eNewsletter - April 2017

   LAF eNewsletter
April 2017   
In This Newsletter
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Meet Shelmun Dashan
Shelmun Dashan, Staff Attorney, LAF Consumer Practice Group
Like many of the attorneys at LAF, Shelmun Dashan went to law school knowing she wanted to do the work she does today. As a staff attorney in LAF’s Consumer Practice Group, much of what she does on behalf of her clients is crafting solutions or alternative remedies that protect her clients' homes, cars, or income.  She educates clients about how systems work and what their rights are.  “There’s not always a perfect solution,” she says, but she tries to find the best solution for each case, especially when she’s up against the bad actors – people who intentionally target low-income clients knowing the clients won't be empowered to seek redress.  Sometimes that means using the threat of litigation to convince them to behave.  Often, she explains, “even when [LAF’s clients] clearly have the right to something, [the bad guys] won’t do the right thing without someone there to make them do it." 
Shelmun’s work in the Consumer Practice Group is everything from foreclosure prevention to bankruptcies, from debt collection and predatory lending, to fraud protection and advice on car purchasing and financing.  She tells countless stories about her clients, who were all getting by until life threw a curveball – they fell ill, their spouse died, their car broke down, they experienced disability, they lost their job, they were defrauded, they retired, or they faced some other unexpected setback – and they found themselves swamped by a “cascade of problems.”  Shelmun is there to help them make the best of their situation and manage their debt in the most practical way.  “Wealthy people can hire accountants, tax advisors, and lawyers to protect their wealth and manage their debt; LAF is one of the few organizations that can do that for the other end of the spectrum.”  An example of that is a client named Ellen. 
Ellen’s story is complex and technical, but it’s not out of the ordinary for what Shelmun sees on a regular basis.  After the housing crisis, many homeowners were left underwater on their mortgages.  Large settlements with the banks whose behavior led to the crisis provided loan modification plans for homeowners to be able to stay in their homes by making their monthly payments affordable.  Due to unforeseen circumstances related to the recession, Ellen fell behind on her property taxes and mortgage payments.  She applied for a loan modification with the mortgage lender to avoid losing her home.  During that application process, unbeknownst to Ellen, her home was sold for the back taxes due, and the buyer eventually obtained the deed to her house.  The bank accepted her application, modified her loan, and told her everything was taken care of, including the tax issues.  Months later, as Ellen continued to pay her modified mortgage, the tax buyer called and said they owned her house and wanted her out.  Ellen called LAF in distress – she was being evicted because the bank had failed to redeem all of the taxes – and Shelmun stepped in to mediate the fight between the bank and the tax buyer.  There was no financial benefit to the bank to pay the back taxes, and without LAF’s pressure to do the right thing, the bank probably would have just let Ellen become homeless.  Ellen's case is ongoing, but without LAF, Ellen would have already lost her home, and the bank, whose mistake caused the problem, would have walked away scott-free.

