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Accomplishments By Issue Area

In 2013 VOICE organized a 250-person “One Reston Walk” raising the importance of perserving affordable housing and specifically raising concerns about the redevelopment of Crescent Apartments, a heavily immigrant market-rate affordable building.  In the end, šVOICE leaders and Crescent Apartments tenants got Board of Supervisors Chairperson Bulova and Supervisor Hudgins to support tenants with their goal of returning to the redeveloped complex.

Read about Nosa Zeinalabdin & Atif Kambal (pictured) and other familes that will stay in affordable housing in Fairfax County due to our organizing in our booklet Blessings for So Many - Crescent Apartments Stories.

Crescent Apartments Organizing Media Coverage:

Door knocking, listening sessions & research led to 40-tenant action at a Fairfax City Council Hearing.  The developer of Layton Hall Apartments eventually agreed to commit 5% of units for "workforce rental housing" and to increase relocation assistance by hundreds of dollars per family
This was first time Fairfax City imposed any affordable housing requirement on a developer.

Media Coverage:

Council Approves Plans to Replace Layton Hall Apartments, 05/15/2013, Fairfax City Patch

In 2010 Leaders from Good Shepherd Catholic Church began working with their parishioners living in Lafayette Apartments along the Route One Corridor. The residents complained that many of the lights outside the building were blown out making it a hotspot for loitering and drug dealing.

The management was unresponsive to these concerns as well as their complaints about mold, roaches, bedbugs, and mice inside. The team of faith leaders and tenants researched the ownership of the property and after finding that it received many local and federal subsidies pressed until the owner of the property came all the way from Maine to meet with them. They consistently pressured the management company and working with Fairfax County Supervisor Jeff McKay and VA Delegate Surovell (D-44) were able to get a response on their maintenance requests, an exterminator sent in, and light bulbs replaced outside the buildings.

Since the 1950’s the James Bland public housing complex – 8.5 acres with 365 units - rested across the street from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. After chronic complaints, VOICE faith leaders from across Alexandria worked with tenants to document housing code and health issues like sewage backups, and why tenants’ electric bills were so high. We turned out 125 people in the basement of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church for an action where we challenged Roy Priest, Executive Director of the Alexandria Housing & Redevelopment Authority (ARHA), to address the housing and sewer issues in 30 days. Also, after finding that residents were overcharged we negotiated an agreement to recalculate reimbursements due residents for exorbitant electric bills.

In 2010 the land that James Bland is on was sold to a developer to create a mixed used development with $700,000 condos. Tenants had to relocate across town while the demolition took place. In the first phase of demolition of the James Bland complex, most public housing residents had no choice in where they would be relocated to; only an ultimatum. Some children were moved out of their school boundaries and elders were removed from the only community they knew. Some were given as little as 3 days to move under threat of eviction. Many of these tenants were not given relocation payments and were charged...

Vista Gardens Apartments is a located in the heavily immigrant working class neighborhood of Culmore in Fairfax County VA.  In 2009 Fr. Tuck Grinnell and leaders from St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church began a series of house meetings in the neighborhood. 

From the listening sessions, it was apparent that there were appalling safety and health conditions in the complex.   Working as partners with the Vista residents, the V.O.I.C.E. team documented the situation and engaged the local government. 

On Mothers' Day, the Fairfax County Supervisor and Fire Marshal joined almost 200 residents and V.O.I.C.E. members in a public action, walking through the apartment complex, visiting apartments, and seeing the conditions there first-hand. 

VOICE secured a commitment from Fairfax Supervisor Penny Gross to address housing code and safety violations, Fairfax County inspectors issued more than 700 fire code violations notices, and the management was forced to address the issue.

On Monday, June 3, 2013, more than 500 VOICE leaders gathered at Woodbridge Middle School in Prince William County, VA to announce $30 million in commitments for VOICE's Prince William Restoration Fund.  The fund will help launch a pilot to (1) rehab 100 abandoned / blighted properties for affordable homeownership & rental housing, and (2) develop 1,500 units of rental housing over the next 15 years in Northern Virginia.  Commitments were:

  • $10 million in acquisition financing from Bank of America;
  • $5 million in project equity financing for rehabbing properties from General Electric;
  • $15 million in long-term, low-interest mortgage financing for the project from VHDA (the state housing finance agency).

At the action, Senator Warner credentialed VOICE's organizing and partners for the pilot, saying that he believed the plan could work "not just as a Senator, not as a former Governor, but as a businessman," particularly because of the local and national partners VOICE brought to the table.  The plan is modeled after successful work to rehab and restore vacant properties and blighted communities in East Baltimore, working with VOICE's sister organization BUILDTRF-Development Partners.

