Meet the Fellows in Our 2022 Housing Justice Program

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.

This summer, Equal Justice Works is expanding its successful Housing Justice Program to communities in Maryland and South Carolina. The program began as a cohort of eight Fellows in Richmond, Virginia, in 2019 and has grown to offer 31 Fellowships for attorneys and community organizers across three states. The Housing Justice Program and host organizations are currently seeking 20 Fellows in cities throughout Maryland and South Carolina to start as early as August. The expansion of the Housing Justice Program is due to the tremendous achievements of the first cohort of Fellows, which are detailed in a report by Philliber Research and Evaluation, an independent research firm.

Equal Justice Works launched the Housing Justice Program in 2019 to provide legal assistance to those facing eviction and advance systemic reforms to address underlying inequities related to housing in Greater Richmond. Three civil legal services organizations in Richmond partnered with Equal Justice Works as host organizations for the 2019 cohort, which included six Attorney Fellows and two Organizer Fellows. These Fellows combined direct legal services, education, outreach, and impact litigation to advance the rights of renters and hold bad-actor landlords accountable.

To understand the impact of the Housing Justice Program, Philliber Research & Evaluation used a mixed methods approach to evaluate its success. This analysis determined that the Housing Justice Program strengthened the legal community’s capacity in Greater Richmond and increased access to justice for low-income tenants.

According to Philliber’s evaluation, the first cohort of Housing Justice Program Fellows increased access to justice by providing direct legal services and filing group action cases on behalf of low-income tenants. Fellows delivered briefs and extended services to nearly 2,000 low-income tenants, who had a median income of $12,528. Seven in ten of their closed cases were won and only 3% of the cases were noted as lost. In addition to direct legal services, Fellows filed and won three affirmative group cases that could impact larger groups of tenants with similar bad-actor landlords. Other cases, such as an ongoing Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Agency voucher denial case, could set precedence and ultimately benefit many public housing tenants.

Philliber also found that the Housing Justice Program strengthened low-income tenants’ capacity to advocate for themselves by facilitating “Know Your Rights” trainings and tenant town hall meetings. Through their outreach efforts, Housing Justice Program Fellows reached more than 40,000 people. Fellows further mobilized tenants by helping them to form or strengthen fifteen tenant organizations. Tenants became more engaged in advocating for their interests, with many renters attending meetings at the Richmond Redevelopment Housing Authority (RRHA) as it was reviewing an annual plan, policies, and planning for redevelopment. As a result, RRHA instituted an eviction moratorium in November 2019, and followed many of the Housing Justice Program team’s recommendations. Additionally, they succeeded in making changes to RRHA’s Admission, continued occupancy policies, and practices; and the agency agreed to participate in Richmond’s eviction diversion program, which has prevented hundreds of evictions in the city by facilitating payments plans for back-rent and connecting tenants with financial assistance.

Finally, Philliber’s evaluation showed that Fellows and their host organizations contributed to system advocacy efforts, which achieved changes to Virginia’s landlord-tenant laws that provided more protections for tenants. They strategically produced more than 100 media placements, conducted meetings with policymakers at the local and statewide level, published policy papers associated with General Assembly advocacy, and raised the voices of tenants during the legislative session. Through their efforts, Fellows supported the passing of legislation, including a bill to the right of redemption which allows tenants to pay rent-owed and cancel an eviction, and bills to strengthen protections against unlawful evictions.

Learn more about the key findings of the Housing Justice Program Evaluation by reading the summary report.

Equal Justice Works recently held an informational session about the Housing Justice Program and what applicants need to know before applying. At the session, staff members Brooke Meckler, director of law school engagement and advocacy, and Hana Hausnerova, director of public programs, also chatted with 2019 Fellow Palmer Heenan about the successes of the Housing Justice Program and how his participation in the program has shaped his career.  

The Housing Justice Program is the only Equal Justice Works Fellowship program that employs both lawyers and community organizers, who collaborate as Fellows to empower communities and address housing instability.  

“It really is an incredible opportunity to do some amazing good and get some amazing trial experience, litigation experience, client experience, deposition experience, said Palmer. 

At the session, Palmer also shared helpful advice on the application process, as well as some of the benefits of being in the Housing Justice Program.  

“I hope all of you give this some serious consideration. It’s an amazing, practical, hands-on legal experience,” said Palmer. “I personally think more lawyers should have that kind of experience. But it’s also a way to uniquely affect people’s lives.” 

Currently, Equal Justice Works is expanding the Housing Justice Program from Virginia to South Carolina and Maryland creating more than 20 Fellowship opportunities starting in August 2022.

