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.

Lydia and Anthony Garcia

A decade ago, Lydia and Anthony Garcia, an elderly couple, moved into the second floor of an owner occupied two-flat. The Garcias are both disabled; Lydia requires a wheelchair and oxygen tank and her husband Anthony is confined to a bed. Nearly ten years later, they sought the assistance of Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) regarding an eviction. During that time, the basement had been illegally subdivided into two additional apartments. However, the building had only two electrical meters serving all four apartments, hallways and common areas. The Garcias suspected that they were not only paying the electrical bill for their apartment, they were also paying the electric bill for the hallways and other common areas, AND both illegal basement apartments!

Lydia and Anthony Garcia

A decade ago, Lydia and Anthony Garcia, an elderly couple, moved into the second floor of an owner occupied two-flat. The Garcias are both disabled; Lydia requires a wheelchair and oxygen tank and her husband Anthony is confined to a bed. Nearly ten years later, they sought the assistance of Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) regarding an eviction. During that time, the basement had been illegally subdivided into two additional apartments. However, the building had only two electrical meters serving all four apartments, hallways and common areas. The Garcias suspected that they were not only paying the electrical bill for their apartment, they were also paying the electric bill for the hallways and other common areas, AND both illegal basement apartments!

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.

Chicago apartment buildings

During a hot and sticky Chicago summer, Grace and Robert Merkel moved into a single-family home with their six children. Shortly after moving in, the Merkels encountered mold and mildew growing on the walls, ceiling, and carpets. There were roaches and bed bugs in the home, holes in the walls and ceilings, and leaky plumbing. During each of the three winters that the family lived in the home, there was also insufficient heat.

At first, Mr. Merkel attempted to resolve the heating issue himself. He paid to have the furnace fixed, and eventually bought space heaters for each of the bedrooms. Still, the temperature hovered in the 40’s, and the family was forced to wear their winter coats indoors. To address the mold and mildew issues, Robert bought various cleaning supplies but they did not help. The Merkels told their landlord of their issues and he refused to hire a qualified professional to remove the mold. In the meantime, several of the couple’s children developed chronic respiratory irritation due to the constant cold, mold, and mildew they experienced during the winter months. The landlord refused to hire an exterminator, so Robert bought sprays to deal with the bed bugs and roaches, but they repeatedly returned.

Chicago apartment buildings

During a hot and sticky Chicago summer, Grace and Robert Merkel moved into a single-family home with their six children. Shortly after moving in, the Merkels encountered mold and mildew growing on the walls, ceiling, and carpets. There were roaches and bed bugs in the home, holes in the walls and ceilings, and leaky plumbing. During each of the three winters that the family lived in the home, there was also insufficient heat.

At first, Mr. Merkel attempted to resolve the heating issue himself. He paid to have the furnace fixed, and eventually bought space heaters for each of the bedrooms. Still, the temperature hovered in the 40’s, and the family was forced to wear their winter coats indoors. To address the mold and mildew issues, Robert bought various cleaning supplies but they did not help. The Merkels told their landlord of their issues and he refused to hire a qualified professional to remove the mold. In the meantime, several of the couple’s children developed chronic respiratory irritation due to the constant cold, mold, and mildew they experienced during the winter months. The landlord refused to hire an exterminator, so Robert bought sprays to deal with the bed bugs and roaches, but they repeatedly returned.

Housing Hero Sponsors

Another round of applause, please, for the 2015 Housing Heroes who sponsored Hearts for Housing and to all who participated! Your generosity and commitment to safe, decent and affordable housing for all helped LCBH have its most successful event to date. Many who live in poverty will benefit from the $100,000 you raised to support LCBH programming! The legal and supportive services that LCBH provides are, many times, the last defense against homelessness. Thank you for giving so much heart – to the Hearts for Housing event, and to our community. You are all housing heroes!!!

Housing Heroes

Champion
Kirkland & Ellis LLP
Sidley & Austin
Todd and Susan Maynes

Leader
Brinks Gilson & Lione
Jones Day

Builder
Banner & Witcoff
Deloitte
Insperity
Louis DiSanto
McGuire Woods
Sharon King Foundation

Hearts for Housing - Thank You!

LCBH would like to thank everyone who attended our tenth Annual Hearts for Housing Fundraiser on April 24th. It was great fun to spend the evening playing cards, eating, drinking, and networking with YOU to support a great cause!

Your generosity along with many other individuals, sponsors, and local businesses made Hearts for Housing 2015 a smashing success. Thank you!

LCBH was able to raise over $100,000 to support programs that provide legal and supportive services impacting over 10,000 lower income renters a year. Every one of us has something to contribute to keeping Chicago vibrant and affordable for all of us because we all deserve a safe, decent and affordable place to call home.

We owe a special thanks to LCBH Board of Directors and the Young Professionals Board for their extraordinary efforts in making this raffle and auction a great success! It is truly amazing what can be accomplished when people come together to improve our community!

Thank you for attending this special event and for your support. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!

Congrats to Annemarie, Jim, Steve, and Bert our Hearts for Housing 2015 Tournament Winners!

Again, thank you for your continued support of LCBH’s mission. We look forward to seeing you at future events!

Photos from the event

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.