Mark’s Musings – June 2020 Edition

LCBH Executive Director Mark Swartz

I hope you, your family, and your colleagues are safe and healthy. As we stand in support of the Black Lives Matters movement, we do so in recognition that the majority of LCBH’s clients are Black and that the structural racism and racial disparities in our health, criminal law, and other systems are equally evident in our eviction system. As such we will continue to prioritize LCBH’s advocacy in Chicago’s hardest-hit Black communities.

As we have for 40 years, LCBH pledges to partner with you to reform eviction court and leverage technology to better serve renters facing serious housing issues. In this newsletter, I invite you to learn more about Renny and how you can help prevent COVID-19 related evictions.

Leading workshops regarding renter’s rights and responsibilities remain central to LCBH’s mission. Recently, we’ve partnered with groups like Communities United to take this outreach online. Through weekly "Tenant Thursdays" information sessions, LCBH attorneys are answering COVID-19 related questions, such as what to do if you are unable to pay your rent. If you are interested in hosting a similar workshop, let us know.

This year, LCBH released Rentervention 2.0, a valuable tool that uses a chatbot, Renny, to provide tenants brief advice while also screening them for extended representation. Rentervention’s utility continues evolving and now includes assessing, assigning, and triaging cases remotely helping to ensure the continuity of services for those hit hardest by the pandemic. Renny is LCBH’s nominee for MVB (Most Valuable Bot). Get to know Renny here.

While COVID-19 has changed the way we work, it has also heightened the importance of reforms, like having a right to counsel in eviction court. Attorneys are necessary to ensure that cases improperly filed during the continuing moratorium are dismissed rather than allowed to proceed. Attorneys are even more important to tenants who may be protected under the CARES Act, because determining whether a market rate tenancy is covered by the Act will in many cases require discovery and/or subpoenas, neither of which unrepresented litigants are equipped to handle.

Once the courts start to pick up again, LCBH seeks to screen more renters facing eviction for eligibility to receive homelessness prevention funds to resolve claims for back rent. This month’s alumni profile features Laurel Chen, a recent LCBH student intern, who helped launch LCBH’s Court-based Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA) program. To learn more about CERA and whether you or your client might be eligible contact Jude Gonzales, LCBH’s Supportive Services Director.

Thank you for all you are doing for Chicago renters! I look forward to working with you in-person very soon.

Until next time,
Mark