Blog: LCBH News

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.

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."

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/

On the Road with LCBH

Statewide Foreclosure Advocacy

Going to court can be a very intimidating experience. Imagine finding yourself as a renter, paying your rent on time each month, and then being brought into eviction court because your building went into foreclosure! Do you have to move? When? What about your security deposit?

Many people believe that a person’s right to live in a rental property is contingent on the landlord continuing to own the property, or that when the landlord loses ownership of the building that the renters also lose their leases. In fact, this is not always the case. For renters, foreclosure does not mean “Get Out Now”!

Timely and accurate legal information can be crucial for renters. LCBH’s Tenants in Foreclosure team works to make people aware that renters may be able to stay, even if their landlord loses the property. LCBH shares this information with stakeholders throughout Illinois, hosting free renters’ rights workshops, distributing brochures, and referring renters to our helpline.

LCBH staff have been on the road throughout Illinois, providing brochures to Illinois Township Supervisors, meeting librarians and sharing resources at the Illinois Library Association annual conference, forging new partnerships, and strengthening current collaborations. Thanks to these visits, our Tenants in Foreclosure Helpline will now be included in the Peoria Landlord Tenant Handbook published by Housing Action Illinois.

LCBH Intake Supervisor, Sue Scholten

Our Intake Supervisor, Sue Scholten, has been with LCBH for five years. In this article, Sue shares some perspectives on the integration of supportive services when helping renters with legal problems.

According to Sue, it all starts with the intake interview, which is not really an interview, but rather a conversation that involves listening to the multiple messages the person presents and the environment from which those messages emerge.

In the beginning, when listening to an individual’s story for the first time, we look for factual information that are legal defenses to an eviction and can inform the attorneys when deciding whether LCBH will be able to take the case or not. During this process, there are multiple messages about the “person in environment” that emerge and may be of concern to LCBH’s supportive services team. Underneath the basic facts of their potential legal case, there is the psychological and narrative messages that have evolved from long- term economic disadvantage, non-responsive institutional systems, and family and friend support systems with limited resources to assist this person.

Just as an individual’s personal experiences may create inspiring resiliency, for others there is psychological and social exhaustion that evolves from systems that create disadvantage and exclusion. It is in this undefined area of response to events that an individual may need additional assistance in the form of supportive services.

from left: Carla Feger, Lee Reisman, Luke Smith and Victoria Newcomb

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.

From all of us at LCBH, thank you for your tremendous support!

When you donate a tax-deductible gift to Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing, a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization, you become a partner helping to achieve the LCBH mission: to improve housing stability in Chicago by promoting the rights of renters to access to safe, decent, and affordable housing. Your support will provide families with legal assistance and supportive services that help prevent homelessness, improve substandard living conditions, and preserve affordable housing. This is an opportunity to invest in our very own community.

Your charitable donation to LCBH will help:

  • Provide fair and meaningful access to the justice system;
  • Deliver supportive services to help stabilize housing; and
  • Preserve affordable housing units and improve habitability conditions to help ensure access to decent housing.

Other ways you can support Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing:

In Kind Donations

For non-profits, securing adequate resources is always a challenge. Most funders do not provide support for administrative or office capacity. Many of these needs can be met through generous in-kind donations! In-kind donors are recognized at LCBH events, on the LCBH website, and in the LCBH Annual Report. LCBH has a wish list of goods, services, and spaces that would greatly benefit LCBH’s organizational needs and help keep vital LCBH programs running! These include:

Board President Todd Maynes speaking at LCBH's 2014 Annual Reception

We recently sat down with Todd Maynes, Partner at Kirkland & Ellis and President of the Board of Directors of Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing to hear his perspective on what LCBH means to him as a long-time supporter of the organization. Todd cares deeply about housing issues and spends time creating awareness among his peers about the LCBH mission and garnering support to provide critically needed legal and supportive services that can prevent homelessness and promote housing stability.

On the LCBH board since 2008, Todd has donated time and numerous resources to LCBH including securing Kirkland & Ellis as host for the annual Hearts for Housing fundraiser for seven years running as well as selling enormous amounts of tickets for the raffle at the event. As we always say at LCBH, Todd puts the heart in Hearts for Housing!

Q: How did you first get involved with Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing?
A: I was on a business trip to Hawaii and my flight home was delayed. While killing time in the airport, I overheard a group of college students playing trivial pursuit. They were stuck on an answer. After inserting myself into their game, I quickly struck up a conversation with the students. One student was an intern at a non-profit organization, which was LCBH. We had lunch back in Chicago, she recommended me to the Board of Directors and, as they say, the rest is history…that was in 2008.

Daniela with her sons

Your gift to Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing is a meaningful investment in our very own Chicago community to ensure everyone has a safe, decent and affordable place to call home. You can take a stand to show support for families who are living in terrible conditions, or facing homelessness, with little or no access to the courts that are supposed to protect them.

I would like to share with you the story of Daniela, a strong, funny, and determined single mother of three sons, Alex, Gabe, and Tom. Daniela works over 45 hours a week at two part-time minimum wage jobs, making less than $18,000/year, trying to provide a good home for her family.

Daniela’s family had previously been living in a building that went into foreclosure. Even though she had been paying rent and had a lease, the family was evicted when the lender took over the building. Daniela was able find a two bedroom apartment in a modest neighborhood for $950/month, more than 60% of her gross income. It was not in her previous neighborhood where all of her family, friends, and children’s schools were located, and the apartment had problems that needed to be fixed, but it was the best she could find. Prior to signing the lease the landlord assured Daniela that all of the problems would be fixed, but when the fall’s cold snap arrived Daniela and her boys had no heat. After Daniela made numerous requests for heat, she received an eviction notice.

Why Pro Bono?

Our volunteers level the playing field by giving low-income renters a voice in court.

Volunteering as a pro bono attorney at LCBH allows you to make a huge impact in someone’s life without spending a penny. It doesn’t require a lot of time – even a little legal assistance can go a long way in improving the lives of our clients. Sound too good to be true? It’s not! Here at LCBH, we understand that and have worked to create new ways for you to support LCBH’s mission. When we all work together to level the playing field, we improve our community for everyone!

Here are just a few of the major victories our pro bono partners were able to accomplish this year:

  • Negotiated a cash settlement for a mother whose son suffered a concussion when the leaky roof in their apartment collapsed on him while he was sleeping;
  • Dismissed a case where a tenant was facing eviction because the property manager’s agent had accepted rent money and not turned it over to the company; and
  • Won a jury trial on behalf of a tenant who was being evicted in retaliation for making complaints about a property manager.

Pro bono also allows you to give back but in a way that works with your busy schedule. LCBH takes full advantage of the new rules on unbundled legal services to provide flexible volunteer opportunities to meet every schedule. The following outcomes were reached in 5 hours or less of volunteer time: