Legal Aid Prevents Bad Things From Happening to Good People 
Rainy days caused anxiety for George Vaughn because each time it rained there was a chance George might have problems breathing for the next few weeks, maybe even the next few months. George lived in a basement apartment that flooded almost every time there was heavy rain. With the flooding and dampness came the mold. It crept into kitchen cabinets, grew on the living room walls, and spread across baseboards. George tried to scrub it away with soap and bleach but the mold always returned with the rain.

Mold can cause upper respiratory symptoms such as coughing and wheezing in otherwise healthy people, but for a young man with disabilities like George, who had suffered from asthma his entire life, the presence of mold endangered his health and increased his risk of asthma attacks.

George tried to rectify the problem with his landlord but his efforts never seemed to get him anywhere. George tried to enlist the help of the City of Chicago’s Department of Buildings, but even after the city’s building inspector cited the landlord for the apartment’s poor conditions, George’s landlord failed to re-mediate the problems. Instead he simply covered the mold with a fresh coat of paint.

George wanted to move but would have to break his lease to do so. George rented his apartment through the housing choice voucher program- a federal program providing rental assistance to low-income families, people with disabilities and the elderly renting in the private market. In order to move, George needed the Chicago Housing Authority’s (CHA) legal permission to break his lease, something the CHA rarely gave. If he moved without it, George jeopardized his eligibility for the voucher program and risked homelessness.

George’s prospects began to change after he visited his doctor at PC Wellness Center, one of the safety-net medical facilities Lawyer’s Committee for Better Housing has partnered with to form Healthy Housing Chicago.   READ MORE

Champion of Justice for Veterans and Active Duty Military 


Patricia McGill joined the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation in 2015 as chair of the Illinois Access to Civil Justice Council, the oversight body for the IL Armed Forces Legal Aid Network. She is currently employed by United Airlines as a Government Affairs Attorney, where she advises on corporate political activity ethics and compliance. Prior to that, Ms. McGill served as the General Counsel and Ethics Officer for the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs.  She joined the State of Illinois after serving as a Senior Policy Advisor to the US Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence.  Additionally, she was a Senior Policy Advisor to the Chief Defense Counsel for the Office of Military Commissions working on Guantanamo Bay detainee litigation.  Before attending law school at DePaul University College of Law, Ms. McGill served six years in the Army as a Counterintelligence Special Agent and Russian linguist.  
What motivated you to serve as chair of the IL Access to Civil Justice Council with the IEJF?

In my previous role as the General Counsel for the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs, I was fortunate enough to work on the legislation that created the Council. Serving as chair allows me to help with implementing the solution to the problems that prompted the legislation. It’s been exciting to be able to serve in this capacity and help to shape what the civil legal support for veterans and military personnel will look like in Illinois.

What do you believe is one of the biggest areas of need faced by veterans in America?  

There is a true need for assistance and awareness in translating military skills into the civilian workplace. The military instills valuable leadership and responsibility that often isn’t taken advantage of by employers. 

What's your personal philosophy on what should be done about civil legal aid?

The court system is complex, intimidating, and difficult to navigate without an attorney. Civil legal aid provides resources that are fundamental to an equal justice system. Education and outreach about the value of civil legal aid should be a focus for the legal community.  READ MORE
Voting Access Chicago - A Volunteer's Perspective
Equip for Equality, an Illinois Equal Justice Foundation grantee, is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing the human and civil rights of children and adults with disabilities in Illinois. Through a combination of training, self-advocacy assistance, public policy, and legal services, Equip for Equality aims to remove the barriers that prevent individuals from being productive, independent and successful in all aspects of their lives.

One initiative which sought to do just that was the Voting Access Chicago project, conducted in conjunction with the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners on election day, 2016, which I had the great pleasure to take part in.

The initiative, spearheaded by Equip for Equality, called for nearly 300 volunteers to visit over 1700 polling places over the course of November 8th and conduct short surveys to measure ADA compliance. Volunteers were given tools and training to complete the measurements and assessments.  READ MORE
Kerenina Rosario works as a Communications intern at the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation, and is a Communications Major at the University of Illinois in Chicago where she will be graduating in the Spring of 2017. 
Copyright © 2016 Illinois Equal Justice Foundation, All rights reserved.

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