Over the past year, Rising for Justice has helped indigent and low-income community members in the District of Columbia weather crises, trained talented law and social work students in our clinical programs, and conducted outreach to hundreds of local residents to advise them about their legal rights.
Today, our neighbors across the District are increasingly at risk of eviction and homelessness, facing unemployment, and confronting other challenging life circumstances.
Just as the needs of our clients have grown, so has our vision to serve them. Rising for Justice is pleased to share that we are expanding our staff and programs this year. We are bolstering our Tenant Justice, Social Work, Civil Protection Order, Expungement, and Clinical Education programs while forging new, strong partnerships to increase our impact and achieve long-lasting and positive outcomes for our clients and their families.
We are tailoring our expansion to meet the most pressing needs of the community by:
- Increasing staffing levels and expanding the scope of our Tenant Justice Program with a new impact litigation initiative designed to prevent the displacement of low income tenants. To this end, our staff will work in collaboration with experts and pro bono counsel from area law firms to identify and challenge illegal patterns and practices likely to result in large groups of tenants losing their homes.
- Expanding staffing levels and enrollment in our law school program, by enrolling students from Howard University Law School and the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clark School of Law (UDC) in a special summer internship
program and expanding our law school clinical program to include students from UDC, in addition to law students from Georgetown, George Washington and the Washington College of Law.
- Forging new partnerships with local nonprofit organizations with deep roots in the community to connect with tenants at risk of eviction as early as possible to give them the best opportunity to remain in their homes. Together with partners such as the Latino Economic Development Center and Empower DC, we will be engaging in an intensive outreach and training initiative to ensure that tenants most at risk of eviction are connected to legal and social services and empowered to enforce their rights.
- Adding several social work and support positions to our Social Work Program to provide more clients with access to the supports and services they need to address barriers to housing stability in a sustainable way, including unemployment, access to public benefits, and unaddressed mental health issues. Significantly, we also have established a Client Support Fund to subsidize the supports and services that will help our clients avoid eviction and remain in their homes. For example, now, when we see clients unable to pay rent due to lost jobs, we can support their job-hunting efforts by subsidizing expenses such as job coaching as well as childcare and travel costs so they can attend job interviews.
- Augmenting our Civil Protection Order (CPO) practice through the introduction of an associate training program designed to help us meet two critical needs: the need to provide representation to indigent and low-income respondents in CPO cases and the training needs that area law firms have to provide actual in-court trial experience to their associates.
- Strengthening our Expungement Program by adding pro bono partners to represent our clients and by expanding community partnerships to help us identify District residents in need of legal services to remove the barriers to opportunity posed by their criminal records.
Through this expansion of our programs and staffing levels, Rising for Justice builds upon our longstanding tradition of addressing urgent community needs, while inspiring and training the next generation of social justice advocates.
For so many residents across the District, access to our services can mean the difference between homelessness and housing, poverty and economic security, and a life of fear and a life of relative safety.
With your support, we can sustain our growth and help even more of our neighbors overcome significant hardships.
Grace M. Lopes