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.

Anita Lewis, LCBH's New Director of Social Services

Anita Lewis has been named Lawyers' Committee for Better Housing's Director of Social Services. Lewis joins LCBH from Metropolitan Tenants Organization, an organization dedicated to educating and empowering tenants to exercise their rights to affordable and adequate housing. She has extensive experience in the field. We are happy to have Anita on board. Learn more about her story below.

What have you done prior to joining LCBH?
I have spent the last twenty plus years of my career in housing with a concentration in mental health and related instabilities. A large part of my experience has been mental health advocacy as it relates to the housing market. I previously worked at Metropolitan Tenants Organization (MTO) as the Associate Director. I then transitioned to Envision Unlimited, where I worked in the mental health division. I am still involved with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) as an active volunteer, and I am also associated with Horizons for Youth and other local food pantries and distribution centers.

How did you get involved with LCBH?
MTO and LCBH had a strategic partnership. We collaborated on a lot of development work. We also did intakes and directed many of our clients to LCBH so that they could take advantage of legal services, as that was something that we did not provide. We were able to connect them with LCBH through a hotline.

LCBH Board Member, Collette Woghiren

What can you tell us about your background?
I was born and raised in St. Andrew, Jamaica and lived in Jamaica until the age of 10 when my family moved to New Jersey. After a few years on the east coast, we transitioned to Boca Raton, Florida. I completed my undergraduate studies at Florida State University and obtained a master’s degree at Georgia State University before becoming a high school English teacher in South Florida. I moved to Chicago to attend the University of Chicago Law School in 2010 and fell in love with the city of Chicago.

What is your involvement outside of LCBH?
I joined Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg in 2013, after interning there during my second year of law school. I currently serve on the board for the Alumni Club of the University of Chicago, where I am the chair of the By-Laws Committee in addition to playing an active role in fundraising, service and community engagement. I also serve as a mentor to UChicago’s Black Law Student Association. I previously served as an associate board member for the Chicago Committee on Minorities for Large Law Firms.

LCBH Board Member, Paul Steadman

Where are you at in your career right now?
I’m a senior partner at DLA Piper, where I’ve been for 10 years now. I’m married with three kids and I live in the West suburbs. I’m at a point in my career where I can assist and enable others to better manage their affairs, and create a stronger community as a result.

What is your involvement outside of LCBH?
I currently serve as the Chairman of Enrollment for Trinity High School’s Board of Directors. Trinity is an all girl’s school in River Forest, IL. This is my 6th and last year serving. I also serve on the board for the Chicago Justice project, an organization that uses various methods to collect Illinois government data on the criminal justice system. I’ve been litigating for them for about six years. Additionally, I previously served for over ten years on the board for Lawyers for Creative arts, as I have a solid background in Intellectual Property law. LCBH however, is my largest time commitment.

How did you become affiliated with LCBH?
I’ve done pro bono work with the organization for about seven or so years on a number of legal projects, so I was all-in when the opportunity presented itself.

LCBH Executive Director Mark Swartz

It is a beautiful fall day. My kids have returned to school and the tree leaves in my neighborhood will soon turn from green to bright, vibrant colors. This process of change and renewal is a fitting description for LCBH’s work this year.

For the past 18 months, we’ve adapted to working during the pandemic and responded to frequent changes to the Illinois eviction moratorium. This month’s "LCBH Scoop" includes an update on what will happen the Illinois eviction moratorium ends. It's also an invitation to join us November 18th at Revolution Brewing for our annual fall benefit, "Bringing Justice Home."

I am sad to report that the Illinois eviction moratorium is expiring, so this will be my last update on it. While the Governor's eviction moratorium order was already partially lifted to allow for new eviction filings starting August 1st, the moratorium continues to protect renters by prohibiting the sheriff from actually evicting renters, but these protections will end on October 3rd.

Caitlin Ewing is a former LCBH staff member and Young Professional Board (YPB) Chair. While at LCBH, she served as the pro bono coordinator during the height of the mortgage foreclosure crisis. We recently had time to chat with Caitlin and she shared some of her experiences.

How did you first get involved with LCBH?
Full credit goes to Claire Battle. We were Craigslist roommates during law school and she was involved with LCBH during her undergraduate career. By her invitation, I attended the Hearts for Housing event in 2007. This led me to connect with a lot of people affiliated with LCBH. Upon graduation, I was looking to find opportunities to get my feet wet as an attorney. I started volunteering with LCBH in late 2008. I started volunteering as a staff attorney and the opportunity presented itself to apply for a pro bono coordinator position, which I started in 2009. I stayed for about a year and loved it. I got to work with Mark Swartz, LCBH's Executive Director, when he was relatively new to the agency and I learned a great deal from him. At the time, I was heavily involved in eviction court; it gave me a new perspective and a much more tangible respect for the people that we serve.

