Through our medical-legal partnerships with clinics like those belonging to Children’s National Hospital, we know that children from Wards 7 and 8 have 20 times the ER visits for asthma compared to children living in NW DC. In an interview with WUSA 9’s Jess Arnold, CLC Senior Supervising Attorney Kathy Zeisel shares how hazardous housing conditions—including indoor mold, lead exposure, and infestations—can cause serious health issues for DC children like 8 year-old Trinity Johnson, who developed chronic asthma due to the unhealthy conditions she and her family experience in their Forest Ridge apartment.
With encouragement from Trinity’s doctors, Pinkney reached out to Children’s Law Center, which set her up with a pro bono attorney to push for change on the legal side.
Pinkney said she had been trying everything she could think of to get the problems in her home resolved on her own.
“I called maintenance… we can’t tell you when they’re coming,” she said. “I’ve had DCRA come in, they do an inspection, they violate them… They say fines, fines, fines. Nothing’s happening.”
Senior supervising attorney at the Children’s Law Center, Kathy Zeisel, said part of the issue is the type of contract the Forest Ridge owner has with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It’s classified as subsidized housing, but Zeisel said the subsidy is tied to the apartment complex, not to the tenant.
“At a place like Forest Ridge, which is a kind of subsidy where the family can’t really leave the property, it puts families in the hard place of choosing being homeless, because they can’t afford to move off the property, or sort of rolling the dice on maybe this property will be better,” Zeisel said.
So, Pinkney doesn’t receive a voucher that she can use anywhere. If she wants to take advantage of the income-based subsidy, she has to stay at Forest Ridge… or go through an entirely different application process.