Applications are available now  for Fellowships in South Carolina and Maryland with a start date in August or September 2022.

Message us at [email protected] to be added to our email list for future updates.  

It really is an incredible opportunity to do some amazing good and get some amazing trial experience, litigation experience, client experience, deposition experience

Palmer Heenan /
2019 Equal Justice Works Fellow
Housing Justice Program

Equal Justice Works invites eligible organizations based in Maryland to submit proposals to participate as Host Organizations in the 2022 Housing Justice Program.

The Equal Justice Works Housing Justice Program mobilizes lawyers and community organizers working collaboratively as Fellows to serve low-income individuals who are currently or at risk of experiencing housing instability and involuntary displacement, particularly due to eviction.

In 2022, Equal Justice Works is expanding the Housing Justice Program from Virginia to South Carolina and Maryland. Equal Justice Works seeks to allocate approximately 14 Fellows in Maryland: ten attorney Fellows and four community organizer Fellows hosted at legal services organizations and community-based organizations. Host Organizations will participate in the Housing Justice Program by hosting one or more Fellows; organizations may apply to host attorney Fellows, organizer Fellows, or a combination of both. These 14 Fellows will work cooperatively to:

  • Provide direct legal assistance including advice, referrals, and full representation for tenants in eviction proceedings;
  • Build collaborative partnerships with community organizations and provide referrals for wraparound services;
  • Engage in outreach including know-your-rights presentations and workshops, legal clinics, and intake events around housing issues; and
  • Identify patterns, organize tenants, engage in impact litigation to challenge structural issues, and educate key stakeholders around the causes and consequences of housing instability; and
  • Where a right to counsel exists in eviction cases, identify on-the-ground implementation problems and coordinate with other legal services providers.

Fellows will serve for two years, beginning on or about August 1, 2022, with an end date no later than August 31, 2024.

The Housing Justice Program is funded by The JPB Foundation, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Abell Foundation, and Maryland Legal Services Corporation.

Please see links to the full Request for Proposals and accompanying appendices below. Proposals must be submitted by Wednesday, June 8, 2022, 11:59 p.m. ET via email to [email protected].

If you are interested in submitting a proposal, please complete this brief Intent to Apply Survey and specify how many Fellows (lawyers and/or organizers) you are interested in applying for by Friday, May 13, 2022.

Resources

Before applying, please review the following materials:

Templates & Forms

The following materials are required for submission:

If you have any questions about the application process, please reach out to [email protected].

By Laura Roach, senior program manager at Equal Justice Works.

 April is National Fair Housing Month, which marks the anniversary of the landmark passage of the 1968 Fair Housing Act—a national law prohibiting discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, gender, disability, and family status.

The architects of the Fair Housing Act intended to reverse years of systematic disenfranchisement of Black and non-white communities, which former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development George Romney once referred to as a “high-income white noose” around segregated Black communities. Despite the Fair Housing Act being passed over 50 years ago, it is still very common to find poor, segregated neighborhoods that were meant to be dismantled by fair housing practices.

It is still very common to find poor, segregated neighborhoods that were meant to be dismantled by fair housing practices.

The Equal Justice Works Housing Justice Program was designed to create opportunities for lawyers and community organizers to affirmatively pursue fair housing alongside low-income communities impacted by decades of discrimination. First launched in 2019 in Richmond, Virginia, a city where race is a better predicator of eviction rates than income, the Housing Justice Program brought together its first cohort of eight Fellows (six lawyers and two community organizers) in partnership with three legal services organizations to disrupt the cycle of evictions faced by low-income tenants. These Fellows increased access to justice for low-income tenants by collectively assisting more than 4,800 clients through legal advice, brief service, and full-scope representation. Of the tenants served, 73% were female, 73% were Black, and 68% of clients were single; many of the single clients identified themselves as single mothers.

Fellows in the Housing Justice Program worked together to achieve systemic changes and promote fair housing. Through negotiations using fair housing arguments, Fellows prevented the demolition of public housing and displacement of low-income residents in favor of a sports stadium. They also influenced the passage of a new protection against “source of income discrimination” that prevents private landlords in Virginia from arbitrarily refusing to rent to voucher holders. Importantly, the Fellows helped to inform tenants of their rights, equipping residents with the knowledge to be their best advocates.

Fellows helped to inform tenants of their rights, equipping residents with the knowledge to be their best advocates.

