartment buildings housing low-income immigrants
June 2000 – Mayor Williams establishes Homeless Advisory Group
2000 – DC Housing Authority comes out of receivership
2000 – The Legal Clinic launches a Welfare Hotline to provide assistance to recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
October 2000 – The Legal Clinic begins to publish and distribute “Listen Up,” a monthly newsletter for our client community
December 2000 – Mayor Williams abandons Homeless Advisory Group and establishes Continuum of Care Work Group
December 23, 2000 – Jesus Blanco dies homeless on the street, just steps away from La Casa Shelter
Fall 2002 – Legal Clinic establishes Affordable Housing Initiative to intensify efforts to preserve and expand affordable housing for the lowest income District residents
January 2003 – Mayor Williams abandons Continuum of Care Work Group and establishes a Focus Group on Access to Housing for Homeless and Very Low Income City Residents
2003 – The Legal Clinic, along with So Others Might Eat, successfully co-leads community advocacy to establish the Interim Disability Assistance Program
2003 – Housing Production Trust Fund becomes vital tool for development of affordable housing for low-income DC residents
Fall 2003 – The Legal Clinic expands advocacy on behalf of people with disabilities who seek access to shelter and housing, establishing the Disability Rights Initiative
November 2003 – The Public Welfare Foundation provides a new home to the Legal Clinic, inviting us into their True Reformer Building in the Shaw neighborhood of DC
Spring 2004 – District government closes Gales Shelter; begins trend of siting shelters in remote locations towards the fringes of the city
Late 2004 – Agreement reached in Hackett vs. JMC Associates to compensate mental health consumers for theft of funds
December 2004 – DC Court of Appeals establishes the DC Access to Justice Commission to aid in breaking down the barriers that prevent low-income and isolated communities from accessing civil legal assistance
January 2005 – Mayor Williams issues “Homeless No More,” his administration’s 10 year plan to end homelessness
July 2005 – Mayor Williams signs into law the Homeless Services Reform Act, which revamps the legislative framework of the District’s homeless shelter and services system, establishing an Interagency Council on Homelessness and setting out client rights and responsibilities as well as provider standards
September 2005 – Legal Clinic joins with DC Bar Pro Bono Program and Hogan & Hartson to coordinate the Katrina Relief Clinic, to provide legal services to people who relocated to the District from the devastated Gulf Coast
Fall 2005 – Legal Clinic expands efforts to assist homeless children and youth; supports homeless parents’ advocacy efforts as they form SASS (Self-Advocacy, Support and Solutions)
October 2005 – Then-Councilmember Fenty holds unprecedented hearing at DC Village family shelter to get feedback from residents on the quality of services and supports
Winter 2005 – District government closes Randall Shelter
2006 – Legal Clinic participates in Fair Budget Coalition and Affordable Housing Alliance’s successful efforts to establish publicly-funded Emergency Assistance and Rent Supplement programs
Spring 2006 – District government renews threats to close Franklin Shelter
Summer 2006 – Residents of Franklin Shelter form the “Committee to Save Franklin Shelter” to oppose the scheduled closing of the facility
Fall 2006 – Legal Clinic expands our grass roots advocacy efforts to support our clients as they use their voices to speak in the public debates that impact their lives
October 2006 – Deputy Mayor announces that Franklin will remain open and in the homeless services inventory
November/December 2006 – The Legal Clinic co-convenes the Homelessness Work Group of the Fenty Transition team
December 2006 – The Legal Clinic co-leads coalition to advocate for greater accessibility to government services for people with disabilities; the Disability Rights Protection Act becomes law
January 2007 – Mayor Adrian Fenty declares that addressing the needs of people who are homeless is a top priority of his administration
2007 – The Legal Clinic launches Permanent Supportive Housing Initiative advocating for the transition of the District of Columbia’s homeless services system from one that emphasizes emergency shelter, to one that focuses on providing permanent supportive housing options for people who have struggled with homelessness.
2007 – Legal Clinic attorney Scott McNeilly is appointed to the DC Interagency Council on Homelessness
October 2007 – The District Government shuts down DC Village as an emergency shelter for homeless families
April 2008 – Fenty Administration announces its Permanent Supportive Housing Initiative, intended to move people who are chronically homeless off the street and out of shelters into their own housing
September 2008 – The District Government closes the Franklin Shelter, the one remaining men’s emergency shelter in downtown DC
December 10, 2008 – The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) entered into a consent agreement with the District to improve the accessibility of emergency homeless shelters for people with disabilities. It is the first large-scale enforcement effort by DOJ in the nation intended to protect the civil rights of people experiencing homelessness.
2009 – The Legal Clinic launches Veteran’s Initiative which provides direct legal representation to Veteran’s particularly in the areas of benefits and housing.
July 2009 – The Legal Clinic re-names disability rights initiative The David M. Booth Disability Rights Initiative, to honor the memory of former intern David Booth
December 2009 – The Legal Clinic establishes a social media presence, joining Facebook
July 2010 – The Legal Clinic launches its blog, “…With Housing and Justice for All”
November 2010 – The Legal Clinic’s long time and beloved outreach worker, Mary Ann Luby, O.P., dies
May 2011 – The Legal Clinic’s budget advocacy campaign, the1500.com, successfully advocates for funding to avoid the loss of up to 1500 shelter beds for single individuals
2012 – The Legal Clinic marks its 25th anniversary of serving DC’s homeless residents. A Journey Home, a short film about several Legal Clinic clients and their efforts to secure a stable place to call home is released as a part of the 25th anniversary call-to-action
May 2013 – The Legal Clinic successfully leads a community advocacy effort to prevent harmful changes to the Homeless Services Reform Act
2013 – Mayor Vincent Gray commits $100 million to affordable housing