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.
We sincerely thank those who attended Hops for Housing 2016. It was a huge success! With over 100 attendees, 211 pints consumed, and the support of our wonderful sponsors, we raised almost $2,000. Everyone deserves a healthy, safe, and affordable place to call home. And your support will help LCBH as it provides free legal and supportive services as well as education to thousands of renters seeking just that.
Thanks to a generous donor, first-time donors will have their gifts matched—dollar for dollar. Whether you attended Hops for Housing or missed the event but still want to give, you can make a huge difference right now. Donate Now!
Melissa Picciola comes to LCBH with eight years of legal experience. She started her career at a large law firm and most recently has been with Equip for Equality. She also has experience providing legal trainings in a wide variety of settings including national, state and local conferences and meetings.
Melissa Picciola earned both her undergraduate degree in Political Science and Finance and her J.D. from the University of Illinois. After law school, she worked as an associate at McDermott Will & Emery LLP. Beginning in 2009, she worked as a staff attorney in the Public Policy and Abuse Investigation Unit at Equip for Equality. During her time at Equip for Equality, Melissa worked with a variety of issues affecting individuals with disabilities including access to community-based services such as employment; Medicaid payment structures and access to benefits; and increasing voter participation among individuals with disabilities.
This summer, staff took time to enjoy an afternoon of fun and games at Emporium Arcade Bar in Logan Square. With the number of tenants in need of LCBH services increasing each year, the event was a nice break from staff members’ normally hectic schedules.
Every summer LCBH is fortunate to have the best and brightest legal and supportive service interns working with us. Without these students and recent graduates who come to spend their summer with us, LCBH would have a tough time offering the legal and supportive services our clients need. Here are a few highlights from each of them:
Ethan Domsten will soon start his second year of law school at the Loyola University Chicago School of Law. He has counseled numerous tenants, facing a wide range of legal problems, advising them on their rights under various state and local laws. He has enjoyed seeing the tangible benefits he can secure for LCBH clients simply by making a few phone calls. With Ethan’s assistance, tenants have asserted rights they did not know they had and have been able to secure legal outcomes that protected their tenancy and stabilized their housing.
At LCBH, we believe that what we do is special and we feel that the people that help us achieve what we do are awesome! This year LCBH is proud to announce Hops for Housing! We are so thankful that we have been able to celebrate and grow with such a great community of volunteers, interns, organizations, and donors. We want to thank all of you that make LCBH such a success! Your contributions empower families to move from a path leading to homelessness to one of safe and stable housing.
Come enjoy locally brewed craft beer at Lagunitas Brewing Co., nosh on delicious appetizers, and support equal access to justice. Be a part of an inspiring evening and join a community that believes everyone in Chicago deserves a safe, decent, healthy, and affordable place to call home.
The Supportive Services team at LCBH helps provide holistic solutions that go beyond the short term legal crisis. Our social workers help our most vulnerable clients by performing assessments, locating alternative affordable housing, applying for emergency funding, screening for public benefits, and providing guidance to other essential services. The collaborative environment we have built between our lawyers and our social workers has become a crucial part in our efforts to best serve our clients. One of our ongoing struggles in fostering this team approach has been about how to best resolve the conflict between privacy and mandated reporting.
Social workers are “mandated reporters” and are required to report any suspicions of abuse/neglect with regards to children, seniors or people with disabilities as well as any suspicions of self-harm. Lawyers, on the other hand, are not required to report this information but are instead bound by attorney-client privilege to protect the client’s confidences.
For this month’s Q&A, we sat down for a conversation with Noah Magaram, an LCBH staff attorney who focuses much of his work on eviction defense. A graduate of DePaul University College of Law, Noah came to LCBH in Fall 2011 as a volunteer, and has been a staff attorney since September 2012.
Q: What made you choose to work at a legal aid agency?
I resolved when applying to law school to enter a practice area that was oriented toward the public interest. I became interested in housing law specifically after writing a legislative history of the Fair Housing Act in undergrad.
Q: What program(s) do you work on at LCBH?
My time is spent mostly in the Tenant Advocacy Program. Most of my caseload is composed of eviction defense, with a minority of cases relating to affirmative lawsuits for illegal lockouts and Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance (KCRO) violation cases.
Q: How many cases are you working on at a time? How do you manage?
I usually have 30-40 open cases at any given time. I use our case management system and my calendar to schedule and document as many details of the cases as possible so that my mind is free to deal with the client in front of me.
We may not realize it, but many people are “one paycheck away from being homeless.” Unfortunately this is the reality for many of those we see at LCBH. They can pay for rent, utility bills, childcare costs, food, medicines, etc. only as long as their next paycheck lasts. For many individuals, a single paycheck can mean the difference between being housed and being homeless. At LCBH, the attorneys and social workers understand that being “at risk of homelessness” is rarely ever an isolated issue and is often related to greater issues of economics, mental health, familial stability, etc. Faced with situations in any of these areas, an individual can go from paying their bills on time to facing homelessness without the help of an external source.
Rachel Jones was on maternity leave when she arrived at LCBH with a 5-day notice for eviction due to non-payment of rent. Rachel is a mother to a happy-go-lucky nine-year-old son named Devon and recently gave birth to her daughter Grace. Together the family lives in a two-bedroom apartment that she has been renting for the last several years. Rachel’s top priority is taking care of her two children and her full-time job.
John is a young disabled man who has had asthma all of his life. John is unable to work and he lives on very limited resources and income from Social Security. John recently moved into a new apartment and every time there was a heavy rain, his apartment would flood. As a result, mold was visible on his living room walls and kitchen cabinets, which he would scrub with soap to remove the mold. John documented the damage and contacted his property manager every time it happened. The property manager tried to address the flooding issues with various repairs, but the mold continued to come back.
While seeing his doctor for something unrelated, John mentioned he had some difficulty breathing in his home sometimes. During his examination, the issue of the re-occurring mold came up. Because mold spores can trigger asthma symptoms in sensitive individuals, the doctor was concerned that John’s housing situation may be the cause.
Luckily for John, his doctor works for PCC Community Wellness Center – a medical partner of Healthy Housing Chicago – a medical-legal partnership between LCBH, Loretto Hospital and PCC. The program is a bridge for patients to connect them to legal services, because health issues can be caused or exacerbated by unsafe housing conditions.
During her annual checkup, Shannon’s doctor asked whether she was experiencing any stress. Shannon explained she was very stressed because the property manager at her building would not accept her rent, and she had received a five-day notice threatening to evict her from her apartment. Shannon’s doctor explained that they had a lawyer onsite and that maybe this lawyer could help her situation.
The lawyer that the doctor was referring to is from Healthy Housing Chicago. Last year, LCBH embarked on a new project with Loretto Hospital and PCC Community Wellness Center to develop a medical-legal partnership known as Healthy Housing Chicago. Located in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, the hospital and adjacent clinic strive to meet the healthcare needs of low-income families in the community. The primary goal of Healthy Housing Chicago is to integrate legal services into a patient’s treatment plan to both improve their overall health outcomes, as well as their housing.
After the doctor’s appointment, Shannon walked down the hall to meet with the lawyer. Upon speaking with the LCBH attorney, Shannon learned that the landlord was required to accept the rent within the five-day notice period, and that if paid, the landlord could not continue with the eviction. The LCBH attorney told Shannon to try to pay the rent again, but to properly document the refusal, to protect herself from an eviction.