Legal Aid of the District of Columbia recently announced that it will reopen its offices in Ward 8 in Southeast that were suspended in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Legal Aid office was in the Anacostia Professional Building, also known as the Big Chair, until DC Mayor Muriel Bowser instituted the public health emergency that shuttered many businesses and nonprofits in the District in March 2020. With the emergency lifted a few months ago, the organization’s leadership decided to rebuild its community contacts and reinstalling the Anacostia office became a priority.
“We’re thrilled to reopen our Big Chair location and increase access to free, in-person legal services for District residents who live or work east of the river,” said Vikram Swaruup, executive director of the organization. “Ultimately, we want to make sure we’re helping residents when they face significant legal challenges and don’t know where to turn—from foreclosure or debt collection to staying safe from domestic violence to accessing government benefits like health care or nutritional assistance. Reopening our Anacostia office allows us to meet people where they are and ensures that residents can talk to a lawyer face-to-face.”
The decision by Legal Aid to reopen its office comes as residents face legal actions, such as eviction, foreclosure, and debt collection, which were postponed by District and federal officials during the early and middle period of the public health emergency. Legal Aid officials say demand for legal services has increased by 20% since last year. The officials said evictions, where calls have increased by more than 50%, as well as foreclosure cases and food stamp matters, have received a great deal of attention.
The Big Chair Office
Swaruup is a former chief deputy attorney general in the Office of the Attorney General of the District of Columbia.