Since launching our Foreclosure & Subprime Lending Accountability Campaign in April 2011, VOICE has:

  • Met and organized with more than 800 homeowners struggling to secure loan modifications, connecting them with non-profit housing counselors to resolve their issues and securing almost 200 modifications.
  • Mapped all the foreclosures in the Prince William area and identified financial institutions that made the sub-prime loans that caused the foreclosures.
  • Secured loan modification reforms by Bank of America & JP Morgan Chase in Prince William, including: 1) a single point of contact for counselors/homeowners; 2) foreclosures stopped when families are negotiating modifications; 3) consistent accountability process when there are disagreements between counselors and servicers; 4) agreed timeline for loan modification decisions (3-4 months) to insure homeowners get prompt decisions about loan modification applications. Bank of America is now recognized by housing counselors as one of the most effective and transparent servicers in their work with homeowners.
  • Secured $363,000 – from Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and General Electric –to fund 5 new, non-profit housing counselors, more than doubling housing counseling capacity in...

In 2013 VOICE organized a 250-person “One Reston Walk” raising the importance of perserving affordable housing and specifically raising concerns about the redevelopment of Crescent Apartments, a heavily immigrant market-rate affordable building.  In the end, šVOICE leaders and Crescent Apartments tenants got Board of Supervisors Chairperson Bulova and Supervisor Hudgins to support tenants with their goal of returning to the redeveloped complex.

Read about Nosa Zeinalabdin & Atif Kambal (pictured) and other familes that will stay in affordable housing in Fairfax County due to our organizing in our booklet Blessings for So Many - Crescent Apartments Stories.

Crescent Apartments Organizing Media Coverage:

With the rise of hopes for a Comprehensive Immigration Reform at the federal level, VOICE trained 75 new immigrant leaders in Spanish introductory organizing sessions and sent 450+ leaders from 7 institutions to the April 10th 2013 Immigration Reform Rally in Washington, DC.  We also held meetings with US Senate and House representatives from Northern Virginia inclduing organizing religious, business, and education leaders to meet with key Republican leaders Rep. Frank Wolf (VA-10) & rep. Robert Wittman (VA-1).

Virginia is consistently a swing state and plays a critical role at the national level.  In 2010, with the rise of efforts to press for federal comprehensive immigration reform, VOICE knew it would be essential to ensure that Northern Virginia had a well-organized multi-racial constituency to support just and realistic comprehensive immigration reform.

We began by cultivating relationships across the divides of culture, religion, ethnicity, and race that can so easily polarize our own member congregations on the issue of immigration. We held more than 25 listening sessions between non-citizen immigrants and American citizens at 10 VOICE congregations to build solidarity for comprehensive immigration reform.

By March we were able to turnout 1,150 leaders from 14 VOICE congregations to March for America in DC—a national comprehensive immigration reform rally. We also brought together 125 of our leaders from 12 VOICE congregations to welcome 4 undocumented immigrant youth walking from Florida to DC to bring attention to the plight of undocumented students

In 2009 VOICE did a series of small group discussions with Muslim families that prayed at Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center— a VOICE member congregation in Falls Church, VA.  In the sessions, VOICE heard from countless individuals who felt that although they filled out all their paper work correctly and paid all their fees, their immigration applications were delayed and not taken action.  They felt they were discriminated against simply for having affiliations with Muslim organizations – even if it was merely their house of worship.

VOICE documented almost 200 cases like this and held an action with 1,500 people in July 2009 with then Governor Tim Kaine, and Senator Mark Warner, and a representative from Senator Jim Webb’s office.  At the action VOICE secured commitments from Senators Webb and Warner to take action on the delayed cases and both Senator Webb and Governor Kaine pledged to secure a meeting for VOICE leaders with Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Janet Napalitano to discuss this issue.  VOICE was featured in the New York Times of our work.  VOICE eventually met with DHS Assistant Secretary Esther Olavarria who agreed to address the 200 backlogged immigration applications.

The western Fairfax County branch of the Northern Virginia Dental Clinic was in operation over a year after its opening but understaffed. The facility had space for four dentists to work but because they relied on local dentists volunteering their time, only one dental chair was in use at any given time. 

The clinic serves thousands a year because Virginia is one of 7 states that does not cover dental care for low-income adults.  People who cannot afford dental insurance may end up pulling their own teeth or going to one of the underground clinics with higher risk of infection, forgoing preventative treatment and ending up in the emergency room incurring greater taxpayer costs, and loosing employment or top jobs because of missing days off work from dental pain or missing front teeth that are critical to one’s professional presentation.  Read the story of Gladys Suarez, a VOICE leader who had to go to an unlicensed dentist.

