On September 19, 2018, a devastating fire forced nearly 200 residents of the Arthur Capper Senior Public Housing complex in Southeast DC to flee their homes.

Thanks to the quick action of firefighters, first responders and U.S. Marines from the nearby Washington Barracks, there was fortunately no loss of life. However, the building suffered major damage to the upper floors and now has a partially collapsed roof. Since the fire, Capper residents have been temporarily housed in hotels, nursing facilities, or with family or friends.

In this time of crisis, AARP DC and AARP Legal Counsel for the Elderly (LCE) quickly responded to support the needs of these seniors.

Peter Rankin of AARP DC and Autumn Thompson of LCE deliver items to Arthur Capper residents.

Immediate Action

Among its services, LCE provides free legal services to DC seniors in housing facilities across the city, including Capper. The day after the fire, LCE attorneys began meeting with residents.  

“Our first concern was for the safety of the residents,” said Leah Myers, LCE Interim Executive Director, “After we confirmed the same evening that no one was seriously hurt, we turned our attention to the possible legal questions the tenants might have. We have reached almost all of the residents to offer them our help.”

AARP DC and LCE identified the individual needs of some Capper residents and are working together to collect and distribute donations.

In particular, AARP DC volunteers and local AARP Chapters (which are entirely volunteer-led) have contributed to the effort by purchasing, collecting and distributing the needed items like clothing, shoes, and canes.

The Road Ahead

The former Capper residents are facing a long road ahead before they can put the fire behind them and resume their lives.  AARP will make sure those seniors know they are not alone.

AARP DC made a $5,000.00 donation to the Capitol Hill Community Foundation’s “Capper Seniors Recovery Fund,” where 100% of the donations will be disseminated to Capper residents.

The Southwest Waterfront AARP Chapter also made a $500.00 donation to the Recovery Fund to assist the Arthur Capper Seniors.

“We hope that our contribution will add a needed measure of support to the Seniors who are still attempting to recover,” said Betty Jean Tolbert Jones, President Southwest Waterfront AARP Chapter.


To further display AARP’s caring and commitment to those 50-plus in Washington DC, AARP DC has taken the lead on organizing a Thanksgiving-themed meal this November, exclusively for the residents of Arthur Capper House to connect with one another in fellowship.

“Two days after the fire I began thinking of the importance of friendship, family, fellowship, food and festival, all of which are on display in the traditions of Thanksgiving, and how Capper residents deserved nothing less as well,” said AARP DC State Director Louis Davis, Jr.

An internationally renowned disaster-relief agency has donated the entire menu and chefs, local and federal government agencies are helping with transportation and venue, and the U.S. Marines of the Washington Barracks will serve alongside AARP DC for the event.