The Law Project opened in 1997. Twenty years later, most of our legal aid clients continue to be homeless students and youth. Under the direction of Patricia Nix-Hodes, five attorneys offer free legal services to more than 400 clients a year.
During 2016, 87% of the 485 cases closed by the Law Project assisted homeless students or unaccompanied youth. CCH attorneys also assist homeless adults living in shelters and on the street, including the Uptown encampments. More than 95% of clients live in Chicago, but CCH attorneys also advise and represent people living in the suburbs and downstate communities.
The Law Project can be reached weekdays on its toll-free helpline: 1 (800) 940-1119.
The helpline is staffed by a bilingual case intake coordinator, Roberto Martinez.
Under state and federal law, homeless students are entitled to remain at the school they attended before they became homeless, or they may enroll in the public school nearest to where they are now living. Children and teens whose families must double-up in the homes of family or friends to avoid being on the street are recognized as homeless by the U.S. Department of Education. The law intends to protect school stability for children who already coping with the instability of their family’s homelessness.
Working with CCH community organizers, the Law Project provides regular outreach at family, youth and adult shelters. At shelter visits, CCH staff distribute information about the legal rights of homeless people, including protections offered by the 2013 Illinois Homeless Bill of Rights, which CCH helped enact.
CCH runs a mobile legal aid clinic for homeless and unaccompanied youth, led by Beth Malik, youth attorney and associate director of the Law Project. Youth Futures offers regular outreach through Chicago high schools and street programs, including the Broadway Youth Center, Center on Halsted, La Casa Norte, The Night Ministry, and Teen Living Programs.
Attorney Graham Bowman works with Youth Futures to advocate for youth access to health care, via legal aid to clients and through policy reforms. This includes Illinois’ “minor consent to health care” law, drafted by Mr. Bowman when he was an Equal Justice Works fellow at CCH and effective since October 2014. Staff attorney Diane O’Connell assists with educational and youth outreach and casework.
As part of its enrollment outreach, the Law Project attends back-to-school fairs in Chicago and the suburbs. It also provides information about educational rights in a variety of settings such as libraries, schools, soup kitchens, stores and other locations that serve homeless and at-risk families. Back-to-school outreach targets Chicago teens, distributing 20,000 pieces of literature.
(Shown left, volunteers during street outreach with Senior Counsel Rene Heybach, center.)
The Law Project receives project-based grant support from The Chicago Bar Foundation, Illinois Equal Justice Foundation, Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois, Herman & Katherine Peters Foundation, Pierce Family Foundation, and the Wohlers Family Foundation.
Youth Futures mobile legal aid clinic receives project-based support from the Alvin H. Baum Family Fund, EverThrive Illinois, Field Foundation of Illinois, LGBT Community Fund, Michael Reese Health Trust, St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Park Ridge, Student Alliance for Homeless Youth, and the VNA Foundation.