eNewsletter - September 2016

 
  
   LAF eNews Update
September 2016   
EQUAL JUSTICE STARTS HERE.
In This Newsletter
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Meet Lisa Hilleren
 
Lisa Hilleren, Paralegal, LAF
Public Benefits Practice Group
 
Before she joined LAF, Lisa worked as an English-as-a-Second-Language instructor, who often had to field legal questions from her students.  She couldn’t answer them, so she joined LAF as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer for a year, and then jumped at the opportunity to join the Public Benefits Practice Group as a full-time paralegal in the Enrollment Project.  Today, almost half of her clients don’t speak English, and one in every ten of them cannot read, and she is uniquely prepared to work with them.  But even before her time as a teacher, Lisa felt the pull to educate herself and be a resource to her community about government benefits.  In high school, her friend had been lied to by the system about her eligibility for food stamps.  Lisa knew her friend’s situation felt wrong, but she didn’t have enough information to do anything about it.  Now she does, and takes pride in being a resource for people in her friend’s same situation. 
 
In her current role at LAF, Lisa assists Chicago residents in getting public benefits from the Department of Human Services, including from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps), Medicaid, and temporary cash assistance. 
 
At the city centers where Lisa is based in Humboldt Park and Bronzeville, people can't make appointments, so all her clients are walk-ins.  “It’s a surprise every time,” she explained.  Clients arrive and explain the jam they’re in.  Lisa hears them, explains LAF’s work, and ensures they are eligible for our services.  Sometimes she helps them with new applications for benefits.  Sometimes she helps them track down why they stopped receiving their benefits and works to get them reinstated.
 
Lisa describes much of her job as detective work, digging through the Department of Human Services Policy Manual and making its regulations work for her clients.  A lot of the rest of her job is just being a catalyst for her clients’ paperwork to move through the correct channels.  She explains that sometimes it can take almost a year to get a Medicaid expense reimbursement processed, so she is tireless about calling various State offices and making sure her clients receive their checks so they can pay their rent on time.  She wishes people understood that, while public benefits seem uncomplicated, the government agencies that provide them are underfunded and overworked.  Without an advocate to hold them accountable and ensure everything is handled correctly, sometimes things just don’t go through or are handled wrong.  
 
One story exemplifies this struggle:  Peggy, who is the mother of three children, fled from her abusive husband.  Peggy came to Lisa to make sure her children would still have health insurance after their father cut them off.  It was a straightforward case.  Lisa helped her submit Medicaid, SNAP, and cash assistance applications, but the officer at the cash assistance interview told her she couldn’t get benefits without first making sure she has applied to receive child support.  Peggy came back to Lisa, afraid of her abusive husband, and Lisa went to work, reminding the cash assistance office of the policy manual provision that exempts victims of abuse from the child support rule for their own safety.  The very next day, Peggy and her kids got the benefits they were legally entitled to, and Lisa was glad she could educate the officer so he does not make the same mistake again on other cases.
 
We’re very proud of the work Lisa does for our clients.  Keep up the good work, Lisa! 
 
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!
 
 
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Pledge your ongoing support to LAF and make your recurring gift today!
 

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A special message
from LAF
Executive Director
Diana C. White
 
Fall is here and the leaves are turning, the air is cooling, and the days are getting shorter.  But at LAF, we’re always working long days and at full speed. 
 
Just this month, the Board, YPB, and staff responsible for the Golf Outing had another great success on a beautiful fall day to raise funds and awareness for LAF's mission.  Paralegal Lisa Hilleren is out in the city every day helping ensure people have access to the benefits they deserve.  Attorney Myka Held is helping clients like Shannon and Maddie keep their families together and safe from kidnapping and abuse.  
 
We’re also looking back at our past, recognizing 30 years of an impactful housing legislation protecting renters from unscrupulous landlords, celebrating more than a decade of teamwork with residents of the Cabrini-Green Housing Development in a neat interactive digital timeline, and revealing our newly-published 2015 Annual Report. 
 
You can read about all of those stories, and much more, in this September eNewsletter.  On behalf of everyone who does this work every day, and everyone who benefits from our services and your support, thank you. 
  
Best,
 
Diana C. White
LAF Executive Director
 
 
Beautiful Day for a Golf Outing  
LAF's Seventh Annual Golf Outing
Another Rousing Success 
 
the view of Chicago's skyline from the course
 
Earlier this month, LAF held its Seventh Annual Golf Outing at the Harborside International Golf Center.  We spent a truly gorgeous day in the sunshine, played a really great round of golf, and shared the stories of LAF's staff and clients.  
 
