Presented by Dr. Stephanie Dolamore
Assistant Professor Department of Government and Public Affairs
Date & Time
October 4, 2019
3rd Floor, Faculty Lounge
311 N. Fifth St.
Baltimore has long struggled with inequities in housing. Decades of racism has resulted in deeply entrenched segregation among neighborhoods resulting in unequal access to affordable, quality housing (Brown, 2016; Pietila, 2010; Theodos, Hangen, & Meixell, 2019). This segregation involves individuals and families living in rental properties, especially in Baltimore where 53% of the housing supply are rental properties compared to 36% of the national average (Donovan & Marbella, 2017). Given the abundance of rental properties, it is concerning that research has found that a third of housing has been labelled as substandard in Baltimore City and a disproportionate number of tenants inhabiting these units are Black, making less than $20,000, have children, and the head of household is over 50 years of age. (Newman, 2005). This presentation will highlight work being done related to evictions and tenant rights with implications for overcoming housing segregation. In Baltimore City, between 6,000-7,000 households are evicted annually for not paying rent as a result of proceedings in “Rent Court” (Pasciuti & Cotton, 2015, p. iv). In addition, tenants who engage in this legal system operate with “undeniable knowledge deficits” and face “systemic obstacles that minimize their voices and participation” (Pasciuti & Cotton, 2015, p. iv). As a result, tenants face insurmountable legal odds against landlords, even when pursuing rightful litigation over considerable code violations such as roof leaks, no heat, or rodent infestations (Donovan & Marbella, 2017). One solution to combating the inequality faced by tenants in Rent Court is to provide access to timely legal support in the form of non-lawyer assistance (Dolamore & Edlins, 2018). Modelled after a program in New York City, the University of Baltimore began a Court Navigator pilot project in August 2017. Court Navigators are undergraduate and graduate students who receive training on how the court works and help “navigate” unrepresented individuals through the court processes. In particular, the Court Navigator pilot project focused on “helping tenants who are suing landlords for failure to repair unsafe and unhealthy housing conditions such as lack of heat or hot water, leaks and mold, and vermin infestation” (Cotton, 2017, p. 1). This presentation will begin with a review of the national context of civil legal support in housing cases. Following this, the presentation will present an overview of the program and findings from the first two years of the program. This presentation will conclude with recommendations for future jurisdictions that may wish to start similar civil legal support programs.
About Dr. Dolamore:
Dr. Stephanie Dolamore is an Assistant Professor of Public Affairs in the Department of Government and Public Affairs at Gallaudet University. In this role, Dr. Dolamore teaches in a bilingual Master of Public Administration program serving deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing students working in the Washington D.C. region.
As a scholar, Dr. Dolamore conducts research on the historical and contemporary inequalities promoted by public organizations. As a resident of Baltimore City, Dr. Dolamore conducts research in policy areas directly impacting city residents including unrepresented tenants, public housing tenants, and youth who are homeless. She has conducted program evaluations, case studies, as well as strategic planning and organizational culture analyses involving focus groups, interviews, archival analysis, surveys, and large-scale statistical analyses on national data sets. Dr. Dolamore’s work has been funded through competitive grants as well as published in academic, peer-reviewed journals. She have presented at national and international conferences and received awards for her work.
Dr. Dolamore has a decade of professional experience in the public sector. Most recently, Dr. Dolamore worked at the Schaefer Center for Public Policy, the applied research and public service division of the University of Baltimore’s College of Public Affairs. Dr. Dolamore has taught in the Nonprofit Management Program at Notre Dame of Maryland University and American Government Program at the University of Baltimore. She holds a Doctor of Public Administration from the University of Baltimore, a Master of Nonprofit Management form Florida Atlantic University, and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Florida. You can connect with her on twitter at @sdolamore.