Farihah Syed joined LCBH in July 2021 as our new Rentervention Staff Attorney. We are so excited to welcome her to the team. We recently sat down with Farihah to talk about her background in the legal field.

What have you done prior to joining LCBH?
I graduated from Chicago-Kent in May of 2019. I specialized in criminal prosecution in and out of law school. Following graduation, I served as a law clerk at the Cook County State's Attorney's Office Juvenile Delinquency, Child Protection, and Felony Trial divisions. I also was a City prosecutor law clerk at the City of Chicago Department of Law.

How did you become affiliated with LCBH?
I saw a great opportunity as LCBH’s Rentervention Staff Attorney and was interested in seeing what it was about. I reached out and LCBH showed interest in having me on the team.

How do you feel connected to the mission?
I feel like I'm genuinely helping people who are dealing with difficult circumstances and providing them with some semblance of justice. It’s a very fulfilling role. I like that I'm helping people navigate difficult times in their lives. This is most important for me.

Leela joined LCBH in 2020 as the Development and Grants VISTA. Leela has since served a full year and been admitted to The Juilliard School for a Masters in Fine Arts in acting. Though not a member of the permanent staff, Leela has been instrumental in developing a very solid support structure for the Development team. We send her warm wishes for a wonderful transition. We are grateful to Leela for her important contributions to the LCBH staff.

Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
I love to rock climb. I’ve been rock climbing since junior high. I recently started doing it again after getting vaccinated and I am happy to be back at the wall.

Board Member Taft West

LCBH is grateful for the dedicated leaders who serve on our Board of Directors, volunteering their time, energy and resources to lead the organization during periods of growth and change. Many thanks to our outgoing Board Member Taft West, who has contributed so much to the organization.

We would like to thank Taft for his remarkable service! Taft is stepping away from being a board member to enjoy retirement. We recently sat down with Taft to learn about his experience serving on the LCBH Board of Directors.

Where did you work prior to board membership?
I have been fortunate to spend my entire career working in affordable housing. I started working for Draper and Kramer in 1979 as an Assistant Manager trainee, helping with the development of Dearborn Park. I managed over 2,000 apartments and 30 commercial units, which were some of their largest properties and condos, including Lake Meadows. This responsibility prepared me for my transition to Rockford, Illinois, where I managed the Rockford Housing Authority for five years. After receiving my real estate license in 2008, I started teaching classes on fair and affordable housing, marketing, maintenance, housing choice vouchers, and landlord tenant ordinances at the Chicago Association of Realtors.

Colin Cordes, LCBH Board Member

We are excited to welcome Colin Cordes as a new LCBH Board Member. Colin brings years of experience in finance and healthcare to the organization. He is excited to use his robust business background to help LCBH to identify opportunities to expand. We recently sat down with Colin to learn what drew him to pursue board service with LCBH.

How were you connected with LCBH?
I found out about LCBH through an organization called Board Lead that matches people interested in community service with nonprofits that need additional board members. Board Lead teaches you how boards operate and prepares you for various responsibilities, roles and opportunities to lend your input. LCBH liked my profile. I talked with a few staff and board members and I was ready to join.

What have you done prior to working with LCBH?
My background is in business. I have bachelor’s degrees in finance and economics from Indiana University, and a master’s degree in public health from University of Missouri. I’ve worked for four different companies in healthcare consulting, mainly working in IT. A lot of my work focused on providing and implementing best solutions and strategizing and sorting through financial touchpoints between patients and providers. I currently work for Olive AI, where automation is key. Our goal is to make healthcare cost effective and smoother for everyone involved.

Together we give.

Giving Tuesday was launched in 2012 as a simple idea: to create a day that encourages people to do good. Over the past eight years, this idea has grown into a global movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity.

Today, LCBH is launching its month-long show of support for the different programs and initiatives at LCBH with Giving Tuesday. LCBH needs your help now more than ever.

Throughout December, we will introduce you to multiple stakeholders at LCBH. To start, we want to introduce you to one of LCBH’s Board Members, Mae Whiteside. We’re thankful for Mae's support and her drive to give back to the community. Her story highlights why it’s crucial to create a stable environment for families and the amazing things they can achieve when they are not worried about eviction. Please take a moment to hear Mae's story.

For low-income families, the threat of homelessness due to the pandemic is very real. While state and federal laws prevent evictions today, those restrictions will end soon, placing thousands of renters who have experienced a COVID-19 related income loss at great peril.