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.
The Lawyers' Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) family just got a little bit bigger. We are happy to welcome Michelle Gilbert as our new Legal Director. Michelle is leading LCBH's COVID-19 Eviction Prevention Project.
LCBH is grateful to have Michelle's voice and advocacy. If you are a former staff member, board member, or intern, we encourage you to Share Your Story.
Why did you choose to work in housing in legal aid?
I had practiced a lot of housing law in the HIV Project of Legal Aid Chicago (then LAF). When LAF was divided into subject matter practice groups, I knew that housing was my first choice, immediately, instinctively, like how you know when you have met the person you will marry. Housing is fundamental – my chronically ill clients could not take their meds without housing. I feel like a missionary for eviction prevention – our society can’t solve homelessness until we stop making so many new people homeless. Plus, honestly, I like the practice. I like writing briefs and making arguments in court.
The Sharon L. King Alumni Award recognizes outstanding professional achievement among Lawyers' Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) former legal fellows and interns. Sharon joined LCBH as a volunteer in the Attorney of the Day Program in 1997 and then became a member of the Board of Directors, serving two terms as President.
LCBH is grateful for Sharon's long service and the contributions she has made to sustain the future of LCBH. If you are a former staff member, board member, or intern, we encourage you to Share Your Story.
Tell us about your legal career. Where did you work, and what type of law did you practice?
My legal career began when I graduated from college and became fully aware of women's lack of workplace opportunities. Mount Holyoke College, a women's college in Massachusetts, had affirmed my understanding from childhood that women could and should make their opportunities, so I enrolled in law school even though the legal profession was not particularly welcoming to women at that time.
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Granted, it’s still months away. There are many sunny days left in the summer, before the crisp, fall weather arrives. Yet, as I think about the grueling work ahead for LCBH and others who advocate for renters in eviction court, I am filled with gratitude and a desire to say thank you, now, to some of the funders that make our work possible.
For many years the Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois (LTF) has supported LCBH. In 2015, LTF selected LCBH to be one of several legal aid providers throughout Illinois to receive funding from the CitiBank and Bank of America mortgage foreclosure settlements. The LTF funding arrived just as a multi-year Illinois Attorney General National Mortgage Settlement grant was coming to an end. Illinois Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF) helped administer the AG’s Mortgage Foreclosure Settlement Funds grant and was instrumental in ensuring that the funds did not only go to assist homeowners, but renters as well. IEJF has also been a long-time supporter of LCBH.
The Lawyers' Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) family just got a little bit bigger. We are happy to welcome April Ikengah as our new CERA Intake Coordinator. 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 April, who joined the team just a few months ago. LCBH is grateful to have April's voice and advocacy. If you are a former staff member, board member, or intern we encourage you to Share Your Story.
How did you first get involved with LCBH?
I first contacted LCBH because I was going through an illegal eviction with my rental company.
What was your first impression of LCBH?
Speaking from a former client's perspective, it was very professional, and the staff was kind and caring.
In response to the public health crisis, Lawyers' Committee for Better Housing (LCBH) has closed its office to the public until further notice. LCBH staff is working remotely, and LCBH is still taking applications by phone at 312-347-7600. However, the quickest way to get help if you have a problem with a housing issue and see if you qualify for legal representation is to visit www.rentervention.com to start a conversation with Rentervention, and Renny, LCBH’s bot.
Keep in mind that even though courts may not be hearing eviction cases, renters should still be responsive to any lawful notices (5-day or 10-day notices) so that they can remain in their homes after this public health crisis passes.
I hope that you and your family had a happy month of February! The year has begun to ramp up for LCBH, and I’m pleased to share two critical updates:
The Just Housing Amendment (JHA) took effect on January 1, 2020. Before JHA, landlords could ask prospective renters about prior arrests and convictions and deny their application solely based on their criminal history. In many cases, this blanket form of discrimination leads to homelessness and family instability for returning citizens and their families who have served their time and pose no threat to personal safety or property.
LCBH is an Access to Justice Grantee. Access to Justice is a new statewide program administered by the Westside Justice Center and The Resurrection Project. It seeks to mitigate the devastating consequences of incarceration and family separation related to immigration on vulnerable communities by expanding effective and holistic community-based legal services.
I'm excited to share some of the "new year" resolutions we've set here at LCBH.
Plan ahead. Housing justice in Chicago is ever-evolving and we want to ensure LCBH is both nimble and effective for our clients and community. This week, we begin the process of creating a new three-year strategic plan for the organization. Email me if you have thoughts or suggestions for us to consider.
Build on 2019 Accomplishments. It was a big year for LCBH! Among many accomplishments, I want to highlight three of our most notable:
Last summer, Mae Whiteside did something that’s highly unusual in the world of non-profits.
"I picked up the phone and called to see if Lawyers' Committee for Better Housing had any openings for board members" she shares. "I needed to get back involved in this fight, because being homeless shaped me into who I am today."
Whiteside's childhood homes included tiny kitchenette studios, rooms with no heat, acquaintances' couches, and even homeless shelters. Her family's journey through homelessness began in 1985 when Mae's older sister turned 18 and financial support for her ended. Mae's mother tried but couldn't get their household income adjusted with the Chicago Housing Authority.
"She met with many pro bono and legal service providers – they couldn’t help, didn’t care," Mae says.
Giving Tuesday is finally here and we’re grateful to have a supportive community of volunteers, staff, and clients to help us reach our goals. Our partnership with Forefront for the #ILGive campaign has already produced results with our total for today surpassing $5,000, but we want to go even further. Chicago renters facing unfair eviction orders, poor housing conditions, and skyrocketing rents need our help and there’s no better way to do this than donating or volunteering here!
We have started assessing this year's progress and thinking about what's ahead in 2020, our 40th anniversary as an organization. There's much of which to be proud and yet, new goals in housing justice will require considerable strategy, collaboration and coordination.
Celebrating accomplishments began on Monday, November 4 at our 39th Annual Bringing Justice Home event. At a gathering of LCBH’s staff, alumni, volunteers and friends, we recognized Emily Coffey, a former LCBH Loyola Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) Intern and then Fellow, now at the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, with the inaugural Sharon L. King Distinguished Alumni Award, as well as our friends at DLA Piper LLP, who were selected for the Pro Bono Service Award. It was a terrific night, hosted by our friends at Kirkland & Ellis.