Based on the success of the first cohort, private and public donors have invested millions of dollars to support the expansion of the Housing Justice Program. To date, Equal Justice Works has grown the program from 8 Fellows in Richmond to 11 Fellows serving communities across the state of Virginia. Collectively, these Fellows will prevent evictions, advance tenants’ rights, and enforce fair housing laws to prevent involuntary displacement caused by redevelopment projects, which may unintentionally force public housing residents into even more segregated neighborhoods.

Equal Justice Works is also preparing to expand the Housing Justice Program into South Carolina and Maryland. In South Carolina, where the 8.87% eviction rate is more than six points above the national average, Equal Justice Works will mobilize at least six Fellows to provide legal assistance and community organizing support to protect and advance tenants’ rights. In Maryland, 14 Fellows will be placed in counties across Maryland to support the state’s Right to Counsel initiative. Equal Justice Works is accepting applications from legal services organizations in South Carolina until April 29.

The Housing Justice Program is creating a pipeline of passionate public service leaders who are advancing the ideals of fair housing. Visit here to read more stories about the work of our Fellows and how they are advocating for policies and practices that protect the rights of all tenants.

The Housing Justice Program is made possible thanks to the support of The JPB Foundation and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Photo of Laura Dobbs

By Laura Dobbs, staff attorney at Virginia Poverty Law Center, and 2019 Equal Justice Works Fellow

In April, we celebrate the anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, a national law that prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, and gender. The Fair Housing Act as it stands today also prohibits discrimination based on disability and family status. Virginia’s Fair Housing Act extends discrimination protections based on veteran status, elderliness, sexual orientation, and source of funds. Everyone belongs to one or more protected classes, and we should all benefit from the ideals of Fair Housing.

Everyone belongs to one or more protected classes, and we should all benefit from the ideals of Fair Housing.

There seems to be a common misperception of what the Fair Housing Act requires; some think it means treating everyone the same. Yet it is more nuanced than that. The façade of “treating everyone the same” needs to be placed in the context of decades of housing discrimination and how seemingly neutral policies perpetuate housing segregation.

To this day, cities in Virginia remain largely segregated and continue to suffer from racially discriminatory practices of previous decades, such as race based zoning ordinances, restrictive covenants, red lining, and highway construction through once thriving Black neighborhoods. At the same time the Federal Housing Administration subsidized “white flight” to the suburbs with attractive mortgage guarantees, cities like Richmond used federal dollars to destroy Black neighborhoods in the name of “slum clearance” and relocate displaced families into public housing. In the 1950s alone, Richmond destroyed 4,700 units of housing in Black neighborhoods and replaced them with 1,736 units of public housing. Richmond’s four largest public housing developments, Creighton Court, Whitcomb Court, Fairfield Court, and Mosby Court, are concentrated within an approximately one-mile radius in the city’s east end.

Public housing residents in Richmond are almost exclusively Black and are among the city’s most deeply impoverished. For instance, in Creighton Court, 97% of current heads of household identify as Black compared with 46%  Black in the city overall. Today, households receiving HUD housing assistance live on average incomes of $15,000 a year.

After decades of constructed segregation, Congress passed a new housing act in 1974 that sought to leverage the private market to solve the problems of public housing. Yet the stigma associated with public housing residents, such as those at the center of the “Chicago Myth”, carried over to the voucher program. In the late 1990s, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, sensitive to what had become the negative perception of “Section 8” vouchers, began to refer to the program as “Housing Choice Vouchers.” The name contrasts with the great lack of choice tenants actually have in finding safe and decent housing. Nonetheless cities like Richmond embraced this shift from traditional public housing to public-private partnerships.

Housing Choice Vouchers now represent about one third of the nation’s assisted housing, yet the stigma associated with the program remains the same. There is an assumption that voucher holders behave in a certain way and need deep subsidies due to some moral failing that makes them incapable of affording the housing. Just as racist housing policies of the Jim Crow and early Civil Rights era were couched in concerns about “morality” (i.e., it is not “moral” for a Black person to live with a white person), so are concerns about renting to voucher holders based on assumptions about the tenants’ “moral failings.”

Underlying negative assumptions about a person’s race or economic status is a judgment about that person that they are less than and undeserving. When a landlord refuses to rent to a voucher holder, because he fears that the person will “tear up” the property, the landlord is making an assumption about that person. This is the same pattern of assumptions that have long been made about Black people. Even if a landlord’s concern about renting to a voucher holder genuinely relates to the process and not the tenant, the disparate impact is the same: poor Black families are shut out of housing opportunities.

This year, I am taking a step back to celebrate the successes here in Virginia of advancing the ideals of Fair Housing. In 2020, Housing Justice Program Fellows mobilized tenants to speak directly with lawmakers in support of expanding anti-discrimination protections to more people, including voucher holders. That year, Virginia added source of funds, sexual orientation, gender identity, and veteran status to the list of protected classes in Virginia’s Fair Housing Act.

