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Join us across social media on December 2nd to celebrate the work of LAF!
LAF has five Task Forces designed to bring staff from across practice groups together to work on expanding and enhancing services to specific populations.
Throughout October, Domestic Violence Awareness month, the Domestic Violence Task Force hosted a series of events designed to raise awareness around domestic violence, its effects on our clients and ourselves, and ways in which LAF can partner with community organizations also fighting to end DV. The largest event hosted by the Task Force was a roundtable focusing on the intersection between legal aid provision and economic empowerment, on bringing together the pieces of the puzzle that can help survivors of violence rebuild their lives. Representatives from Between Friends, Accion Chicago, the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and Heartland Alliance joined several LAF experts to discuss the importance of survivors gaining economic power and independence. The presenters had over 70 years of experience between them, and even so, everyone learned something. Important pieces of information, such as the process for receiving crime victim compensation or requesting a credit check without revealing your address (and thereby disclosing your location to your abuser), were shared, and new partnerships were formed. Accion Chicago, a micro-lending organization that also educates on the dangers of payday loans, will now begin referring clients who have taken out usurious loans to LAF.
Developing and strengthening these community connections is a crucial component to providing our clients with high-quality, holistic legal services. LAF is excited to continue facilitating these opportunities to connect and brainstorm with members of the Chicago community.
On November 11th, we celebrate Veterans’ Day. At LAF, we are particularly proud of the work we do to protect veterans and their families just as they have dedicated their lives to protecting our own. In honor of Veterans’ day, we’re sharing our one of our favorite veterans stories here:
Jake, a member of the Illinois National Guard, has been living in the same apartment for almost eight years now. In fact, he’d even worked there as a property manager for a while. He always paid his rent (and had proof to show it), and was a pretty good tenant. Things were going well for Jake and his life was stable. Then, last year, the owner of the building passed away and the three children who inherited the building started to bicker. Two of the siblings tried several times to evict Jake because he was friendly with the other sibling. It got ugly. Jake received another eviction notice, and when he tried to pay his rent, the siblings refused to accept it.
So Jake called LAF. Our Veterans Rights Project connected him with Frank Dylewski, a pro bono attorney from Kirkland and Ellis, who has achieved many great results for LAF clients before. Frank agreed to help Jake negotiate with his landlord. Then Jake was subpoenaed for a deposition in the siblings’ own dispute. Frank represented Jake there too, and together, LAF and Frank were able to keep Jake in his apartment.
Before the case even concluded, Grant Swinger, JAG Captain and Chief of the Illinois Attorney General’s Military and Veterans’ Rights Bureau, wrote LAF the following message:
“Thank you so much for your assistance in regard to the recent referral. [Jake] speaks highly of his contact with you and has been floored by the assistance he has received from [you and Frank]. In all sincerity, you have helped return a Soldier to ‘mission ready’ status through your great work.”
We are proud of how we were able to help Jake, and we are grateful for his service of our country. Jake is one of many veterans who have crossed paths with LAF throughout the years. In our 2011 annual report, we shared the story of Ben, who proudly served our country in Vietnam. You may also remember Kevin and his daughter Jordan, who stole the show at our Luncheon this year.
None of this Veterans work would be possible without your dedicated support and financial contributions. You can make a donation today in honor of Veterans’ Day at www.lafchicago.org/donate. Thank you for helping us serve those who serve.
Last week, NPR’s Terry Gross did a captivating interview on Fresh Air with Bryan Stevenson, a human rights lawyer and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative.
Stevenson’s work is not the same as LAF’s – he does criminal defense and fights for the rights of falsely accused death row inmates, and our work is limited to non-criminal matters and civil courts – but our missions overlap significantly. We are both working to combat poverty by providing equal justice for people who couldn’t otherwise afford it. In the interview, he explains:
“We’ve got a bigger population of poor people in this country than we’ve had in a generation, and we’ve got to take on the challenges of poverty. … For me, that means taking it on in a different way. I’m not persuaded that the opposite of poverty is wealth — I’ve come to believe … that the opposite of poverty is justice.”
In our work at LAF, we believe that by providing free legal services in non-criminal matters to people in poverty, we are not just helping our client – we are helping our communities. The National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel even argues that the work of LAF and our partners in civil legal aid is providing substantial benefits to our economy. The Coalition notes that legal aid “helps people prevent events that would be harmful to them and expensive for the larger society, such as domestic violence, long foster care stays, eviction, and health emergencies.”
Together, as attorneys providing legal aid in both civil and criminal matters, we are working to end poverty through justice. We encourage you to check out the Fresh Air interview and join our efforts to end poverty in Chicago and our world.