Volunteer Success Stories: August, 2014

Monday, September 1, 2014

Here's what our volunteers have been up to this month! 


Emma lives on the second floor of a two-flat apartment with her legally blind daughter and a grandson who requires medical care. To supplement her Social Security income, she rented out the first floor of her building. Although her tenant, who has a history of mental illness, had caused some problems over the years, Emma didn’t run into any major issues until the tenant allowed her brother to move in and perform loud rituals. When Emma, who is old and disabled, objected, the tenant responded with threats of violence. 

Once the tenant stopped paying rent, Emma decided to file for eviction, pro se. She also filed for a restraining order. Unable to navigate the legal system, both of her complaints were dismissed. To make matters worse, the tenant was forcibly removed from the courtroom and involuntarily committed in a psychiatric ward because of outrageous behavior. Emma finally sought help from CVLS.

CVLS is the only Chicago legal services organization that represents low income landlords in eviction cases. When CVLS accepted Emma’s case, volunteer Evan Voboril stepped in. Evan handled Emma’s eviction case from the initial five-day notice through the court hearing and lengthy eviction process. Throughout, he worked with the police to protect Emma when the tenant threatened her. Once the possession order was entered, Evan helped and advised Emma during the three months it took for the Sheriff’s Office to evict the tenant.

Emma and her family are safe and ready to rent her first floor apartment to a stable, responsible tenant—thanks to Evan and CVLS. 


When the Probate Court discovered that the current guardian of sisters Jenny, age 9, and Jessie, age 6, was struggling, it appointed CVLS as guardian ad litem. Volunteer Jami Schlafer stepped in and investigated. Sure enough, she discovered that the children missed a lot of school, were sleeping on the floor and often appeared unkempt. She clearly cared for the girls, but simply couldn’t cope.

Luckily, when their grandmother agreed to step in, Jami negotiated her appointment as successor guardian. Unfortunately, the grandmother’s income was minimal and she couldn’t afford to buy the girls beds. Neither the grandmother nor the court wanted those girls sleeping on the floor any longer. The court reached out to DCFS, but the agency refused to provide free beds because they’d so recently helped the former guardian.

Then Jamie reached out to a colleague—another CVLS volunteer. That attorney, who prefers to be anonymous, came to the rescue. He put Jami in touch with a small private foundation that delivered and set up beds for each of the girls, with only two days’ notice. Knowing that her granddaughters had been without beds for so long, Grandmother got choked up when she called Jami to report on the delivery of beautiful twin beds and mattresses.


Nadine, a single mother and grandmother, works hard to support her family. She has adopted several grandchildren, one with severe autism and cerebral palsy who requires constant care. Nadine’s Section 8 housing voucher allows her to house her family and pay for her grandson’s treatment.

Several years ago, after pleading guilty to a DUI in another county, Nadine dutifully completed all required court supervision and community service. Three years later, that DUI was cited as the reason her Section 8 voucher was terminated.

With her family facing homelessness, Judge Kathleen Kennedy appointed CVLS under the Chancery Court Access to Justice Program. Volunteer Anthony Beckneck of Hervas, Condon, and Persani, PC investigated Nadine’s case and filed a well-researched, compelling brief on her behalf.

The Chicago Housing Authority didn’t file a reply. Instead, they settled. Nadine and her family are secure, once again, in their home.


When John and Natalia’s taxes increased dramatically, they ran into difficulty keeping up with their mortgage payment and their real estate taxes at the same time – who wouldn’t?

They eventually fell behind and went into foreclosure. John immediately began working steadily on increasing his income. In the meantime, John and Natalia entered the Cook County Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program where John Marshall Law School Student Jeff Arman and supervisor Karl Fehr took their case.

The bank and residential mortgage creditor Fannie Mae couldn't get their act together. The servicer insisted in mediation that John and Natalia were denied for all options, while Fannie Mae indicated that a proposed loan modification was forthcoming. Jeff and Karl argued strenuously to keep the case in the mediation program to get it straightened out.

Their advocacy worked! Finally, Fannie Mae offered a loan modification despite the servicer's denial, and now John and Natalia are working toward paying off their home at a much more realistic, affordable rate.


After a serious car accident rendered Will unable to work, he had to wait an entire year to receive Social Security disability income. In the meantime, his mortgage went into foreclosure. Knowing that he couldn't keep his house on his smaller income, Will put it on the market. He offered it to his bank for a short sale, but no matter how pushy he was, the bank would not respond.

Running out of time, Will sought help. After Judge Michael Mullen appointed CVLS under the Access to Justice Program, volunteer Cheryl Robinson began conversations with the bank's attorney. Despite his repeated assurances that an answer was forthcoming, the bank ignored the short sale offer and moved for a Judgment of Foreclosure.

Cheryl responded by filing a Motion to Compel an answer to the short sale offer. Like magic, the bank accepted the offer. With Chery’s help, Will avoided a deficiency judgment and negotiated his exit from the property.