How to save families from losing everything

There is a resource for our communities that does not receive enough attention, yet is critical to ensuring that families not only stay afloat but move up the economic ladder: civil legal aid.

Op-Ed (Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, NATIONAL, New York, North Carolina)

Martha Bergmark, Thomas E. Perez
July 27, 2015
How to save families from losing everything (full text on CNN website)

Tags: Benefits of Legal Aid, Benefits of Legal Aid: Economic, Consumer Protection, Domestic Violence, Family, Funding: Federal, Funding: Private/Foundation, Funding: State & Local, Housing: Homelessness, Housing: Landlord-Tenant, Pro Se/Self-Help, Veterans, Women

Organizations mentioned/involved: Legal Aid Chicago, Legal Services Corporation (LSC), Boston Bar Association, New York Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services, Legal Services NYC (LSNYC), Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC), Iowa Legal Aid


In 2013, Nicole, a 26-year-old single mother in Chicago, represented herself in eviction court. She thought she was agreeing to pay the rent so she could stay in her home, only to find out later she had agreed to an order awarding her landlord possession of the only decent housing she could afford.

She could have lost everything, but she didn’t. After taking on her case, the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago appealed and won; Nicole and her two young children could stay in their home. She was lucky: Cases such as hers persist across the country, and most people who don’t have access to the same support suffer the consequences.