awards &   accomplishments

RECOGNITION

In recent years, we have been recognized for our commitment to excellence in services and creativity in service delivery. Here are a few:

–  Illinois Association of Area Agencies on Aging – Sid Granet Award for innovations in service delivery.

–  Retirement Research Foundation Encore Award for excellence.

–  Governor’s Award for Unique Achievement.

–  The Shriver National Center on Poverty Law 2008 Housing Justice Award.

–  “Exemplary service to victims of crime” (Victim Justice Coalition, 1997)

–  Partners in Peace Award (Community Crisis Center 1995 and 2006)

–  National Pro Bono Partner Award for involvement of corporate attorneys in services to low-income women

   (Association of Corporate Counsel 2004)

–  “Excellent performance” rating (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (each year 2004 through 2009)

VICTORIES FOR CLIENTS

Prairie State Legal Services preserves utility services and child’s health

Joan*, estranged from her ex-husband due to domestic violence, found employment at a bank, but lost her job when an injury left her unable to work. She supported herself and 4 children on Social Security disability, SSI benefits, and a small amount of rental assistance from the city where she lived. Joan never received child support and knew she was unlikely to ever receive it. When she came to Prairie State, ComEd and NICOR had dramatically increased her bills by unlawfully charging her for utility services used by her ex-husband for a separate residence after their divorce. When she could not pay these utility bills, the electric company threatened to disconnect her utility. One of Joan’s children had asthma and needed a nebulizer, requiring electricity. ComEd would not accept a doctor’s note to keep the electricity on unless Joan agreed to pay $500 immediately and agreed to pay the remaining amount within 30 days. Lawyers at Prairie State helped Joan and her children stay in her home and avoid having her utilities disconnected.

Prairie State Legal Services successfully increases Social Security benefits for Maria*

Maria was in her mid-40s when she came to Prairie State, but she had been struggling with disabilities, such as schizophrenia, since her mid-20s. She was receiving Social Security disability benefits due to those disabilities. Maria should have received additional dependent benefits based on her father’s work history because her disability started before she turned 22. Nevertheless, the Social Security Administration denied her request for these additional benefits. In an administrative hearing, Prairie State lawyers had to prove that Maria was disabled before she turned 22 and that her limited work history did not disqualify her from getting dependent benefits from her father’s account. Prairie State presented evidence and convinced the judge, so Maria qualified for dependent benefits.

Prairie State Legal Services prevents eviction by obtaining a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act

Linda* was a resident of a section 8 project-based housing complex for over 20 years. While struggling with an untreated bipolar condition, she began displaying bizarre and annoying conduct on the premises. This led Linda’s landlord to file suit to evict her, threatening to make her homeless. Lawyers at Prairie State requested a reasonable accommodation for her disability – to postpone the eviction proceeding while Linda attended an inpatient treatment facility to stabilize her condition and to be followed up with medication and counseling. Linda received a postponement on this basis, the landlord monitored Linda’s progress, and later voluntarily dismissed the eviction case.

Prairie State Legal Services saves Lawrence’s* 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.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of our clients and maintain confidentiality.