Image shows Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton at a podium
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton speaking on eviction diversion efforts. Photo by Jasper Smith

A new initiative to strengthen local courts and provide legal assistance to people experiencing housing instability across the District was unveiled by the D.C. courts, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) and the Wells Fargo Foundation on June 1. 

The initiative includes a $10 million grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation to incorporate mediation services between landlords and tenants, rental assistance programs and legal aid resources.

D.C. is one of nine jurisdictions selected as the recipients of the Wells Fargo Foundation grant and NCSC’s Eviction Diversion Initiative (EDI).The NCSC, a nonprofit organization with the mission of improving justice in state courts, developed the EDI to help state and local courts change eviction practices through diversion programs. Courts were selected through an application process reviewed by the EDI advisory council.

“One of the reasons I like to think the District of Columbia was selected is because we already have solid partnerships with our stakeholders in the judiciary, the executive branch and the legislative branch, but most importantly, in the community,” Anna Blackburne-Rigby, the chief judge of the D.C. Court of Appeals, said at the announcement event. 

The grant will be broken up by roughly $606,000 over a two year period as well as a public education initiative in partnership for $100,000 to go towards developing educational materials as well as radio and television public service announcements. 

The grant will also fund two civil case management facilitators and two court navigator facilitators over the course of two years. The case management positions will assist tenants and landlords in case initiation or mediation, while providing information about the court process. The navigator facilitator positions will help landlords and tenants access legal services, housing counseling, financial assistance and other social services. 

“We know that the pandemic resulted in severe economic stress for many families, tenants and property owners alike,” said Mary McQueen, the president and executive director of the NCSC.