Meet Laurel Chen – LCBH Alumni Spotlight

Laurel Chen

Laurel Chen was an intern in LCBH's supportive services department during the 2018-2019 academic year. LCBH is grateful to have Laurel's voice and advocacy. If you are a former pro bono attorney, supportive services intern, or legal fellow, we encourage you to Share Your Story.

How did you get involved with LCBH?
I was an intern at LCBH during my 2nd year at the University of Chicago School of Service Administration (SSA). Before applying to SSA, I worked for the Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness, where I focused on a range of homelessness prevention strategies.

Why did you want to intern at LCBH?
I was interested in learning more about on the ground housing issues. I found LCBH in SSA's field placement catalog and I liked its holistic approach to housing issues by combining social work and legal-aid. So, I reached out to Jude Gonzales, LCBH's Supportive Services Director, about a position.

What was it like to be an intern at LCBH? What work did you do?
I worked with clients who were receiving legal services. I assisted them in finding a new housing situation. I would check in with clients by phone or person. A lot of this involved reaching out to landlords, going through affordable housing listings and supporting clients to find a good match for them. I did this in partnership with the attorneys on the case.

You were also involved in helping launch LCBH's Court-based Rental Assistance Program (CERA). What was that like?
The program was just being started. I helped to create systems and policies to refer tenants to CERA. I also handled intake calls and processed paperwork for people requesting emergency rental assistance.

What else did you do?
I worked with Frank Avellone, one of LCBH's attorneys, on the Lift the Ban Campaign. I did the research for the campaign and created literature addressing assumptions about rental control. I also attended actions organized by the Lift the Ban Campaign, which was fun.

What have you been up to post LCBH?
I received the Kreisman Graduate Fellowship on Housing Law and Policy and have completed an independent study better to understand the commodification of housing in the US. I'm also involved with the Obama Community Benefits Agreement Coalition Fight Against Displacement around the Obama presidential center. I love Chicago and hope to find opportunities to continue working on housing justice and community development issues.

What did you learn during your internship?
My time there helped me understand the scope of Chicago's eviction problem, as well as housing insecurity in general that people are living with day today. It also helped me to understand the racial disparities of housing in Black and Latinx communities and how that needs to be at the forefront of any policy or community organizing that happens.

What would you say to someone that is considering volunteering with LCBH?
Don't be intimidated by the complexity of eviction and the legal system. The best way to get into it is to expose yourself to as much as you can eviction court legal documents. I enjoyed the collaboration with different departments and colleagues. Collaboration is essential within organizations that are addressing these significant issues.