Homeless Advocates Tell Congress
Gentrification is Unfair to the Poor


     A congressional hearing last week unwittingly touched on a homelessness problem that is part of an ongoing confrontation along K Street in Northeast Washington, D.C.
     An underpass in the 100 block of K Street NE became a tent city in the past year as gentrification pushes up home prices and pushes out residents who have no other place to live in Washington.
     The city’s health department expelled the roughly 40 homeless people from the tunnel but they are resisting the eviction. The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless is considering legal action to help them.
     The showdown on K Street is exactly the kind of dispute that prompted the House Financial Services Committee to hold a hearing on how gentrification is forcing even people who are ready, willing and able work into homelessness. Some of them consist of families.
     Gentrification refers to real estate development that changes the character of a neighborhood through the influx of more affluent residents and businesses.
     Traditionally, low-income residents have used federal subsidies, known as Housing and Urban Development Section 8 vouchers, to pay around 30 percent of their rent.
     Increasingly, the needs are outpacing the supply for the vouchers, said Priya Jayachandran, president of the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit advocacy group National Housing Trust.
     “According to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, the gap between supply and demand for rental units affordable and available to very low-income households is 7.2 million,” she said in her testimony.
     Some of the most moving testimony came from Jeffrey Williams, a Virginia-based tenant advocate who described his family’s eviction from their home.
     
     



   







Legal Briefs

Gun Rally Ends Without Violence
After Virginia Supreme Court Ruling


     The Virginia Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a ban on guns at a rally in Richmond Monday had an uncertain effect in helping the event end without violence.
     Governor Ralph Northam declared an emergency that included a ban on guns even among licensed owners anywhere near the rally in Capitol Square.
     Gun advocates sought an injunction against the ban, saying it violated their Second Amendment rights to bear arms.
     The petition by the Virginia Citizens Defense League and the Gun Owners of America also said the governor overstepped his authority.
     A circuit court judge disagreed, ruling the governor acted within his authority to protect public safety.​

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D.C. in Brief

D.C. Joins Lawsuit to Block
Reductions in Food Stamps


     The District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia joined a lawsuit last week that seeks to block the Trump administration from reducing food benefits for about 700,000 people nationwide.
     The cuts represent a rule change the Agriculture Department finalized last month for its Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps.
     The food stamp program required recipients to perform minimum work requirements to qualify for the benefit. States had the discretion to waive the work requirement.
     The new rule eliminates most state discretion, meaning able-bodied adults without dependents can receive SNAP benefits for no more than three months during a three-year period. They can continue receiving the benefits only if they’re working or enrolled in an education or training program for 80 hours a month.
     States often waived the requirement by arguing the job market was not strong enough to ensure work was available for all SNAP recipients who applied.

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Power the Civil Rights Work of Our Time

     Each day members of our community are experiencing wage theft, the effects of gentrification, discriminatory policing, collateral consequences, marginalization in schools, and barriers to public accommodations. 
     We fight alongside people facing the effects of gentrification like Amira Moore. Our work empowers the people and communities who need it most, “We can do more than we think. There’s a path to equity, we just have to step to it.” –Ms. Moore
     For more than 50 years, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee has been on the frontlines of the fight for civil rights in our community. We deploy the best legal talent, we tackle the tough cases, we fight, and we win. 
     Our work is as important today as it has ever been. Through your support, you can play a role in creating justice for thousands of marginalized members of our community. Together, we will dismantle injustice and pursue lasting change.
     Join us! Donate & subscribe: https://www.washlaw.org/support-us
     Volunteer with us: https://www.washlaw.org/get-involved/
     For more information, contact Gregg Kelley at Gregg_Kelley@washlaw.org​

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Virginia Man Faces Conspiracy Charge
After Bomb Threats and Swatting Calls


     A Virginia man is facing trial in federal court in Alexandria after being linked to bomb threats and “swatting” attacks on journalists and government officials.
     John William Kirby Kelley appeared to be motivated by a neo-Nazi ideology when he made bomb threats against Old Dominion University and the predominantly African American Alfred Street Baptist Church in Old Town Alexandria, according to the FBI.
     He was affiliated with a loosely-organized, unnamed group that shared racist viewpoints and demonstrated “particular disdain for African Americans and Jewish people,” an FBI affidavit says.
     Kelley is being represented by a public defender. He faces up to five years in prison on a charge of conspiracy to make threats.
     In November 2018, someone later alleged by police to be Kelley phoned Old Dominion University in Norfolk to say a gunman armed with an AR-15 rifle hid pipe bombs around the campus.
     Kelley was a student majoring in cybersecurity at the university before being expelled after an arrest on drug charges.
     About the same time as the Old Dominion bomb threat, he allegedly made a similar threat to the Alfred Street Baptist Church. The church was evacuated during an evening service before police searched it for bombs.
     He is accused of making another fake threat last January when he called to say he killed his girlfriend and took her two children hostage. He gave an address for the incident that was the home of an unnamed federal official.
     False emergency calls intended to get some other unwitting person in trouble with the police are called “swatting.”
     The neo-Nazi group with whom Kelley associated himself maintained a website called DoxBin that listed swatting targets among journalists and government officials. One journalist on the list was was Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper columnist Leonard G. Pitts Jr., who police ordered out of his home and arrested after one of the calls.

Letters to the Editor

Computer Experts Say Iranians
Could Disrupt U.S. Law Firms


     A congressional hearing last week raised alarms for Washington-area law firms about the risk Iran will target courts and financial institutions for cyberattacks.
     The House Homeland Security Committee called the hearing as a response to new threats after the Jan. 3 U.S. military drone strike that killed Iranian Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimeini.
     The next day, the Homeland Security Department put out a bulletin warning about Iran's "robust cyber program." It said that "Iran is capable, at a minimum, of carrying out attacks with temporary disruptive effect against critical infrastructure in the United States" and that "an attack in the homeland may come with little or no warning."
     Iran retaliated by launching missiles at U.S. military installations in Iraq. However, diplomatic officials and lawmakers at the congressional hearing said the Iranian threat is unlikely to have ended with the missile strike.
     Instead, Iranians are likely to launch cyberattacks that damage the U.S. economy, government operations and infrastructure. Courts and banks would be among the top targets, according to expert witnesses at the hearing.

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We Could Use Your Help

     Thousands of DC residents need a lawyer, but can’t afford one. They could be illegally evicted from their homes, lose custody of their children, experience domestic violence, and more, all because they lack legal representation. 
      You could make a difference. By making a donation to the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, you will provide free, high-quality, zealous legal representation to low-income DC residents. Click the photo above to make a donation today. 
      Your support could prevent homelessness, domestic violence, hunger, or family separation. In fact, if just 10 people who see this ad give $28 to Legal Aid, it will be enough to staff an experienced attorney at the courthouse for a day.
      That way, DC residents like Keith King (pictured above) can get the legal representation they need to win their cases. As Mr. King put it, if it wasn’t for his Legal Aid lawyer, “I would have been homeless again.”
     Here is the link to the Legal Aid website for donations: https://www.legalaiddc.org/donate-to-legal-aid/

     For more information, contact Rob Pergament at Legal Aid at rpergament@legalaiddc.org




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