News

Meet the Fellows in Our 2022 Housing Justice Program

/ Press Release

Equal Justice Works is proud to introduce the 2022 class of Housing Justice Program Fellows. Thirty-one Fellows will be hosted at eighteen legal aid and grassroots organizations in areas where evictions and housing instability have reached epidemic proportions. The program has expanded from Richmond to Northern and Eastern Virginia, and into South Carolina and Maryland.

The Equal Justice Works Housing Justice Program uniquely combines the efforts of lawyers and community organizers, working collaboratively as Fellows, to advocate for low-income and under-resourced communities.

Evictions have a disproportionate effect on communities of color, women, and children. Without access to safe and stable housing, individuals and families can face a variety of negative outcomes, including economic hardships and health problems.

Meet some of our Housing Justice Program Fellows and learn more about how they will be building collaborative partnerships among tenant groups and community members and engaging in activities to effect systemic change.

Equal Justice Works Fellows in the Housing Justice Program’s 2022 class have created projects to address a wide range of housing-related legal issues. Examples of these projects include:

Benjamin Apt, Legal Aid Justice Center

Benjamin’s Fellowship aims to foster the growth of affordable housing programs for low-income residents in Northern Virginia through research, representation, and advocacy. He has partnered with the Legal Aid Justice Center to raise awareness of the economic vulnerabilities that very low-income tenants, many of whom are immigrants, face.

DeAnna B. Smith, Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia

At the Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia, DeAnna will work with the Attorney Fellows to connect tenants with the legal assistance and knowledge they need to address the systemic problems plaguing local housing markets. DeAnna will also support tenants in low-income public and subsidized housing, conduct outreach, organize education sessions, and build partnerships with community organizations to provide a network of support in addition to legal services.

Emily Blackshire, South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center

Emily’s project focuses on expanding tenants’ rights in counties across South Carolina. Throughout the Fellowship, Emily will partner with various actors and organizers in the community to create infrastructure for a housing court system that provides access to counsel for all tenants at risk of eviction.

Anne Boyle, Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland

Anne will participate in her host organization’s rent clinic, where she will provide day-of-court, limited-scope representation to tenants in district courts for Baltimore City and County. She will also take on an in-house, landlord-tenant caseload and help the Pro Bono Resource Center to recruit, mentor, and support volunteer attorneys.

Warren Buff, Community Legal Services of Prince Georges County, Inc.

At his host organization, Warren will address housing insecurity by focusing on eviction defense in Prince George’s County, Maryland. He will also train local attorney volunteers to assist in tenant defense during eviction proceedings and will participate in education and outreach programs to help local tenants avoid eviction proceedings before they begin.

Jamesa D. Parker, Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia

Jamesa will connect tenants with the legal assistance and knowledge they need to address the systemic problems plaguing local housing markets in Virginia. This Fellowship will also connect with community allies to identify and provide direct and targeted legal services to the community.

Marianela Funes, Tenants and Workers United

As a Fellow, Marianela will engage in community outreach, relationship building, leadership development, and community organizing to build power and advance changes in local housing policies that preserve and expand deeply affordable housing for households at the lowest income levels.

Jake Kmiech, CASA, Inc.

In response to housing instability in Maryland, Jake is partnering with CASA, Inc. to represent immigrant communities facing housing instability throughout Maryland, ensuring they have access to safe housing and justice.

Brandon L. Ballard, Legal Aid Society of Eastern Virginia

Brandon will collaborate with activists and organizations in the community to tackle systemic barriers to housing by providing direct, targeted legal services to a subsidized—or otherwise low-income—multifamily complex. Brandon plans to empower the community by way of a tenant advocacy group, workshops, and door-to-door outreach.

Rebecca Leussing, Legal Services of Northern Virginia, Inc.

At Legal Services of Northern Virginia, Inc., Rebecca will provide legal representation to low-income clients facing eviction and exploitation by their landlords. She will work to build the network of organizations and community leaders who serve low-income individuals facing housing instability. She also aims to create accessible legal materials to arm people with knowledge of their rights and resources.

Malique Parker, Baltimore Renters United

Malique will work to increase tenant engagement by organizing in Baltimore City, where he will facilitate tenant-led organizing. He will develop a plan for Baltimore Renters United to conduct outreach in community spaces, implement bi-monthly city-wide tenant organizing meetings, offer trainings, and recruit tenant leaders to participate in national training with other tenant-led organizing groups.

DiNesha Rucker, Homeless Persons Representation Project, Inc.

DiNesha’s Fellowship will focus on eviction defense and increasing access to permanent housing for youth and young adults in Baltimore City, Maryland. By providing legal and educational assistance specifically for youths under 25 years old, DiNesha will seek to increase youth and young adults access to permanent housing.

Taylor Rumble, Charleston Legal Access

As a Fellow, Taylor will collaborate with local organizations to defeat barriers to legal representation in eviction hearings. By establishing Housing Court in at least two additional South Carolina counties, she will support tenants facing housing instability through the legal process.

Denise Thomas-Brown, Virginia Poverty Law Center

Denise will identify and support grass roots tenant organizations and groups throughout the state to help coordinate and guide them on policy advocacy. She will accomplish this by providing education and training, collaborating with tenant organizations, and conducting advocacy trainings.

Sloan Wilson, SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center

In response to rising rent prices and a rental home shortage, Sloan will provide resources and support for tenant-led advocacy groups in low-income housing complexes though community organization partnerships, distributed organizing outreach, educational sessions, and legal aid.

Charlie Zenker, Legal Services of Northern Virginia, Inc.

Charlie’s Fellowship will provide community outreach and legal services to promote housing justice in Northern Virginia. This project will partner with the community in know-your-rights trainings, outreach events, and direct legal services to make legal information and resources more accessible.

The Housing Justice Program is made possible thanks to the generosity of The JPB Foundation, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Abell Foundation, and Maryland Legal Services Corporation. Learn more about the program here.

Learn more about becoming an Equal Justice Works Fellow