September 2, 2010

If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.

Denise shares her home with a family of "uninvited roommates," as she calls them. They have whiskers, they scurry away pretty fast, and there seem to be more and more of them.

Sometimes this rodent infestation isn't even the worst thing about her apartment: the broken air conditioning (broken heat, too, in the winter) is outright miserable. And don't get her started on the mold, which wreaks havoc on her asthma.

Rent striking tenant at Marbury Plaza. Support our work by making a donation today. (Photo by Daniel del Pielago)

"I can't just move out, though," Denise says. A long-time client of Bread for the City's food pantry, Denise has a hard-to-obtain housing voucher that subsidizes her rent. Given her health problems, her daughter's special needs, and the rising cost of living city-wide, she doesn't have much of a choice but to stick it out in Marbury Plaza.

And hers isn't even the worst situation in Marbury. Some apartments have holes in their walls that gape clear through in between each other. Denise says that in one man's unit, the mold got so bad that mushrooms started growing out of the walls.

Marbury Plaza, located just east of the Anacostia River and down the street from our Southeast Center on Good Hope Road, is one of DC's largest housing complexes. Its long period of decay reflects the plight of so many District residents who are struggling to maintain decent, affordable housing.

Fortunately, thanks to the efforts of Denise, the Marbury Plaza Concerned Tenants' Association, and Bread for the City's legal team, these conditions are about to improve.

Last week, we brought you the good news: after years of campaigning, including an organized rent strike, the Marbury tenants successfully reached a settlement with the owners that will abate rents and invest millions of dollars into repairs and upgrades. Bread for the City's legal team have helped the tenants craft their strategy, build their power, and bring their demands to the negotiating table.

We're now pleased to announce that the Marbury Concerned Tenants' Association have selected Bread for the City lawyers and advocacy staff to receive their Tenants' Choice Award, in recognition of our service to the community. We are honored to accept their invitation to the 2nd Annual Tenants Choice Award Ceremony, to be held on Friday September 17, 2010 at 7pm at THEARC Theater. (Facebook event page is here.)

Tonight at 6pm, you can hear a full news report on the Marbury Plaza settlement. Tune into WPFW 89.3FM (or streaming online here) to hear the full story, and hear the interview with MCTPA President April Goggans here.

In the meantime, you, too, can support this work. Tickets are available for the Tenants' Association's award ceremony -- purchase yours here. You can also make a donation help their ongoing efforts to build community at Marbury Plaza.

And of course, you can support Bread for the City's legal team -- and the work that we do with tenants across the city -- by making a donation to us today:

"Bread for the City's role was pivotal," explains Denise, who worked as a floor captain for the Tenants Association's campaign. "We certainly didn't have money to retain the services of a legal firm. If it wasn't for them, we'd be up a dark alley."

Instead, this victory points to hope for renewal -- through a community working together towards empowerment and justice.

"I hope this landmark case will resonate across the city, inspiring other tenants to know and fight for their rights," says Denise, "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. The Tenants' Association stood for community, for working together for a common cause. And Bread for the City stands for under-served, struggling people -- for respect and dignity and caring for other human beings."

Congratulations again to April and the Marbury tenants. You can listen to Pete Tucker's interview with April here.

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