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.

Young Professionals Board Spotlight

Q & A with Jessica Panza
Young Professionals Board President, Jessica Panza

LCBH’s Young Professionals Board (YPB) began in 2010. The YPB has played a very important role in Hearts for Housing – acquiring raffle prizes, selling raffle and event tickets, and volunteering during this popular LCBH annual event. On the heels of celebrating the tenth annual Hearts for Housing, we thought we would introduce you to YPB President, Jessica Panza. Thank you, Jessica, for all that you do for LCBH. Your enthusiasm is infectious!

How did you first get involved with Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing?
Claire Battle, LCBH Board Secretary, introduced me to LCBH several years ago, when we were both starting our careers as attorneys. She had been involved for quite some time and her enthusiasm for the organization spurred my involvement. As I learned about LCBH's mission, the real need for LCHB's services in our community, and lack of other similar resources, I better understood Claire's passion for LCBH and jumped at the opportunity to get involved with the formation of the Young Professional's Board.

2015 Hearts for Housing Raffle Board

For 10 years, Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing has counted on generous donations from local businesses, corporations, firms and individuals, providing a wonderful variety of exciting raffle prizes for the Hearts for Housing raffle. This partnership invests in our community, and helps ensure that lower-income renters receive free quality legal and supportive services that, in many cases, can prevent homelessness. With our partners’ help, LCBH advocates for the rights of all renters. We could not do what we do without the generous support of a caring community. Thank you to the veteran, and new, raffle prize donors who believe in LCBH’s mission. Everyone in Chicago deserves a safe, decent and affordable place to call home.

April is Fair Housing Month

April, we come together as a community and a nation to celebrate the anniversary of the passing of the Fair Housing Act and recommit to that goal which inspired us in the aftermath of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination in 1968: to eliminate housing discrimination and create equal opportunity in every community.

Fundamentally, fair housing means that every person can live free. This means that our communities are open and welcoming, free from housing discrimination and hostility. But this also means that each one of us, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, and disability, has access to neighborhoods of opportunity, where our children can attend quality schools, our environment allows us to be healthy, and economic opportunities and self sufficiency can grow.

Our commitment to fair housing is a living commitment, one that reflects the needs of America today and prepares us for a future of true integration.

Fellow Spotlight: Jordan Carey

Jordan Carey

Since 2008, Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) awards the Edwin J. Brach and Hazel Bertram Brodie Fellowship to a recent law school graduate who has shown a commitment to LCBH's mission of promoting the rights of tenants to safe, decent, and accessible affordable housing. The legal fellowship supports a law student or recent law graduate in service to low-income tenants. We are proud to announce that the 2015 recipient of this fellowship is Jordan Carey!

Jordan's first encounter with LCBH took place back in the summer of 2013. After graduating from the University of Miami Law School, Jordan yearned for colder and snowier pastures and returned to the Chicagoland area where he was raised. A friend of a friend brought him to an LCBH event in Millennium Park where he met LCBH staff and learned about their work. Now, almost two years later, Jordan has become a familiar face around the LCBH office having volunteered over 1300 hours.

Kira Wilpone-Jordan

Kira Wilpone-Jordan learned about Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) as a first year law student (1L) while attending DePaul Law School. She attended a Brown Bag Lunch sponsored by the Center for Public Interest Law where she heard LCBH's pro bono coordinator, Samira Nazem, speak about the agency. Intrigued by what she heard, Kira applied to join LCBH as a summer intern. Two years later, Kira continues to volunteer and has worked with three different legal programs at LCBH advocating on behalf of tenants.

As a strong supporter of LCBH's mission, Kira firmly believes that housing is a basic human right. As she puts it, "people in positions of power know they have housing, so they don't think of the consequences of not having access to stable housing and living with housing insecurity. It's something that everyone uses, but often takes for granted."

We Love Pro Bono

In 2014, 55 attorneys donated more than 3700 hours to the Pro Bono Program at Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) helping families in crisis. In the process, these attorneys developed their litigation skills, learned a new area of law, created new professional relationships and most importantly MADE A DIFFERENCE in the lives of many Chicago renters! Here are some highlights from the LCBH Pro Bono Program from just the 1st quarter of 2015:

Congresswoman Robin Kelly and LCBH staff attorney Aileen Flanagan

On Saturday March 14, Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing attended Second District Congresswoman Robin Kelly’s Second Annual Housing Expo. During the event, LCBH provided extended foreclosure counseling to renters living in foreclosed properties and renters visited our table with questions that we were able to address.

House of Cards: Rebuilding

Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing staff attorney Frank Avellone and clients recently contributed to an ongoing series of exhibitions by ART WORKS Projects. ART WORKS Projects’ mission is, “to use design and the arts to raise awareness of and educate the public about significant human rights and environmental issues.” ART WORKS Projects accomplishes this by doing focused exhibits centered on humanitarian issues, using a combination of storytelling, photography, and videography, to portray and disseminate a given issue. The current project they are focusing on is the nationwide affordable housing crisis as the most pressing humanitarian crisis in the U.S., and the individuals and/or families who have been directly impacted by this crisis in America.

The ART WORKS Projects is titled House of Cards: Rebuilding

Opening Reception with Artists & Experts
April 8, 6:25 PM - 9:00 PM

Panel: Confronting Housing Insecurity
April 29, 6:25 - 8:00 PM

All events are held at 625 N. Kingsbury Street, Chicago FREE & Open to the Public

For more information, please visit http://www.artworksprojects.org/events/house-of-cards-rebuilding/

Chicago neighborhood

Gentrification. We hear that word a lot about Chicago’s neighborhoods on the city’s north and northwest sides. What is gentrification? Gentrification is defined as the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents.

Renters in one building in Chicago’s Hermosa neighborhood know the effects of gentrification first hand. Over the last three years, their building had gone through foreclosure and the court appointment of a property manager. Last year, a developer purchased the property. The developer appeared to be doing things correctly, providing tenants with proper notices and managers to handle the needs of the building. Then construction began on the building; residents were enthusiastic about the improvements to be made to the building. However the construction turned into unsafe conditions; porches were torn down without notice; unannounced water shut-offs; and loud construction. After the improvements started to take place, each tenant received a thirty-day notice to move. They soon realized that after the building received upgrades, they would no longer be able to afford to rent their current homes.

Cold Chicago Winter

January in Chicago usually consists of sub-zero temperatures and high winds. The kind of weather that insists that you stay inside, nice and warm in your home, with your family. Sadly, that nice, warm home was not an option for some tenants in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood whose building had serious issues affecting their health and safety.

Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) often collaborates with various community organizations, like the Metropolitan Tenants Organization (MTO), to address building issues in Chicago. MTO offers a tenants’ rights hotline for people to report building problems, and MTO had received calls from multiple tenants at the South Shore building complaining that they did not have heat. MTO went to the building to investigate. The building conditions were poor. Not only was there no heat, but tenants also had no running water due to frozen pipes and parts of the ceiling were breaking off inside some of the units.