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.

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 nine 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.

Celebrating Housing Justice!

Thank you for attending our Annual Fall Benefit - Bringing Justice Home! It truly was an amazing time where we laughed, cheered, and virtually chatted with the LCBH community!

This year we celebrated Lynette Barnes as the recipient of the Barbara Grau Outstanding Housing Advocate Award, Sharlyn Grace as the recipient of the Sharon L. King Distinguished Alumni Award, and Peter Rosenblatt on behalf of Loyola University Chicago's CURL (Center for Urban Research and Learning) as the recipient of the Outstanding Pro Bono Service Award!

In case you missed the event, don't fret. We have saved the video on LCBH's YouTube page and you can go watch it now.

After LCBH closed its doors in March, we pivoted our services to a digital and virtual world where we continue to provide the same level of services and advocacy for Chicago tenants. Through "Renny" and Rentervention, LCBH provides legal information available to Chicago tenants 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and, in some cases, connects tenants with LCBH attorneys through Rentervention's Virtual Legal Clinic. In May, LCBH launched "Tenant Thursdays," a Facebook Live series that hosts segments on essential topics for Chicago tenants. Tenant Thursdays allow viewers to directly ask their question's to our subject matter experts on the live stream.

LCBH Executive Director Mark Swartz

We are living in uncertain times. Eviction court is no exception. While the governor continues to extend the statewide moratorium on eviction filings in 30-day increments (the longest timeframe allowed by law) there is no certainty that these extensions will continue to be granted. The latest extension is set to expire on November 14th. LCBH is advocating for further extensions at least until all of the state’s emergency rental funds have been disbursed.

How has LCBH responded in the face of the uncertainty surrounding eviction court? We doubled our staff size. Last month, LCBH hired 19 people for the Eviction Prevention Project (EPP) to respond to the avalanche of eviction filings we expect to see once court reopens. This Project is funded through the Chicago Department of Housing using funds appropriated by the CARES Act and these funds need to be spent down by December 31, 2020. I was initially concerned that we wouldn’t be able to hire all the staff attorneys we would require in such a short window of time. I needn’t have worried. With the bar exams delayed until this month, there was an enormous amount of pent up energy and talent that wanted to join the cause. We currently have nine, mostly new, housing attorneys raring to go.