Blog

Welcome to LCBH’s Blog. Our blog delivers original articles written by our staff, interns and volunteers. We strive to provide informative stories about the work we do on behalf of Chicago renters and the issues renters face.

Give a Home for the Holidays

Dear Friends of LCBH:

For many of us, the holiday season means spending more time with family, sharing good food and conversation, and cozying up in our warm homes. But for Michelle King, a single mother of three children, much of the excitement for the upcoming season had to be put on hold. You see, Michelle received an eviction notice from her landlord, giving her only five days to move out and throwing her family into crisis.

Michelle was not only worried about where she and her kids would go, but she was also confused. She had always paid her rent on time, even though the apartment had many problems, including broken heat. After unsuccessfully trying to get her landlord to fix the issues, Michelle called the city to complain. She certainly didn’t think she could get evicted because of it.

HUD TO Ban Smoking in Public Housing Nationwide

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has issued a new federal rule that will ban smoking – cigarettes, pipes, cigars, and water pipes (hookah) – in all public housing units nationwide. HUD’s rationale for the rule is to “improve indoor air quality in public housing; benefit the health of public housing residents, visitors, and PHA staff, reduce the risk of catastrophic fires; and lower overall maintenance costs.” The rule, which will take effect in the fall of 2018, was first proposed last November and has been met with praise and criticism since its formal announcement was issued last week.

Currently, around 200,000 public housing units are smoke-free under voluntary smoking bans enacted by public housing agencies (PHAs) across the country. The nationwide ban would expand this to impact upwards of 1.2 million households. Here’s a basic summary of this rule: residents or visitors may not smoke in public housing units or within 25 feet of housing and office buildings. Individual PHAs may designate additional restrictions or ban smoking from the grounds altogether.

So, let’s assess what this means.

The New LCBH Blog

Brand New, The LCBH Blog

Change is afoot at the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH). We are excited to announce that we have launched a blog!

We have been envisioning this redesign for some time here at LCBH. By replacing our monthly newsletter with a blog, our hope is to improve the experience of our readers with easier and timelier access to LCBH news and stories. The blog will feature customized tags so you can read more on topics that you’re interested in. In addition to better design and access, we hope to use the blog as a platform to highlight important housing issues, discuss alternative perspectives through guest writers, and increase awareness about housing instability.

We hope that you’re just as excited about this change as we are!! Thank you all for your continued support and readership!

Hops for Housing - Thank You!

Hops for Housing - Thank You!

We sincerely thank those who attended Hops for Housing 2016. It was a huge success! With over 100 attendees, 211 pints consumed, and the support of our wonderful sponsors, we raised almost $2,000. Everyone deserves a healthy, safe, and affordable place to call home. And your support will help LCBH as it provides free legal and supportive services as well as education to thousands of renters seeking just that.

Check out photos from the event on our Facebook page.

Double Your Impact

Thanks to a generous donor, first-time donors will have their gifts matched—dollar for dollar. Whether you attended Hops for Housing or missed the event but still want to give, you can make a huge difference right now.
Donate Now!

Melissa Picciola, Pro Bono Coordinator

Melissa Picciola comes to LCBH with eight years of legal experience. She started her career at a large law firm and most recently has been with Equip for Equality. She also has experience providing legal trainings in a wide variety of settings including national, state and local conferences and meetings.

Melissa Picciola earned both her undergraduate degree in Political Science and Finance and her J.D. from the University of Illinois. After law school, she worked as an associate at McDermott Will & Emery LLP. Beginning in 2009, she worked as a staff attorney in the Public Policy and Abuse Investigation Unit at Equip for Equality. During her time at Equip for Equality, Melissa worked with a variety of issues affecting individuals with disabilities including access to community-based services such as employment; Medicaid payment structures and access to benefits; and increasing voter participation among individuals with disabilities.

Staff Summer Outing

LCBH staff and interns at Emporium Arcade Bar

This summer, staff took time to enjoy an afternoon of fun and games at Emporium Arcade Bar in Logan Square. With the number of tenants in need of LCBH services increasing each year, the event was a nice break from staff members’ normally hectic schedules.

Summer Interns 2016

Summer Interns 2016

Every summer LCBH is fortunate to have the best and brightest legal and supportive service interns working with us. Without these students and recent graduates who come to spend their summer with us, LCBH would have a tough time offering the legal and supportive services our clients need. Here are a few highlights from each of them:

Ethan Domsten will soon start his second year of law school at the Loyola University Chicago School of Law. He has counseled numerous tenants, facing a wide range of legal problems, advising them on their rights under various state and local laws. He has enjoyed seeing the tangible benefits he can secure for LCBH clients simply by making a few phone calls. With Ethan’s assistance, tenants have asserted rights they did not know they had and have been able to secure legal outcomes that protected their tenancy and stabilized their housing.

Hops for Housing

Hops for Housing

At LCBH, we believe that what we do is special and we feel that the people that help us achieve what we do are awesome! This year LCBH is proud to announce Hops for Housing! We are so thankful that we have been able to celebrate and grow with such a great community of volunteers, interns, organizations, and donors. We want to thank all of you that make LCBH such a success! Your contributions empower families to move from a path leading to homelessness to one of safe and stable housing.

Come enjoy locally brewed craft beer at Lagunitas Brewing Co., nosh on delicious appetizers, and support equal access to justice. Be a part of an inspiring evening and join a community that believes everyone in Chicago deserves a safe, decent, healthy, and affordable place to call home.

Privacy Considered

The Supportive Services team at LCBH helps provide holistic solutions that go beyond the short term legal crisis. Our social workers help our most vulnerable clients by performing assessments, locating alternative affordable housing, applying for emergency funding, screening for public benefits, and providing guidance to other essential services. The collaborative environment we have built between our lawyers and our social workers has become a crucial part in our efforts to best serve our clients. One of our ongoing struggles in fostering this team approach has been about how to best resolve the conflict between privacy and mandated reporting.

Social workers are “mandated reporters” and are required to report any suspicions of abuse/neglect with regards to children, seniors or people with disabilities as well as any suspicions of self-harm. Lawyers, on the other hand, are not required to report this information but are instead bound by attorney-client privilege to protect the client’s confidences.

Last year, we started hosting DePaul University students seeking their MSW (Masters of Social Work) in our Supportive Services department as interns. A core feature of the program at DePaul is a requirement that students, in addition to the regular clinical internship duties, also work on a “macro” project. The project we decided to tackle was to create a formalized privacy policy for LCBH.

Staff Attorney Noah Magaram

For this month’s Q&A, we sat down for a conversation with Noah Magaram, an LCBH staff attorney who focuses much of his work on eviction defense. A graduate of DePaul University College of Law, Noah came to LCBH in Fall 2011 as a volunteer, and has been a staff attorney since September 2012.

Q: What made you choose to work at a legal aid agency?
I resolved when applying to law school to enter a practice area that was oriented toward the public interest. I became interested in housing law specifically after writing a legislative history of the Fair Housing Act in undergrad.

Q: What program(s) do you work on at LCBH?
My time is spent mostly in the Tenant Advocacy Program. Most of my caseload is composed of eviction defense, with a minority of cases relating to affirmative lawsuits for illegal lockouts and Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance (KCRO) violation cases.

Q: How many cases are you working on at a time? How do you manage?
I usually have 30-40 open cases at any given time. I use our case management system and my calendar to schedule and document as many details of the cases as possible so that my mind is free to deal with the client in front of me.