Washington, DC – The DC Bar Foundation announced the 2017 recipients of the Access to Justice (ATJ) Grants Program, which awards grants to DC-based legal aid organizations that provide free legal help to low-income DC residents. A total of $4,552,000 was awarded to 33 projects throughout the District.
“The DC Bar Foundation is proud to be a community partner in the pursuit of access to justice for the citizens of the District of Columbia. Whether an individual needs help recovering wages or assistance with a wrongful eviction, our grants help to ensure that the income one earns does not dictate the outcome of a civil legal issue,” stated Vonya McCann, Senior Vice President Government Affairs at Sprint Corporation. Ms. McCann is a member of the DC Bar Foundation’s Board of Directors and Chair of the Grants and Technical Assistance Committee.
Funded by a grant from the District of Columbia Office of Victim Services Justice Grants, the ATJ Grants Program funds projects in three categories: (a) underserved areas; (b) housing-related matters; and (c) a shared legal interpreter bank. DCBF awarded 28 grants in the underserved areas category, totaling $3,083,000; four grants in the housing-related matters category, totaling $1,149,500; and one $319,500 grant to a shared legal interpreter bank.
Now in its tenth year, the ATJ Grants Program has been instrumental in increasing access to justice for low-income DC residents, in every ward of the District, by providing free legal assistance on array of civil legal issues. One of the ATJ Grants Program’s main goals is to place attorneys in the poorest and most underserved areas of the District in order to ensure that every resident, regardless of income, has access to legal assistance. Of the nearly 23,000 DC residents served through the grants program last year, 52 percent were residents of Wards 7 and 8, the two poorest wards of the city.
Through the ATJ Grants Program, the DC Bar Foundation also seeks to increase the availability of critical legal assistance for legal matters that create significant challenges in the lives of low-income DC residents. For example, one new project will assist low-income residents of Wards 1 and 7 who are suffering from debt collection practices that may have disastrous consequences on their employment, housing and financial stability. Another new project will add more lawyers in the effort to preserve affordable housing in diverse communities in DC.
The DC Bar Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization established in 1977, is the largest funder of civil legal services in the District. The Foundation’s mission is to fund, support, and improve legal representation of the poor, vulnerable, and otherwise disadvantaged in the District of Columbia, and it is committed to the vision that residents of the District have equal access to justice, regardless of income. The Foundation provides grants, training, and technical assistance to local non-profit legal services organizations and awards loans to DC poverty lawyers to help with their educational debts.