On behalf of those staff and clients, we want to thank all of the sponsors and golfers who made the event such a success.  Congratulations to golfers Adam Berry, Brian Carl, Joe Gardner, and Eric Sussman for earning the lowest team score of the day.  Additionally, the teams from FTI Consulting, the Claro Group, and Veritext Legal Solutions deserve a special shout-out for their presence on the course at drink stations cheering on every golfer throughout the day.
 
Thank you to all who participated in some good golf for an even better cause.  We all had a blast!
 
 
Mother and Child Reunited
after Kidnapping 
LAF Attorney Makes 
Big Impact in Small Case
 
Shannon had been trying for weeks to find her daughter Maddie in Texas and bring her back home to Illinois.  Shannon’s estranged husband took their daughter to Texas with him for what was supposed to be a month-long summer visit, and he had promised to have Maddie back to start school this fall.  Instead, he refused to return her, refused to tell Shannon where they were, and refused to let Maddie talk to her mother on the phone without him listening in. 
 
Distraught, Shannon called LAF to help her get her child back.  LAF Attorney Myka Held took Shannon’s case, and quickly discovered that LAF had helped her secure a custody order for Maddie back in 2006.  With a certified copy of that order, gas money from her dad, and a pair of sunglasses, Shannon drove almost a thousand miles to get her daughter back.  When she got there, local police wouldn’t help her, and Shannon called LAF again.  Myka advised her to take the court order to Maddie’s new school and ask the administration to intervene.  The school authorities did intervene, and now Maddie and Shannon are safely back in Illinois. 
 
Asked about what LAF’s impact has been, Shannon gushed: “LAF has been a big help to me. I don’t even know where to begin. The support was awesome. I can’t put into words how thankful I am that I had you guys on my team. You guys really do go above and beyond; everyone there has stuck their neck out to help me.”  Not a bad outcome for a few phone calls and a copy of a 10-year-old document!  Way to go, Myka! 
 
 
Interactive Cabrini-Green Timeline 
A Digital Installment in LAF's
50th Anniversary Retrospective Series
 
 
As we celebrate our 50th Anniversary this year, we're looking back over some of the most impactful work LAF has been involved in over the last half century.  Some of those cases have been on behalf of the residents of the Cabrini-Green Housing Development.  Check out our interactive retrospective here and click through the timeline to learn about all three long-term cases LAF has handled with Cabrini residents, covering more than a decade.  
 
 
Residential Landlords and Tenants Ordinance Turns 30 
LAF Celebrates a Special 30th Anniversary
in the Midst of Our 50th
 
This month marks the 30th anniversary of the passage of Chicago’s Landlords and Tenants Ordinance, a landmark piece of legislation that governs most residential dwelling units in Chicago.  “Prior to the RLTO’s passage,” says Larry Wood, Director of LAF’s Housing Practice Group, “there was a significant imbalance of power between residential property owners and their tenants, and unscrupulous landlords took terrible advantage of this imbalance.”  Thousands of low-income tenants suffered the worst abuses, including deplorable living conditions, retaliation for complaining about such conditions, excessive late fees, unreturned security deposits, and lock-outs (i.e., evictions without authority of law).
 
Recognizing the need for legislation that would help address these problems, LAF attorney Bill Wilen (later at the Shriver Center and now retired) and Henry Rose (now a law professor at Loyola University) drafted the RLTO, and Chicago Alderman David Orr tried to get some version of this legislation passed every year after Harold Washington was elected Mayor.  Finally, on September 8, 1986, the Chicago City Council passed the RLTO.
 
LAF is proud of its instrumental role in the RLTO’s passage, and of the way LAF and other tenants’ rights groups have used the RLTO to help thousands of Chicago tenants improve their living conditions and defend themselves against unprincipled and overreaching landlords.
 
 
2015 Annual Report 
Read Powerful Stories from Last Year
 
In the midst of LAF’s 50th Anniversary, we also must also pause to look back at last year.  The 2015 Annual Report is finally available, here and on our website.
 
 
In it, you can read about Marleita, whom LAF rescued from a con artist who had promised renovations on her home, George Ann, for whom LAF ensured custody of her teenage son Nic, and Reine, who was able to access Social Security Income with the tireless help of LAF’s Public Benefits Practice Group, and many others.
 
You can also see our list of major donors from 2015.  And if you haven’t had the chance to secure your place on that list for 2016, you can make a contribution online today.
 
 
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!
 
  
LAF
EQUAL JUSTICE STARTS HERE.

For the past 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 generous investment of individuals and companies to provide the private support we need to fulfill our mission.  
 
Join us on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, and our Wordpress blog to stay updated on everything happening with LAF.
 

 

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