Our donors and volunteers share Prairie State Legal Services’ (PSLS) vision of a community where everyone, regardless of income, has access to legal services. Providing free legal services to the most vulnerable Illinoisans is more important than ever. There are more than 228,000 households with incomes under 125% of the poverty level living in our 36-county service area. Furthermore, it is estimated that 169,000 of these households will experience a civil legal issue in a given year in our service area.

PSLS’ intervention can help keep a family intact and in their home, help an individual remain employed or in school, and improve health outcomes. Our services help individuals meet basic needs like food, shelter, and safety. We help individuals in crisis, address systemic inequities, and revitalize our communities.

Here are just three of our successes:

PSLS Helps a Single Father Avoid Eviction

Jim*, a 40-year-old single father facing eviction, came to PSLS when he lost his job during the pandemic. Despite the eviction moratorium prohibiting evictions during the pandemic, his landlord attempted to file an eviction against Jim by stating that he had provided Jim with an Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) declaration but Jim had failed to sign and return the IHDA Declaration to qualify for the protection of the Illinois Eviction Moratorium. Jim met with PSLS at one of our eviction clinic programs in February 2021. By that time, Jim was working full-time again. In fact, he was working a lot of hours. Prairie State represented Jim and submitted an IHDA Declaration to the landlord to pause the eviction proceeding. Prairie State staff then negotiated a payment plan to allow Jim to pay back his overdue rent and stay in his home with the option of a new lease. At first, Jim was resistant to apply for rental assistance, because he was proud and believed that he should and could pay the unpaid rent and other costs without any help. However, after paying back over $5,000, Jim realized he needed help to pay the full amount owed. Prairie State staff assisted him with applying for and obtaining $2,000 in rental assistance. After these amounts were paid, the eviction case was dismissed with prejudice and Jim signed a new lease with his landlord.

PSLS Helps a Victim of Domestic Violence

In November 2021, PSLS helped Karla* obtain a 2-year order of protection against her husband, Adam. He had been abusive since very early in their relationship, hurting her regularly beginning in 2005. Karla has two young children with him. In October 2021, in front of their children, Adam threw Karla down the stairs causing significant injuries. She lost consciousness and sustained significant injuries to her face and back. Karla’s doctors later told her that they believe Adam stomped on her face repeatedly while she was unconscious. Her jaw required reconstruction. Adam was arrested and charged with aggravated domestic battery.  Prairie State represented Karla and obtained a 2-year order of protection which prevented him from contacting or harming Karla or their children. Adam intended to post his $5,000 bond (10% of the bail) and testified as such during his trial. However, after the court and State’s Attorney heard the evidence at trial, Adam’s bail was increased from $50,000 to $500,000, ensuring he would not be released from jail prior to his trial further ensuring Karla’s safety and the safety of her children and the community.

PSLS Saves Subsidized Housing Benefits

A local Housing Authority terminated the Housing Choice voucher of a 70-year-old man, Lawrence.* The voucher enabled Lawrence to live in an apartment that he could afford. Lawrence had surgery for throat cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy treatments when the Housing Authority terminated his voucher. The Housing Authority took this action because Lawrence failed to report as income a small pension of $62 per month that he received for 5 years, which affected the amount of rent he was charged. Lawrence mistakenly believed that he previously reported this income as part of his Social Security income. However, the Housing Authority called it an intentional failure to report income. Prairie State Legal Services represented Lawrence at his administrative hearing on appeal and successfully proved that Lawrence made a mistake, which was not intentional. Based on Lawrence’s age and health challenges, Prairie State requested a reasonable accommodation so Lawrence can receive assistance with reporting at future redeterminations of eligibility for his voucher. The decision at the hearing was entirely in Lawrence’s favor, reversing the original decision to terminate his voucher, and allowing Lawrence to pay the difference in rent through a repayment plan. This allowed Lawrence to maintain his subsidized housing and avoid homelessness.

*Client and party names are changed to maintain confidentiality.