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Power Station

Mar 18, 2019

If you want to see justice in action, go to DC Superior Court and look for the lawyers with the blue clipboards and a sign offering free help. They position themselves there for the 2 days a weeks dedicated to debt collection and are a counterpart to a sea of for-profit debt collectors. Picture this in Washington DC, where only 5% of residents get help with debt cases that disproportionately impact low-income people of color. The justice gap for people marginalized by debt is what led Ariel Levinson-Waldman to create Tzedek DC, a public interest nonprofit that advocates for just public policies.

Debt can have devastating consequences for people with a limited ability to repay. It can mean the suspension of a driver's license, leading people who need to drive to get to work or take kids to school to risk arrest by doing so. And non-payment of utility bills can lead to wage garnishment that makes it impossible for low-wage workers to pay rent. Judgements on permanent records create significant obstacles to employment, housing and credit. Tzedek DC is making debt-related policy a focus of the DC Council. Former clients are becoming advocates and telling their stories in Council hearings, a strategy that led to the lifting of license suspensions. Tzedek DC is based in the central Jewish tenet of seeking justice. It is making justice possible, in collaboration with a growing cohort of inter-faith partners, in DC and nationally.