Unhealthy Housing Forced Ms. Hill to Choose Between her Daughter’s Health and Education
Averii Hill is a very, very active six-year-old girl. Despite her asthma, she has always loved to run and climb trees and play ball – it can be hard for her mother to keep up!
In December 2021, Ms. Hill and Averii moved into their new apartment. But when the spring rains came around, Ms. Hill noticed something wrong with the walls. She smelled it first, then touched the wall to find the source.
Her wall was soft and wet to the touch.
Ms. Hill reached out to her rental management agency right away. They assured her they’d come and check on the leaks causing that damage – but never did. By June, both Averii and Ms. Hill were getting sick. They both have asthma and their symptoms were getting worse. Averii’s school sent her home for a cough that wouldn’t stop.
Coming home didn’t make things better.
Ms. Hill took Averii to her pediatrician who suspected the housing conditions were exacerbating Averii’s asthma. The doctor wrote a letter to the rental agency explaining the situation, but once again – they ignored it.
The water damage eventually opened up a hole in the wall. Ms. Hill got the landlord to patch it, but they didn’t fix the underlying problems. The wall became waterlogged again.
Ms. Hill remembers the frustration she felt when Averii would come to her and say, “Mommy, I can’t breathe.” Ms. Hill sent Averii to her grandmother’s house for weeks at a time for her health, but that meant she missed even more school.
Finding the root cause
When Ms. Hill took Averii back to the doctor, her doctor recommended she reach out to Children’s Law Center. Ms. Hill was nervous at first that involving lawyers would make things worse. She was afraid the rental agency would retaliate for her speaking out.
But when she called Children’s Law Center, she says, the help was immediate. Her Children’s Law Center lawyer sent a demand letter to the landlord, and the landlord finally made permanent fixes without Ms. Hill having to go to court.
“It’s so stressful not being heard, especially when your child is involved,” Ms. Hill explained. “Children’s Law Center took that stress and turned it into a result.”
Averii is sleeping and breathing better now, and they both love that they get to walk to school together every morning.
Ms. Hill also shares her story with others facing similar housing conditions to let them know there are resources available.
Ms. Hill’s story helped a friend and neighbor who for months couldn’t get her landlord to fix leaks in the unit she shared with her children. The neighbor similarly penned a demand letter – and the landlord moved them into a healthier unit.
It’s Time for Healthier and Safer Housing for all DC Residents
When a child lives in unhealthy housing, they are more likely to end up in the ER because their poor housing conditions trigger health issues like asthma. That’s why Children’s Law Center partners with organizations across the city to advocate for healthier housing so that all DC children have the safe housing they need to live healthy lives.