In 2012 VOICE congregations, St. John Neumann Catholic Church, Unitarian Universalist of Reston, Northern VA Hebrew Congregation and Trinity Presbyterian Church in Herndon, organized $200,000 to fund a full-time dentist at the clinic for two years.  They challenged private corporations,...

When the Department of Human Services moved to a new location in Arlington, many low-income residents found the time and money they spent in transportation there greatly increased. To make her appointments, Carolina Espino had two choices. With two young children in tow, she could take two buses and cross busy streets to make the transfer. Or, pay a neighbor with a car $20 to drive her—money she could spend to buy five gallons of milk for her children.  Carolina chose another option: working with VOICE and other residents to organize a 100 person action with Arlington County Board members. Their work was rewarded: $225,000 in the Arlington budget to extend the bus route to the neighborhoods at the West End of Columbia Pike. During this process, she realized the power of her own voice. “I told my friends that if Arlington approved   the budget for the new bus, I was   going to feel like Rosa Parks!” In August 2011, over 200 residents of Western Columbia Pike and V.O.I.C.E. congregation leaders celebrated the new ART #45 bus service that began this summer.

After successfully winning new local money to hire an additional dentist in to serve Northern VA, VOICE leaders found themselves on the defensive when Governor Kaine proposed over $9 million in cuts to state dental funding.  VOICE swiftly organized more than 300 leaders to ride buses down to Richmond to deliver the message that the state must play a role in providing affordable healthcare.  We held an action that 18 VA Senate and House leaders attended including 3 budget conferees.  In the end we were able to preserve the $9 million in the FY2011 budget ensuring that thousands of low-income children and adults in the Commonwealth have access to critical dental care services.

We also researched and found out that Virginia had not applied for all of the federal money that was available to them through TANF.  We worked with VA Senate and House leaders to press the Commonwealth of VA to secure $79 million in federal TANF Emergency Funds, including $5 million to provide emergency dental care to 7,000 low-income adults through VA Health Care Foundation (VHCF). While the Federal government approved the VHCF Emergency Dental Pilot on June 16th, the requirement that all funds be expended before September 30th led VHCF officials not to proceed with the program.


Many VOICE congregations have food, shelter and other emergency services for the homeless and very low income.  One chronic problem they saw was poor dental care among their guests.  Poor dental care would cause people great pain, disruptions from work, and lead to other health problems.  Churches would often pick up the tab to get people help. 

Through research we found that Virginia is one of a few states where dental care is not covered under Medicaid and there are very few dentist chairs at low income health centers. 

In 2009 VOICE launched a campaign challenging the local governments in Northern Virginia to fund an additional dentist at the Northern Virginia Dental Clinic.  In their FY2010 budgets VOICE secured $25,000 from the City of Alexandria, $25,000 from Arlington County and $50,000 from Fairfax County – because the funding is continual in 2012 this amount totaled more than $300,000 toward dental care for low income adults.

Bethlehem Baptist Church, Good Shepherd Catholic Church, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, & Mt
Vernon Unitarian Church – partnered with West Potomac and Mount Vernon high schools' athletic booster clubs in a campaign to end disparities in the facilities that Route 1 youth use to play. In 2012 & 2013 we:

  • Secured improvements at  of Muddy Hole Park football field in South Fairfax County (re-lining of field and new goal posts);
  • Increased the number of youth from Audubon Mobile Home Park, a heavily-immigrant community, involved in soccer & secured a commitment from the manager to build a mini-soccer field on the property;
  • Won $3 million from Fairfax County & FCPS to renovate the athletic fields at West Potomac & Mount Vernon high schools to synthetic turf.

(Photo by Louise Krafft, Mount Vernon Gazette)

For years the Boys & Girls Club has been running a satellite program in the working-class, heavily immigrant apartment complex of Murraygate Village along Route 1 in Fairfax County.  They’ve got a tiny space, not enough resources, a big job, but a lot of heart. 

When the public pool in Gum Springs started charging their group $96 per visit, a staff person that lived in DC, drove the youth all the way to Anacostia and used his DC Driver’s License so the kids could swim for free.  Despite a sever lack of space in their facility, they’ve blossomed a youth dance group that has competed regionally. 

In the Fall of 2011 teens and staff at Murraygate worked with VOICE leaders to:

  1. Negotiate that dance team can use studio at Fairfax County Government Center and for the county to split costs of transporting youth
  2. The West Potomac High School bus stop would be moved to a safer and less isolated location, and
  3. Negotiated a fee-waiver so the Murraygate Boys & Girls Club no longer has to pay to access the MLK Pool.