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.
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.
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.
Each year Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) hosts a legal intern through the Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) Law Student Internship Program. The program connects law students from across the country with legal aid agencies in Illinois. Interns work part-time during the school year to help increase the impact of the agency and develop their legal skills.
This year, LCBH is excited to work with Adrien Fernandez. Adrien grew up in a suburb of Akron, Ohio and moved to Columbus to attend Ohio State University. She always wanted to live in Chicago so when she was applying to law schools, she mainly focused on schools in the city. She now attends Loyola University Chicago School of Law.
We sat down with Adrien for a Q & A to learn more about her.
Q: What was your major at Ohio State?
A: I double majored in History and Spanish.
Q: What inspired you to attend Law School?
A: While at Ohio State, I became interested in working for the government but I was not sure in what capacity. During my senior year, I had an internship with the Ohio Public Defender’s Office in their Death Penalty Division. I enjoyed the work and thought that what the attorneys did there was admirable. This really cemented for me that I wanted to work for the public and becoming an attorney was a way I could do that.
Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) is proud to introduce our six 2015 – 2016 social work interns who will be assisting LCBH clients with wraparound services to help to break down housing barriers. They will be here at LCBH through the spring and are excited to learn and assist in the struggle for affordable housing and we are excited for their help!
Mary Difino – Mary is a first year student at Jane Addams College of Social Work at University of Illinois at Chicago . After working and volunteering with Chicago Public Schools in the Austin and Cabrini Green neighborhoods, Mary decided to pursue a degree in School Social Work to become a better equipped and informed advocate for Chicago’s youth. She hopes to one day take the skills she has acquired to serve the Native American population of Northern Minnesota.
Nicol Elio – Nicol is in her final year of the Masters of Social Work Program at DePaul University. Nicol is originally from New York and has had many new experiences while in Chicago. She wants to become a social worker in order to help those less privileged. She is looking forward to gaining a macro level experience at LCBH.
Following is a recent letter from a client describing her experiences living in a recently foreclosed apartment building and dealing with the new bank owners. Her words resonate in a way that ours cannot. We wanted to share her letter with you, as your support is what makes our interventions in these situations possible. Thank you!
I, and most of the tenants in my bank-owned building, would have given up our rights out of frustration and fear if it were not for the services of Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing.
We had known for some time that our building was in the process of foreclosure. But we were not worried because we knew the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance (KCRO) required the bank to either renew our leases or pay a $10,600 relocation fee. However, our collective peace of mind began to crumble as we came to understand that the bank was neither equipped nor inclined to perform the basic duties of a landlord. Soon after, our anxiety rose even further, as the bank engaged in scare-tactics designed to persuade us to move out on our own accord (therefore circumventing the requirements of the KCRO).
Thus far, the bank has used two tactics. The first is a passive approach: they benignly neglect the responsibilities of building management. The second is more aggressive, entailing periodic eviction threats. The only reason these tactics are not working is because we are represented by Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing.
This summer, five legal interns spent their summer working with Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH), advocating for the rights of renters. Without these students, and recent graduates, who come to spend their summer with us, LCBH would have a tough time offering the legal services our clients need to resolve their housing issues. We asked each intern to share highlights from their LCBH experiences this summer:
Chloe Noonan came from Boston University School of Law to work with LCBH’s affordable housing preservation efforts. As part of her internship, Chloe regularly travels to buildings throughout Chicago to work with tenant unions. One of her favorite collaborations has been with a group of tenants on the south side living in a building that had fallen into disrepair. Chloe worked with the group to help them identify their common goals and used her knowledge of housing law to empower them to push for better management in the building.
The Chicago Bar Foundation presented LCBH board member, Claire Battle, with the Exelon Outstanding Corporate Counsel Award at their 17th Annual Pro Bono and Public Service Awards Luncheon July 14, 2015.
While a busy and successful in-house attorney at ArcelorMittal USA, spouse and parent, Claire Battle continues to make pro bono a priority in her career. Her commitment to Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) dates back to her undergraduate years at Northwestern University volunteering as an intern in the late 1990s. After law school, Claire was a volunteer attorney and has been an LCBH board member for 14 years. Lending a variety of talents, Claire has been involved with various LCBH committees and made contributions in whatever capacity she is needed. Her lasting contributions include co-founding and LCBH’s Hearts for Housing fundraiser, which has grown from an informal gathering to a flagship event attended by hundreds of attorneys and sponsored by the city’s biggest firms as well as co-founding LCBH’s Young Professionals Board. In addition to all of her contributions to LCBH her work proliferates as she encourages and helps her fellow in-house counsel find meaningful pro bono work in her position as Co-chair of the Pro Bono Committee of the Chicago Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel.
The staff at Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) work hard every day to ensure that everyone has a safe, decent, and affordable place to call home. Whether it is an attorney, volunteer, or intern they are 100% invested in our mission and our clients. As many of you may know, what makes LCBH different is our holistic approach to helping those in need, which involves providing additional supportive services to our most vulnerable clients. Here is a chance for you to meet our new Supportive Services Director, Christine Daly who joined the team just a few months ago.
Q: How would people describe you?
A: Goofy. Loyal. Organized. Motivated. Tough. Caring.
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."
LCBH welcomes four interns to the Supportive Services team for the Spring semester of 2015. These interns gain valuable professional experience while helping LCBH clients facing housing instability or possible homelessness.
Carla Feger – Carla is a first-year student at the Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Chicago. During college, she studied psychology and took some education courses to learn more about equity concerns in education. As Carla continued her learning process, she served with City Year in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and mentored seventh-grade students who taught her a lot about the world. This experience affirmed her passion to work with students to help provide them with a rewarding experience and to achieve to the fullest potential. Carla decided to pursue a Masters in School Social Work and chose to intern with LCBH’s Supportive Services department to learn more about the housing issues that families face and how those issues significantly affect students’ lives, including their success in school.