Bread for the City’s statement on The Office of the Attorney General and the District of Columbia Housing Authority settlement

WASHINGTON D.C. – Bread for the City’s mission is, in part, to seek justice through community organizing and public advocacy. In that work we seek to uproot racism, a major cause of poverty. In the months since George Floyd’s death and the protests that have ensued to call out the senseless deaths of not just Mr. Floyd but countless others who died because of the color of their skin, we have been steeled in our mission and vision. We’ve had weekly protests outside our Northwest Center, delivered free COVID-19 testing to the community, and spoken publicly about the need to dismantle the systemic racism that perpetuates poverty and oppression in our city.

For nearly a decade, Bread for the City has been a part of the local community’s efforts to push for racial equity in Washington, DC, and we proudly stand with the national and local Black Lives Matter leadership, which has reignited the Civil Rights Movement and created the kind of progressive activism that we believe could lead to DC being an explicitly anti-racist city.

It’s against this backdrop that we issue this statement expressing our deep disappointment in the agreement recently signed by the Office of the Attorney General and the District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA) settling a lawsuit filed against DCHA for their failure to abate nuisances at 10 of their properties.

We believe that the agreement is entirely contrary to the conversations around ending systemic racism that have been lifted up in the movement for Black lives. While communities call on cities to rethink policing, the agreement reached does just the opposite. It seeks additional policing and worse, it seeks to evict Black families who rely on public housing. Yes, we believe people should be safe in their homes and that public housing communities should be safe places to live. However, the answer cannot be an increase in policing that results in sending more Black people to jail and more homelessness for Black families. Bread for the City advocates have proposed alternatives to increased policing and evictions, including social services, job programs, mental health supports, youth programs, restorative justice initiatives and community mediation programs. Further, DCHA is entirely complicit in creating unhealthy communities. For decades DCHA has allowed its properties to fall into disrepair. Boarded up windows, broken doors and broken lighting throughout its properties contribute to the unsafe living conditions for DCHA residents. We are pleased that DCHA is finally required to repair these terrible housing conditions as part of the agreement. Yet, despite the more effective options of investing in programming for residents and social supports, DCHA is allowed to continue to default to more policing and more evictions.

Bread for the City supports the residents of the District who are calling for the end of systemic racism. We believe this agreement is wrong for our communities and does not work to address the root of what is plaguing public housing in Washington D.C. and throughout the country. We cannot say that Black Lives Matter and paint murals on our buildings or our streets and then stand by while the Black residents of public housing are victims of the same systems that we are fighting to dismantle.

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