This year, I am taking a step back to celebrate the successes here in Virginia of advancing the ideals of Fair Housing.

With the addition of “source of funds” to the list of protected classes to Virginia’s Fair Housing Act, advocates were given a powerful tool to combat modern forms of housing discrimination. In October 2021, the Virginia Attorney General office filed lawsuits against 29 Richmond area real-estate companies and property managers for categorically rejecting prospective voucher holding tenants. With these lawsuits, Virginia is sending a clear message that all Virginians deserve the right to live where they choose, free from discrimination.

Virginia is sending a clear message that all Virginians deserve the right to live where they choose, free from discrimination.

With the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic harm to thousands of Virginia families, a new evolution of housing discrimination is emerging: some landlords are refusing to renew leases for tenants who received emergency rental assistance. Despite getting funds directly from the Virginia Rent Relief program and being made whole, some landlords are implementing policies that treat tenants who received assistance differently. Not only does this practice directly violate the Virginia Fair Housing Act , but it disproportionately harms Black families and families with young children. Black households account for almost 52% of those who received rent relief in Virginia; 67% of households served included children under 8 years old.

Advocates in Virginia are still grappling with how to respond to this new form of discrimination, but thanks in part to the efforts of cohort one of the Housing Justice Program Fellows, the incoming Housing Justice Program Fellows have a strong tool at their disposal: the Virginia Fair Housing Act.

Visit here to read more stories about the work of our Fellows and how they are advocating for policies and practices that protect the rights of all tenants.

The Housing Justice Program is made possible thanks to the generosity of The JPB Foundation and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Equal Justice Works invites eligible organizations based in South Carolina to submit proposals to participate as host organizations in the 2022 Housing Justice Program.   

The Equal Justice Works Housing Justice Program mobilizes a cohort of lawyers and community organizers working collaboratively as Fellows to serve low-income individuals who are currently or at risk of experiencing housing instability and involuntary displacement, particularly due to eviction.  

In 2022, Equal Justice Works is expanding the Housing Justice Program from Virginia to South Carolina and Maryland. Equal Justice Works seeks to allocate approximately six Fellows in South Carolina: four attorney Fellows and two community organizer Fellows hosted at legal services organizations and community-based organizations. Host organizations will participate in the Housing Justice Program by hosting one or more Fellows; organizations may apply to host attorney Fellows, organizer Fellows, or a combination of both. These 6 Fellows will work cooperatively to:   

  • Provide direct legal assistance including advice, referrals, and full representation for tenants in eviction proceedings;   
  • Build collaborative partnerships with community organizations and provide referrals for wraparound services;   
  • Engage in outreach including know-your-rights presentations and workshops, legal clinics, and intake events around housing issues; and   
  • Identify patterns, organize tenants, engage in impact litigation to challenge structural issues, and educate key stakeholders around the causes and consequences of housing instability. 

Fellows will serve for two years, beginning on or about August 1, 2022 and ending no later than 24 months after the Fellow’s start date and no later than August 31, 2024.  

The Housing Justice Program is funded by The JPB Foundation and JPMorgan Chase & Co.  

Please see links to the full Request for Proposals (RFP) and accompanying appendices below. Proposals must be submitted by Friday, April 29, 11:59 p.m. EST via email to [email protected].    

If you are interested in submitting a proposal, please complete this brief Intent to Apply Survey and specify how many Fellows (lawyers and/or organizers) you are interested in applying for by Monday, April 11, 2022.  

Resources 

Before applying, please review the following materials:  

Templates & Forms 

The following materials are required for submission:  

If you have any questions about the application process, please reach out to [email protected].   

Equal Justice Works is currently recruiting lawyers and organizers to serve as Fellows in our Housing Justice Program in Virginia starting in Spring 2022.

The Equal Justice Works Housing Justice Program uniquely combines the efforts of lawyers and community organizers, working collaboratively as Fellows, to address the dire problem of evictions in low-income and underserved communities. Fellows hosted at legal aid and grassroots organizations work strategically help tenants access justice and empower communities to stand up against unfair housing practices.

Since the program was first launched in Richmond, Virginia in 2019, Fellows have: helped more than 4,800 tenants avoid eviction; collaborated with over 30 tenants’ rights organizations to educate 40,000 tenants about their rights; contributed to efforts to save communities from displacement; and received national media attention for their important work.

