WASHINGTON, D.C. – (RealEstateRama) — The Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh (HACP) and Duquesne University School of Law were awarded a $100,000 Juvenile Reentry Assistance Program (JRAP) grant through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Justice. The award will allow the organizations to provide current and potential public housing residents up to 24 years old with services such as record expungement.
“The collaborative effort between the Duquesne School of Law and the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh will help individuals to clear their juvenile or criminal record, thereby eliminating one of the greatest obstacles to employment, education or housing opportunities,” Valerie McDonald-Roberts, Chairwoman of the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh, said. “Effectively, this grant will help young people who have paid their debt to society to get back on the right track, to find stable housing and secure sustainable employment.”
Duquesne University’s Juvenile Defender Clinic represents both children and adults who are facing issues with the juvenile delinquency system. The law students in the clinic have worked diligently to get juvenile records expunged so that citizens can move forward with their lives absent the stigma of a juvenile delinquency record. HACP is Pittsburgh’s single-largest provider of affordable housing; providing low-income public housing and Housing Choice Vouchers for roughly 20,000 total residents. Many would-be residents of public housing are not eligible for HACP housing due to criminal records.
While the juvenile expungement process in Pennsylvania is straightforward, the financial cost is simply not feasible for youth living in public housing, where the average gross income is less than $10,000 annually. The spiraling consequences of a criminal record, whether juvenile or adult, significantly impacts the youth’s ability to finish or seek additional education, gain meaningful employment or be contributing members of their community. The residents of the city’s public housing units are more than 90 percent African American and numerous studies point to the inequality faced by African-Americans within the city’s metropolitan area. The financial inability to seek legal services to expunge or seal records should not contribute to this inequality.
The collaborative effort between HACP and Duquesne University will provide legal services in the following low-income public housing communities: Allegheny Dwellings, Arlington Heights, Bedford Dwellings, Glen Hazel, Hamilton-Larimer, Homewood North and Northview Heights. Services will be provided via the Juvenile Defender Clinic, under the direction of Tiffany Sizemore-Thompson, Assistant Clinical Professor & Supervising Attorney, in cooperation with Housing Authority staff.
Professor Sizemore-Thompson said, “Duquesne University School of Law is pleased to be partnering with HACP on this initiative. The ability to access quality, affordable housing like that offered by the Housing Authority is an excellent first step toward productive citizenship. As such, we are thrilled to be able to bring this service directly to the affected housing communities in the coming months.”