Much like Jedi use the Force to protect those in need, Matt Linas uses advocacy.
Before he came to LAF, Matt was involved in community organizing around evictions and foreclosures. Now as LAF’s Housing Advocate, he serves low-income clients living with HIV/AIDS. “I came to LAF because I saw how powerful it is to have legal support and representation in court,” he says.
Matt works specifically with clients living with HIV/AIDS, though they face all the same issues as the other populations LAF serves. As a tenant living in poverty, regardless of your status, accessible housing is limited and the threat of eviction looms large. But people living with HIV have a compounded obstacle on top of the stresses of poverty, Matt explains. “In order to keep the virus in check, it’s important that people living with HIV get their immediate needs met, which is where we can intervene to preserve their housing voucher, or help them find a new unit as soon as possible if they’ve already been evicted.”
If you don’t have housing, Matt says, your priorities shift. “You have to think about where you’re going to sleep tonight or get your next meal. When you live with that amount of stress and instability, you may not be able to plan around taking your medication every day or seeing your doctor when they’re running low and need to get them refilled.”
In Chicago, LAF is typically the last line of defense for people in poverty faced with an eviction—meaning the work Matt and his Housing colleagues do is often all that’s standing between someone having a home and being homeless. To deal with the pressure his position inevitably breeds, he uses martial arts. “It provides a physical and mental outlet, and it also changes the way I approach problem solving,” he says. “Rather than putting all my eggs in one basket, martial arts has trained me to use multiple tactics when faced with a challenge.”
That approach doesn’t stop with martial arts. In addition to casework, which is immediate and reactionary by nature, Matt co-chairs a task force that works on long-term strategies to get more housing subsidies for people living with HIV. “Even though we’re more so firefighters than we are policymakers, a cool part of my job is being able to work with community members and organizations towards long-term, sustainable solutions.”
Your support enables LAF to continue being a Force for good. Make your tax-deductible contribution for 2017 at www.lafchicago.org.