Way to go, Shelmun!
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A special message
from LAF
Executive Director
Diana C. White
Often, our clients need our help due to situations that arise outside their control and that are not their fault.  These people could be described as victims – of abuse, of oversight mistakes, of circumstance – but most of them prefer to be identified as survivors.  Some of them include Shelmun’s client Ellen, who was nearly evicted from her house because of a bank’s mistake; Kathryn’s client Betsy, who was almost not granted her nursing license because of records that should have been sealed; all of the CLASP program’s clients, who survive violence and abuse; and people subjected to systemic racism just because of where they live and the skimpy resources available to them.  Nonetheless, they continue to survive, and, with LAF’s help, to thrive. 
You can read about these stories, and much more, in this April eNewsletter.  On behalf of everyone who does this work every day, and everyone who benefits from our services and your contributions, thank you.  Your continued support makes it possible for LAF to fight for the rights of victims and survivors and to ensure that they can see justice and fairness prevail, regardless of their circumstances.
Diana C. White
LAF Executive Director
Luncheon Tickets On Sale Now 
Join LAF in June to Honor Kelly McNamara Corley and Retiring Executive Director Diana White
You're invited to join us for LAF's largest event, its annual Luncheon, on Friday, June 23rd, at the Palmer House Hilton. This year, we will present our Champion for Justice to Kelly McNamara Corley of Discover, for her company's dedication to justice for people living in poverty. We will also congratulate Executive Director Diana White on her retirement.  And, of course, we will hear from a client who will tell you directly about the impact that LAF can have for people with nowhere else to turn.  
Tickets cost $150 each, and a table for ten costs $5,000, and are on sale now.  Get your tickets here!
Let's Do Lunch 
Brownbag Roundtable Series Continues with a Conversation about Domestic Violence
In the latest edition of LAF’s Brownbag Roundtable series, LAF attorneys spoke this week about the Comprehensive Legal Assistance for Survivors Project (CLASP), a collaboration between LAF, Pillars, and YWCA Evanston/North Shore that offers comprehensive legal assistance to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.
Cynthia Sadkin presenting to the room
“50% of sexual violence victims quit or are forced to leave their jobs in the year following their assault,” said Cynthia Sadkin, LAF’s Director of Client and Community Services. “A victim who knows her rights — and gets help to enforce them — has a better chance of keeping her job, her health insurance, her home, and essentials like heat, electricity, and water.”  Cynthia led a panel of LAF attorneys, including Karen Doran, Myka Held, Nubia Willman, and Neha Lall, who shared powerful stories about survivors and their legal journeys.  
You can read more about it on our blog.  Thanks to all who were able to join us for this conversation during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Expungement Brings Nursing
Career Back To Life 
Kathryn Huber Gives Betsy Second Chance
In January, Betsy was 26 years old and living in her car while she put herself through nursing school.  After all the sacrifices she made, it seemed as if things had turned around because she got a great job offer that only required that she complete her coursework and receive her registered nurse (RN) license. She did what she had to do and finished the qualifications, all while being homeless.  On the day when her RN license should have come in the mail, she instead received a notice telling her that the license had been denied because of two arrests on her juvenile record. 
The law states that any arrests before a person turns 18 are supposed to be sealed and kept private, so that they can start their adult lives with a clean slate.  But – especially in the age of the internet – those sealed records have a way of sticking around and disrupting the lives of people struggling to get past a youthful mistake. Betsy’s record was about to prevent her from getting her dream job. 
LAF attorney Kathryn Huber took Betsy’s case, erased the juvenile records, sent copious amounts of research to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (which issues the state’s nursing licenses), contacted clerks and supervisors and attorneys all over the state, and this month, finally got the issue – which should not have been an issue in the first place – resolved.  Betsy received her nursing license, and with it, the ability to work in a fulfilling career that will pull her family out of poverty for good. 
Congratulations to Kathryn for her work on this case, and all of her work at the Juvenile Expungement Help Desk.  And congratulations to Betsy on becoming a nurse!
Justice was Served! 
Event and Silent Auction Raised Funds for LAF
Justice is Served, the annual event hosted by LAF's Young Professionals Board at the Tortoise Club, was another smash hit in 2017!  Members of LAF's Governing Board of Directors served up hors d'oeuvres to guests while they enjoyed cocktails, champagne, small talk, and an extensive silent auction that featured international vacations, Cubs tickets, commissioned artwork, and goodies from Hamilton on Broadway.  And, most important, the night raised more than $50,000 to further LAF's mission of providing expert legal services to people in our community who need it most.  
We want to thank everyone who attended, donated, and bid in the silent auction for making the night a success, and extend a special thanks to the Tortoise Club for hosting and to Mariah Karson for taking pictures of the festivities.  You can relive the whole night through Mariah's photos on Facebook - check them out and tag your friends!
The Elephant in the Room 
First in a new Blog Series about Systemic
Racism and Medical-Legal Partnerships 
Recently the Sinai Urban Health Institute released the findings from its Sinai Community Health Survey 2.0. The study is the largest face-to-face public health survey ever conducted in Chicago. The surveyors interviewed residents from nine different Chicago community areas, focusing on sixteen health-related topics, like obesity. The data revealed alarming and stark health inequities that exist between neighborhoods and demographic groups.
This kind of community-level data is valuable to get a snapshot of what is actually happening in the communities LAF serves, because City-wide data often masks the experience of people living in poverty in Chicago. Data like this helps us use our resources effectively and efficiently to address structural issues that keep people in poverty, and unhealthy, in Chicago.
Read more on LAF's blog at lafchicago.wordpress.com.  
Check out LAF on Social Media!
Follow us on Twitter at @ChicagoLAF, like our Facebook page, catch up with us on Instagram, and read our blog at lafchicago.wordpress.com to keep up with all our work!
Sign up for Monthly Giving!
Pledge your ongoing support to LAF and
make your recurring gift today!

For more than 50 years, LAF has provided free legal services in non-criminal matters to the poorest and most vulnerable people in our community, ensuring they have the same access to legal services as those who can afford it.  By resolving critical legal problems that systemically trap people in poverty, such as domestic violence, consumer fraud, and unfair evictions, LAF has helped hundreds of thousands of individuals get their lives back on track and given them hope for a brighter future.  
We rely on the generosity of individuals and companies to provide the private support we need to fulfill our mission.  
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