Helping a Family in Crisis


This summer, Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) teamed up with the John Marshall Law School’s Pro Bono Program and Heartland Alliance to help a family in crisis get a fresh start. The Ali family had recently fled Syria during the civil war and escaped to the US where they hoped to establish a new life. They moved into an apartment building that had a bedbug infestation, and soon their small children suffered from bed bug bites that required ongoing medical attention. To make matters worse, the landlord refused to treat the infestation and had threatened the family suggesting he could interfere with their application for asylum.

The family did not speak much English and they were at a loss about how to best to protect themselves. Without steady income and paying for mounting extermination and medical cost, soon the Ali family found themselves in eviction court. For any family, facing a legal system can be very intimidating and foreign, even to those who have lived their entire lives here in America.

Fortunately, LCBH was able to assist the Ali family. An LCBH staff attorney worked in tandem with the John Marshall Law School (JMLS) clinic and Heartland Alliance to address the family's housing problems. “LCBH provided crucial legal assistance during a time of housing crisis for the Ali family. The Ali family, like many refugees, needed more time to learn English, find stable employment, and achieve independence. The rental subsidy for refugees in Chicago is very short, around 3 months, thus many families unfortunately face eviction. LCBH helps us ensure that that these individuals have fair housing options in the future, and are not weighed down by debt and poor credit as they start their new lives in America,” stated Ryan Spangler, Housing Coordinator from Heartland Alliance who works with refugees and immigrants.

Heartland Alliance was able to help the Ali family find new housing and cover their moving costs. Two JMLS students (including one who was fluent in Arabic and could talk to the family in their native language) worked to negotiate a settlement on behalf of the clients. Ultimately, the case was dismissed and the claim for back rent was dropped. The students were able to negotiate sealing of the court records so the eviction filing would not negatively affect the family's credit or ability to find new housing in the future.

Thanks to the great efforts of LCBH’s staff, pro bono volunteers, and community partners, the Ali family will finally have a stable place to call home.