Sir Patrick Stewart shares his passion for protecting victims of violence

SIR PATRICKSir Patrick Stewart, famed actor and activist, spoke recently at Comicpalooza in Texas.  He offered an intimate look into his own life as a survivor of domestic violence, after a fan in the audience identified herself as a fellow survivor.  That fan’s account of his telling is very powerful, and you can read it on her blog here.

In the course of his moving response to her question, Sir Patrick shared a family story about the struggles his own father faced as a veteran of the armed services.  Sir Patrick notes that if his father had been treated, their family might never have been confronted with the brutality of domestic violence.  You can watch a video of the whole answer here on Youtube.

Stewart is a tireless advocate for victims of domestic violence, like his mother, and those who have been affected by combat-induced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, like his father.  We thought we would share this moving story with you today.  As an agency that helps survivors of domestic violence, as well as veterans who are coping with serious issues when they return from active duty, we know firsthand that providing support and resources can provide the stability our clients need to lead safe and stable lives.  

Between now and next Tuesday, LAF’s Veterans’ Rights Project is participating in the 2013 Charity Challenge, to raise money for the work we do to help veterans, service members and their families.  We have met many clients like Sir Patrick’s mother – and many like his father too. Your support ensures we can help people find their way to the services and support they need, to overcome challenges that can otherwise have lasting, and profoundly devastating, impacts on their lives.


Upcoming LAF Video

For many years, LAF has had a relationship with our pro bono partner Gary Yordon, who helps us get our message out with high-quality videos and interview clips.  His work captures our clients’ stories in their own words, and it explains our work better than we can ourselves.  But the last time he made a video with us, we were in our old offices with our old name and logo.

The new LAF calls for a new visual media to tell our story.  So we’re looking forward to a brand new video from Gary and his team that we’ll premiere at this year’s Luncheon.  We had a great day filming with him earlier this month, and can’t wait to see what he’ll give us this year.

At last year’s Luncheon, we played this public service announcement below, which he created for Legal Aid organizations across the country.

You can see the other video he made for us, along with some other videos, on our Youtube channel at

Holding Chicago Housing Authority to its promises for Cabrini-Green

Earlier this month at the press conference pictured above, LAF helped the Cabrini-Green Local Advisory Council (LAC) file a federal lawsuit against the Chicago Housing Authority in an effort to compel CHA to honor its promise to maintain as 100% public housing, the Francis Cabrini Rowhouses, a 586-unit low-rise development on Chicago’s North Side. The LAC announced the suit at a press conference at its office at 530 W. Locust.

After announcing that it would rehabilitate the Rowhouses as part of its Plan for Transformation, CHA moved existing residents out by relocating some families to developments on Chicago’s South Side and issuing temporary housing vouchers to others. Almost all the displaced families found themselves in racially and economically segregated neighborhoods with limited opportunities, waiting to return to the Rowhouses — as promised — when the rehabilitation work was done.

CHA rehabilitated one-quarter of the units, but has now announced that it will convert the Rowhouses into a mixed-income development with only a small percentage of the units reserved for public housing residents.

“What the CHA has either failed or refused to recognize is that it doesn’t need to exclude even one public housing resident to create a ‘mixed-income’ community at the Rowhouses, which are in a desirable location and economically diverse area,” said Carol Steele, LAC President. “All public housing residents are now subject to a work requirement, and 50% of new admissions must make more than $22,000 a year for a family of four. That same family can make up to $59,000 a year while remaining financially eligible for public housing.”

The negative impact of CHA’s new plan is extensive and includes the following:
• Eliminating hundreds of units of low-income housing on Chicago’s North Side, thereby depriving deserving families of access to good schools, transportation, and jobs.
• Forcing families that formerly lived in the Rowhouses, an area ripe with opportunity, to remain in high-poverty, segregated areas of Chicago because their right to return has evaporated.

“The CHA’s plan violates the most basic sense of fairness on every level, and it is also illegal,” said Elizabeth Rosenthal of LAF, attorney for the LAC. “CHA has a well-established statutory duty to affirmatively further fair housing, but its new plan only perpetuates segregation.”

The Cabrini-Green Local Advisory Council is represented by LAF and Sidley Austin, LLP.  You can read more about it in the WBEZ story here, or in our Facebook post here.

Help celebrate our Veterans this Memorial Day!

Please join us in supporting LAF’s Veterans’ Rights Project this Memorial Day.

LAF’s Veterans’ Rights Project is dedicated to ensure that low-income service members, veterans, and their dependents residing in Cook County receive advocacy and educational services regarding the enforcement of their legal rights and benefits.  Since November 2011, LAF has provided legal services to over 900 veterans in Cook County. LAF has the unique ability to provide comprehensive legal assistance for veterans with multiple legal problems, including veterans’ benefits and discharge upgrades.

And this year the Veterans’ Rights Project is a participant in the Memorial Day Veterans Charity Challenge.  The Project has a chance to win a special challenge grant if it finishes the Challenge as one of the Top 3 charities.

Please consider giving today!

Poverty as a Childhood Disease

Poverty as a Childhood Getty ImagesDisease

This post was featured on the New York Times Blog last week, and saw quite a bit of traffic in social justice circles on Facebook.  Time and again LAF has seen that when we can solve a family’s legal problems, and create or restore economic stability in their lives, children have a much better chance of thriving and successfully fighting this disease.

Welcome to the LAF Blog!

For over 40 years LAF has been the largest provider of comprehensive free legal services in non-criminal matters to the most vulnerable people in Cook County.  The clients we see every day at LAF contend with a host of complicated civil legal problems which keep them from achieving true stability in life.  Many suffer from domestic violence at the hand of a spouse or partner, face wrongful eviction from their homes, or are victims of consumer fraud.  Sometimes they are not receiving the disability or veterans’ benefits to which they are entitled.  When our work is successful, we solve more than our clients’ immediate problems; we give our clients and their family the stability that enables them to get back on track and escape the cycle of poverty.

Through everything we do, we strive to position LAF as one of the key cornerstone providers of social services in our community.

Over the past five years, the number of people who need our services has exploded, while government funding for our work has declined significantly. We’ve stepped up our fundraising efforts in the private sector and we’ve been gratified by the response of individuals, foundations, law firms and corporations. We’ve also rethought how best to serve our clients and how best to ensure that we are a place where donors can know that their investment will be well used to achieve the maximum outcomes and impact.

We also decided it was time to make sure that more people knew and understood both the issues our clients face and the results we can achieve for them and that meant a new external face for LAF. Thanks to three grants from The Taproot Foundation, which gave us over $150,000 worth of pro bono marketing and branding support, we re-thought how we talk about ourselves, and our work.  We changed our name from the unwieldy and misleading “Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago” to simply LAF, which is what everyone has been calling us for years. Then, we developed a new logo to breathe fresh life into our visual identity and communication.  Finally, we completely re-designed our website, and developed new communication tools, including this blog.

We hope this blog will give you new insights into our work and the issues in our community.  We hope it will also make it easier for people to understand our work, and to be ambassadors and advocates for us – whether that’s in the form of telling people about what we do, making a financial contribution, or volunteering their time with us.

LAF is one of the bedrock agencies helping people in poverty get back on track, and we are an integral part of the social service community in Cook County – but we have always been a well-kept secret. This is something we really want to change.

Thank you for your interest in our work.  Stay tuned….