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“It’s hell on rocks.”

Dominique Davis, 26, is sitting on her building’s stoop, taking a break from her too hot apartment with the bed bugs, cracked ceilings, roaches, and the mice she says she just lets run free.

This morning her landlord, Rufus Stancil, sent somebody to cut the grass. It had been a while. He ran out of gas before he could finish the job. There’s a large square of grass left making the yard look like it has a bad comb over. 

Davis says she was awoken at 7:30 a.m. by a knock on her door. “I jumped out of my sleep,” Davis says. It was a repairman. He had no ID. She says a court-order stipulated that any work on her apartment must be done with the presence of a D.C. inspector. 

Davis goes on to complain that her case includes a restraining order against Stancil. She says that he once drove by and called her a prostitute. Sitting outside is a small victory against the mice and iffy hot water. Soon Davis is joined by another tenant Michelle Williams, 29, and Williams’ one-year-old daughter. 

“I miscarried on May 19,” Williams says. She thinks it’s from the stress of living in the building. “I’m going to try and do a lawsuit. I’m about to be 30. I have two kids. I never miscarried before.”

Williams says she didn’t realize she miscarried until last week. She points to her baby girl. “I have a beautiful girl to keep me focused,” she explains.

The two both pay roughly $760 per month in rent. Now, Davis pays hers to the court. She says she had lived in the building five years ago. She moved back at the end of last year. “It’s a nice area,” she explains.


*photos by Darrow Montgomery. Text by Jason Cherkis.