The Law Project names new director, associate director

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is pleased to announce important staffing changes in our Law Project, effective July 1.

(From left), Laurene Heybach, Patricia Nix-Hodes and Beth Cunningham
(From left), Laurene Heybach, Patricia Nix-Hodes and Beth Cunningham

First, Patricia Nix-Hodes becomes the Director of the Law Project. Currently its associate director, Patricia has practiced poverty, civil rights and education law at CCH for more than 15 years, serving hundreds of families, youth and adults experiencing homelessness. Prior to joining CCH, Patricia was a staff attorney for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, an attorney for Public Advocates in San Francisco, and a Skadden Fellow at the Legal Assistance Foundation in Chicago. A 1992 honors graduate of DePaul University College of Law, Patricia earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting at Creighton University.

Second, Laurene (Rene) Heybach, Director of the Law Project since its inception in 1997, will continue her critical work at CCH in the new role as Senior Counsel, working in a part-time capacity. An attorney for 37 years, Rene is the recipient of the Chicago Bar Foundation’s first Thomas Morsch Public Service Award and the Sandra Neese Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, which cited her legal work shaping and enforcing the educational rights of homeless students. Rene earned undergraduate and law degrees from Marquette University, which honored her with its 2006 All-University Community Service Award. Rene embraces the opportunity to focus less on managerial and administrative tasks and more directly on writing and legal initiatives, including implementation of the 2013 Illinois Bill of Rights for the Homeless Act. 

Third, Elizabeth Cunningham, has been named Associate Director of the Law Project. Beth joined CCH in 2007 as staff attorney for the Youth Futures mobile legal aid clinic. She has distinguished herself by outstanding service to Chicago’s homeless and unaccompanied youth, and is a key participant in the city of Chicago Task Force on Homeless Youth. Beth’s legal work will continue to focus on the educational and civil legal needs of youth. A 2006 graduate of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, Beth worked 18 months for the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center. She earned a bachelor’s in English and environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 2010, Beth was honored with the Kimball R. Anderson and Karen Gatsis Anderson Public Interest Law Fellowship, a significant honor awarded by the Chicago Bar Foundation.

“The past and current success of the Law Project rests in large measure on the outstanding talent and commitment both Patricia and Beth consistently bring to this work,” said Rene. “Together with our Equal Justice Works Fellow Graham Bowman and our excellent intake coordinator, Ali Heinen, we look forward to more great accomplishments. Clients will continue to receive the same high quality services upon which the Law Project prides itself.”

Added Executive Director Ed Shurna, “The coalition founded the Law Project in 1997 with the conviction that legal services are an essential tool to further our mission to prevent and end homelessness. Rene Heybach has exemplified quality leadership in building an excellent legal project since its inception. I look forward to the Law Project’s continued exciting and effective work.”