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.
Imagine you’re sprawled out on your couch after getting home from work, taking a moment to unwind from the day, thinking about what you might make for dinner. In the midst of your thoughts, you hear a knock at the front door, so you roll off the couch and answer it. The next thing you know, you’re standing on the street as you watch the sheriff lock you out of your house, with no warning, no explanation.
For thousands of families across Chicago, what happened to Ms. Thomas—unjust eviction from her home—is more than a simple hypothetical; it’s a frightening reality. Standing on the street with her son and two grandchildren, Ms. Thomas watched as she was suddenly barred access from the house she’d rented for years. And then she heard the word that she should’ve heard months ago: foreclosure. Knowing that she needed legal assistance, Ms. Thomas called Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (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.
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.
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.