Georgetown Law Students Help Revitalize Affordable Housing Building

Harrison Institute Sierra Cooperative

Students from Georgetown University Law Center’s Harrison Institute for Housing and Community Development helped revitalize and reopen an affordable housing building in Washington, DC earlier this year.

The Sierra Cooperative, an affordable housing building in DC’s Eckington neighborhood, celebrated its grand opening this past January. Two and a half years ago, the building was scheduled for tax sale after long-neglect. At the time, only four of the building’s 20 units were occupied and the building suffered from a leaking roof, rotting wood, and mildew. The building has since been substantially renovated, and residents have purchased the property in accordance with the District’s Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA).

Initially tasked with averting the tax sale, the Harrison Institute later helped residents develop a financing proposal that was submitted to the Local Initiatives Support Corporation and the Department of Housing and Community Development. These two organizations accepted the proposal and provided funds for the construction.

“The project at the Sierra is a great example of the important work that lawyers can do in low-income communities,” said Professor Michael Diamond, director of the Harrison Institute for Housing & Community Development clinic. “We especially commend the heroic efforts of the residents who fought to keep their home, despite the many obstacles in their path.”

Housing projects like the Sierra Cooperative are the key focus of the Harrison Institute, which provides legal counseling for low-income individuals and community groups. Students provide legal and nonlegal organizational support, represent tenants in financing and purchasing transactions, preserve affordable housing, and provide training and direct assistance for new business.

In addition to creating a positive impact in the community, the Institute provides Georgetown Law students with the opportunity to apply skills learned in the classroom to real challenges facing low-income communities. Students help facilitate the financing, purchasing, and rehabilitating single-family and multifamily housing, and they teach these skills to members of the community. They learn legal expertise and problem-solving skills in a real-world application that embodies the school’s commitment the common good.

Read more about past work of the Harrison Institute and other clients of the clinic.

District Homeless Population Helped by Hypothermia Outreach Team

Georgetown students, faculty and staff have joined forces with a local outreach organization to help keep Washington, D.C.’s homeless population warm during frigid winter nights.

The Hypothermia Outreach Team (HOT), a collaborative effort between the university’s Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service (CSJ) and the Georgetown Ministry Center (GMC), helps prevent unsheltered individuals from getting too much exposure to the cold and encourages them to seek safety in available shelters.

“The goal of the team is to provide direct services to prevent deaths in severe inclement weather,” says Ray Shiu, associate director of CSJ. “GMC itself does outreach but they can’t do it every single night. The idea is to supplement their good efforts and the work they do with the high interest of Georgetown student, faculty and staff volunteers.”

CSJ activates the outreach team whenever the District of Columbia issues a hypothermia alert.

The HOT members then gather at the CSJ office to gather supplies, such as blankets, gloves, hats and food, before canvassing an assigned route designed by GMC.

HOT formed in January 2014 when CSJ was investigating ways to better serve the homeless population in the Georgetown and Foggy Bottom neighborhoods and increase collaboration with their community partners – especially GMC.

More than 25 Georgetown students originally were trained to serve on the outreach team, with about 150 Georgetown students, faculty and staff now ready to help and interest in the program growing.

“We’ve been so happily overwhelmed this academic year with interest from our community,” says Shiu. 

According to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, the District of Columbia had 7,748 homeless residents – 1.2 percent of the city’s population – in 2014.

The HOT volunteers usually reach out to 10 to 20 people experiencing homelessness during each outreach session.

“They’ll approach men and women experiencing homelessness, assess if they are adequately dressed and have what they need for the night,” Shiu explains. “But at the same time, the outreach team will encourage them to go inside and utilize the resources the District of Columbia has to offer, such as emergency shelters and warming centers.”

Sarah Sohlberg (NHS’16), a student coordinator for the team, says the group serves a very important purpose – ensuring the safety of Washington, D.C.’s at-risk homeless population.

“The issue of homelessness in Washington is not trivial and it’s not going away,” says the international health major. “Through HOT, we want to ensure that people in our surrounding community are reeving the resources and help they need to survive through the winter, which is the least we can do.”

This story was originally posted by the Georgetown University Office of Communications.

Georgetown Honoring George Jones of Bread for the City


Video by Emma Curran, Georgetown University

Georgetown University is honoring George Jones, CEO of Bread for the City, with the 2015 John Thompson, Jr. Legacy of a Dream Award.

Each year, Georgetown recognizes an upcoming local leader working to solve some of the city’s most pressing challenges with the Legacy of a Dream award. For more than 20 years, Jones has led Bread for the City in its mission to serve vulnerable city residents with comprehensive services that include food, clothing, medical care and legal and social services.

“The fact is that people are hungry or at risk of sleeping on the street here in D.C.,” Jones says. “Oftentimes, it’s difficult for them to find justice in many of the situations they find themselves in. So our lawyers and our food pantry and our medical practice are where we can provide direct physical care. Those services are here to deal with the harsh realities of living in poverty in D.C.”

Jones’ work impacts a city where approximately 19 percent live below the poverty line. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the unemployment rate rises above the national average and, says a report released this month by the Feed America network of food banks, 28 percent of children live with little access to nutritional food.

Jones will receive the award at a ceremony the Kennedy Center on January 15, 2015, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The ceremony will include a free concert with performer Natalie Cole. As part of the award, Georgetown will begin an intensive yearlong partnership with Bread for the City.

In 2014, Georgetown recognized Lecester Johnson of Academy of Hope. The university worked closely with Johnson to bring greater attention to the important issue of adult education, and to support AoH’s significant growth and expansion, which included transition to a public charter school.  Among other things, the university provided executive education to AoH executives, including Johnson; consultation with university experts on issues including benefit plans, strategic communications, and an on-going facilities search; and provided a venue for AoH’s 2014 graduation ceremony.

Mary Brown, executive director of the D.C. Promise Neighborhood Initiative and formerly executive director of Life Pieces to Masterpieces, received the award in 2013. Read more about George Jones and his work with Bread for the City, and about the Legacy of a Dream Award.

Medical Students Offer Sports Camp for Homeless Youth

SportsMed Camp 2014 (2)

Students from the Georgetown University School of Medicine led a sports camp for nearly 50 youth living at the DC General Family Shelter July 28-August 1.

The HoyaMed Summer Sports Camp, held at RFK Stadium for children aged 5 to 13, showed the campers they can have fun while being active outdoors and eating nutritious snacks, says Molly Warren (M’17), volunteer coordinator for the camp.

Activities throughout the week included kickball, tag, soccer, flag football, track and field races, dance competitions, an RFK Stadium tour and a chance to watch a practice session of Washington’s professional soccer team, D.C. United.

SportsMed Camp 2014

The HoyaMed camp started last summer and relies heavily on support from others, both within Georgetown and D.C.

Hoya Clinic, a student-run medical clinic at DC General, furnishes transportation, medical supplies and equipment to the camp staff. Georgetown’s Dahlgren Memorial Library provides t-shirts for the counselors and campers, promotional flyers and a banner, and Georgetown’s Yates Field House supplies sports equipment. Eileen Moore, MD, faculty leader for the HoyaMed Summer Sports Camp and co-medical director of Hoya Clinic, helped students organize the camp.

D.C. United gave the camp’s staff access to their facilities for ice and water, gave each camper a new soccer ball and donated tickets for the families to attend an upcoming game through their Kicks for Kids program. Every camper received a medal for their participation courtesy of Washington Trophy.

“The contributions of these generous departments and organizations allow medical students to give back to the community and show that not only does Georgetown School of Medicine believe in the care of the whole person, as in cura personalis, but Georgetown truly cares about the whole community,” says Matt Baer (M’17), a co-director of this year’s camp.

This post is an edited version of a story on the GUMC website. Read the full story here.

Charity basketball game benefits Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless

Photo from @SenBobCasey

Photo from @SenBobCasey on Twitter

On March 26 Georgetown University Law Center hosted Home Court 2014, an annual charity basketball game to support the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, and raised over $600,000 to support the clinic.

The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless provides comprehensive legal services to homeless individuals in the District of Columbia and advocates on their behalf.  The clinic’s goal is to bring an end to homelessness by improving the programs, benefits, resources and opportunities available to people challenged by the effects of poverty.

Home Court 2014 was the 27th annual matchup between Hoya Lawyas, a team of Law Center faculty and staff, and Hill’s Angels, a team of U.S. senators and representatives and their staffs.

The first Home Court game, in 1988, raised over $40,000 for the legal clinic and the game has raised more than $5 million since then. Home Court 2014 was played at the Trinity Center at Trinity Washington University. Hill’s Angels beat Hoya Lawyas 46-40.