eNewsletter - May 2018

    LAF eNewsletter
May 2018    
In This Newsletter
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Meet Jackie

Jackie Koriath, Staff Attorney, Housing Practice Group
Jackie Zarack-Koriath is a staff attorney with LAF’s Housing Practice Group, where her work is focused on securing and protecting safe and affordable housing for her clients. On a given day she could be arguing on a client’s behalf to halt an unfair eviction or writing a request to the Chicago or Cook County Housing Authority  to make sure that a tenant with a disability is granted a unit with reasonable accommodations for their condition. 
Whatever it is, the stakes for her clients are high and the timelines for taking action are short.. As she puts it herself, “Housing is never boring. A lot of lawyers don’t like being lawyers, but I do. I have absolutely no regrets. Every day I get to come in here and help people.” 
Jackie first came to LAF in 2011, as a summer intern with the Children and Families Practice Group while she was a law student at Loyola. Since then, she spent two years as a clerk for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee and represented military veterans in appeals related to the benefits they earned for their service with National Veterans Legal Services in Washington, D.C. After making her way back to Chicago, Jackie returned to LAF full-time in 2015. 
She continues to advocate for veterans in her role at LAF, where she’s a member of the Veterans Task Force, which is focused on making sure current and former members of the military are not only receiving the benefits they deserve from the VA, but any and all wraparound legal services as well. 
“The task force brings people together from different practice groups,” Jackie says, “and I just enjoy working with veterans. Both of my grandfathers were in the service, so maybe that’s a piece of it. But they’re really strong, really independent people, and it’s great to see them get everything they deserve.” Jackie is also a member of LAF’s task force for people living with disabilities, and she’s participated in the task force on domestic violence in the past. “It’s hard to pick just one,” she says. 
That desire to help as many people as possible drives all of Jackie’s work, and, speaking with her, it’s easy to see the conviction she carries with her. As she says “I always knew I was going to do public interest work; that’s why I went to law school. And at LAF we get to help the most people in the most ways. Why would you want to be anywhere else?” 
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A message from LAF's 
CEO and Executive Director
John N. Gallo
At LAF, we serve people in poverty mostly one at a time. The majority of our cases are interventions into crises facing just one individual or family, but often those crises are symptomatic of disadvantages that people with low incomes confront every day. So when we get the chance not only to make a difference for an individual client, but also to change some policy or set some precedent that will give the populations a better chance to be treated fairly in the first place, we’re especially proud. Recently, LAF attorneys Michelle Gilbert and Jackie Zarack-Koriath did just that when they completed cases that protected access to affordable housing for their clients and that spurred administrative changes that will extend that protection to countless others as well.  You can read about their achievements in this eNewsletter, along with other incredible stories. 
As always, thank you for your continued support of LAF and our mission. Your gifts of time and money are our most steadfast and reliable source of income, and they ensure LAF's continued strength even in uncertain times. 

