Ashley Austin, 2007 Grant Recipient

"I have spent this summer at Three Rivers Legal Services completely devoted to a housing case in which we represent eighty-eight claimants against a subsidized housing group. The sheer number of clients and differing claims create a web of intriguing challenges that as an intern seem almost overwhelming. Even still, what seem more overwhelming are the lives of our clients. Although I spend much of my time researching, a large portion is dedicated to interrogatories, during which slowly but surely, as we ask questions appalling stories of the housing conditions reveal themselves often shrugged off as part of life.

Rats, flooding, constant gas leaks, sparking plugs, water leaks and roaches truly are part of the everyday. One of our clients routinely emptied the water from her overhead dome light fixture that was from her upstairs neighbors leaking bathroom. The neighbor’s bathroom which was void of caulking had a large hole in the bathtub and although her young son used to love baths, she no longer felt safe allowing him near the tub. All daily activities were complicated by the circumstances. Mothers had to keep guards around sparking plugs to protect their children and share the bed with their infants so that rats would not get near them. One woman even told the story of how she watched a rat give birth on her bed; another told of cutting a freshly made birthday cake at a party only to have a roach crawl out of the middle. The complex burned down in the middle of the night from a sparking plug. Fittingly, the only reason anyone was awake to warn of the imminent fire was because the ceiling had fallen in on an older man earlier that day. The man was told not to go to sleep that night because he had suffered a concussion; therefore he was pacing around outside when he saw the flames burst out.

The outrageous stories I hear daily are devastatingly true, but what saddens me more is that amongst the other terrible circumstances that have placed our clients in subsidized housing, these housing incidences are viewed as part of life. Of the many uphill battles that our clients have to face in their overwhelming lives, I am grateful to help fight this one for them."

Linus Chen, 2007 Grant Recipient

"My internship is going well. I'm at the National Wildlife Federation saving endangered species. I work at their DC office. One day, we went to see the headquarter's building outside of DC for a tour. The front entrance has a water feature, and we spent a few hours cleaning the pond, pulling unwanted cattails and scum. My law degree in action..."