In 2022, Equal Justice Works is expanding the Housing Justice Program from Richmond to Northern and Eastern Virginia, and into South Carolina and Maryland. Fellows will be hosted at legal aid and grassroots organizations in areas where evictions and housing instability have reached epidemic proportions. During a two-year term, Fellows work collaboratively to provide legal advice, referrals, and full representation for tenants in eviction proceedings. They also engage in outreach, education activities, and work with community partners to address systematic barriers that contribute to housing instability.

The Housing Justice Program is currently recruiting for Fellows (7 lawyers and 4 organizers) in Virginia to serve at organizations in the Greater Richmond Region, Hampton Roads, and Northern Virginia starting in Spring of 2022.

Organizations still hiring Fellows to begin working this spring are:

The Housing Justice Program will begin recruiting for Fellows in South Carolina and Maryland in Summer 2022.

If you have any questions about the application process or program, please reach out to [email protected].

To learn more about the Housing Justice Program, click here.

The Housing Justice Program is made possible thanks to the generosity of The JPB Foundation and JPMorgan Chase Foundation.

A Public-Private Partnership to Combat Housing Injustice in Virginia

Virginia is home to five of the top ten evicting large cities in the United States—a housing crisis affecting thousands of tenants across the state who need legal representation. Yet for too many, our justice system is inaccessible. Since 1993, Equal Justice Works has mobilized more than 250 lawyers and community organizers to combat housing instability. In 2021, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and The JPB Foundation invested a total of $3.75 million to provide Equal Justice Works with the resources to expand its Housing Justice Program from Richmond, Virginia, to other communities with high eviction rates, such as Hampton Roads.

In January, representatives from Equal Justice Works, The JPB Foundation, JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Virginia Poverty Law Center, came together to discuss how public-private partnerships can help increase capacity of the legal aid community in Virginia, provide legal assistance to low-income families facing eviction, and advocate for policies and practices that protect the rights of tenants.

Here’s what our speakers had to say about collaborating with Equal Justice Works on its Housing Justice Program:

 

The Housing Justice Program Fellowship model is flexible. It’s responsive to the needs of communities and the host organizations that the Fellows serve. We feel that this has the advantage of making the project replicable in other cities and across the country.”

–Annie Greengard, Senior Program Officer at The JPB Foundation


 

We’re proud to support Equal Justice Works and their innovative work bringing together Fellows and community organizations as part of the Housing Justice Program to increase access to legal services and tenant resources. It is a model that will truly make a difference.

It’s a comprehensive model that is bringing new partners and doing it in a place where there is an incredible need for that work. We are excited to see that model replicated in the greater Virginia area, especially Northern Virginia… and we hope is that this type of work informs a national conversation.

–Abigail Suarez, Executive Director, Head of Neighborhood Development at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

 


The wonderful thing about the Housing Justice Program is that it combines the traditional legal service model with community organizing, impact litigation and policy. Evictions aren’t an individual problem. Rather, they’re systemic. So why would we limit ourselves to individual solutions? Having that organizing component is essential to help build those connections and help connect tenants to legal aid attorneys.

It’s a model that puts communities first and allows attorneys to support the needs of those tenants, rather than attorneys acting as gatekeepers to this very complex legal system.

–Laura Dobbs, Staff Attorney at Virginia Poverty Law Center, and 2019 Equal Justice Works Fellow

Visit here to learn more about the Housing Justice Program.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WHAT:
Representatives from Equal Justice Works, The JPB Foundation, and JPMorgan Chase will come together to discuss how public-private partnerships can help increase capacity of the legal aid community in Virginia, provide legal assistance to low-income families facing eviction, and advocate for policies and practices that protect the rights of tenants.

WHO:
Speakers include:

  • Hana Hausnerova, Director of Public Programs, Equal Justice Works (Moderator)
  • Annie Greengard, Senior Program Officer, The JPB Foundation
  • Abigail Suarez, Program Officer, Community Development, Global Philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase
  • Laura Dobbs, Staff Attorney, Virginia Poverty Law Center; 2019 Equal Justice Works Fellow

WHEN:
Thursday, January 27, 2022
10:30–11:30 a.m. ET

WHERE:
Register for the virtual press event here.

CONTACT:
Heena Patel
Marketing and Communications Director
Email: [email protected]

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About Equal Justice Works

Equal Justice Works is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that creates opportunities for lawyers to transform their passion for equal justice into a lifelong commitment to public service. As the nation’s largest facilitator of opportunities in public interest law, Equal Justice Works brings together an extensive network of law students, lawyers, nonprofit legal aid organizations, and supporters to promote public service and inspire a lifelong commitment to equal justice.