John N. Gallo
LAF CEO and Executive Director 
Broadening our impact 
Housing attorneys Michelle Gilbert and Jackie Koriath win for their clients and spur policy change
Michelle Gilbert and her colleagues after she accepted the
U.S. District Court's Excellence in Pro Bono Service Award
A good case at LAF leaves our client better off than they were before. A great case leaves the whole community improved. LAF attorneys Michelle Gilbert and Jackie Zarack-Koriath made that happen with two recent housing cases that will have lasting impact for our client communities. 
Jackie’s client Dawn participates in the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) housing choice voucher program, where she and CHA both pay a portion of her monthly rent. After a medical condition caused Dawn to lose her job at a childcare facility and before she could find another source of income, her rent was due. She simply couldn’t afford her share.  The voucher program’s guidelines provide for short-term exemptions from minimum payments—called hardship exemptions—that are designed to help tenants in circumstances like  these. But the process for asking for an exemption is buried deep in a 150-page administrative document. Dawn wouldn’t have known she was entitled to an exemption if it hadn’t been for a friend of hers who told her she should apply. Even when she did, CHA improperly denied her request. 
Without the extra help, Dawn failed to make her rent payments, was evicted from her home, lost her housing subsidy, and was left homeless. Fortunately she came to LAF. With Jackie’s help,  CHA agreed to reinstate Dawn’s housing assistance and  pay her damages. On top of that, Jackie got them to agree to  update the forms and notices recipients of vouchers regularly receive to contain a simple explanation of hardship exemptions. CHA is already using the new documents, and we’ve already heard from tenants who received relief thanks to Dawn and Jackie’s hard work. 
Michelle’s client Beverly ran into a different administrative hurdle as she attempted to move with her housing voucher. She had requested moving papers and was searching for a new place, but due to a combination of discrimination against her by landlords who wouldn’t accept a voucher and failed Housing Authority of Cook County (HACC) inspections at the places that would accept one, the time HACC gives tenants to move expired and she was terminated from the voucher program without a chance to speak up for herself in an administrative hearing. 
As Michelle points out, the HACC policy not only deprived Beverly of a safe, decent place to live, but it’s antithetical to the stated goal of the program: to allow subsidized tenants to move to higher opportunity areas. So Michelle filed a Federal complaint stating that Beverly was denied due process when she was denied a hearing. Eventually,  HACC agreed to re-instate Beverly’s housing voucher and also agreed to amend its administrative plan to automatically grant tenants like Beverly hearings before their assistance could be taken away. 
This is a huge victory for participants in the voucher program, and this month Michelle was recognized by the U.S. District Court for her work on the case, receiving its annual Excellence in Pro Bono Service Award. Though she’s somewhat bashful about being recognized herself, she’s proud of LAF’s work. “At LAF we have a reputation for doing a lot of volume. But seeing so many cases feeds our desire to do big picture litigation and to change policy in a way that benefits our clients.”
Annual Luncheon Tickets Available 
Join us on June 21st at the Palmer House
LAF is celebrating another year of the best legal services money can't buy, on Thursday, June 21st, at the Palmer House Hilton. We will present our Champion for Justice award to the Hon. Ann Claire Williams (ret.), for her lifelong commitment to justice for people living in poverty.  We will also present our Jerold S. Solovy Equal Justice Award to a LAF attorney whose exceptional work is a testament to our mission and Jerry Solovy's legacy.  And, of course, we will hear from a client, in their own words, about the impact that LAF can have for people with nowhere else to turn.  Tickets and tables are available here!   
Women Rising for Justice at Work 
The 3rd annual Modern American Worker Conference

Panelists discuss gender-based workplace discrimination and violence on day one of the conference at Jane Addams Hull-House
This month LAF’s Immigrants and Workers’ Rights Practice group hosted the 3rd annual Modern Day American Worker Conference. This year’s event was entitled Over, Under, Through: Women Rising for Justice at Work, and centered on issues of discrimination, sexual violence, and financial exploitation in the workplace, all of which disproportionately affect women, low-wage workers, and immigrants. 
Attendees, including community organizers and legal advocates from across Chicagoland and around the United States, spent two days learning about the problems that women with low incomes face in their jobs, and discussing strategies to ensure that all workers are afforded safety and dignity in the future. 
The first day of the conference featured a panel of four women, all of whom had survived discrimination or violence, and all of whom had been motivated by their experiences to speak up for members of their community suffering through similar experiences. 
One member of the panel, Airsa, was assaulted by a supervisor at the restaurant where she worked. “It was hell what happened to me,” she says. But when she reported the incident to management, they refused to take it seriously. Airsa filed sexual harassment charges, and the restaurant retaliated by firing her. 
Eventually, a friend of Airsa’s referred her to LAF, where the staff in our Immigrants and Workers’ Rights Practice Group helped her obtain  a U-Visa as well as payments for wage theft, sexual harassment, and workers compensation. Ever since she was assaulted, Airsa has been speaking up for women who are enduring the same trauma she went through. She founded the Women Workers Committee with the Chicago Worker’s Collaborative, and has organized accountability campaigns to monitor working conditions at factories and temp agencies.. “I found a community. I found strength,” she says. “I am raising my voice, but I can’t do it alone.” 
On day two, author and journalist Bernice Yeung delivered an inspiring address that drew from her award-winning reporting on workplace harassment and violence suffered by domestic workers, agricultural workers, and nighttime janitorial staff. She emphasized worker-led initiatives around the country that have brought these issues to light and succeeded in changing policy to benefit those who are made so vulnerable system. 
Near the end of her remarks, Ms. Yeung gave a call to action that seemed to encapsulate this year’s conference. She reminded a room full of lawyers that “…making a rule or filing a claim is not by itself the solution. When we put women at the center of movements and help them become leaders, they will direct us to real change.” 
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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.  
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