Kaitlin Cutshaw

  • Hosted by Lawyers' Committee for Better Housing
  • Sponsored by Latham & Watkins LLP
  • Service location Chicago, Illinois
  • Law school Indiana University Maurer School of Law
  • Issue area Housing/Homelessness
  • Fellowship class year 2019
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Kaitlin promoted housing and educational stability for children negatively impacted by eviction and housing insecurity through free legal aid provided in school-based and virtual clinic settings, as well as through direct representation and policy advocacy.

Studies show that eviction is a cause of poverty, not a condition. Families who experience eviction have higher rates of residential mobility and often experience prolonged homelessness. Students with high rates of residential instability and homeless students perform worse on standardized tests, have lower school achievement and delayed literacy skills, are more likely to be truant, and are more likely to drop out, compared with their peers. Increased residential mobility has also been linked to higher rates of adolescent violence and children’s health risks. Eviction disparately impacts communities of color, where high eviction rates result in lower community investment and difficulty maintaining social capital. In Chicago, landlords filed for evictions at substantially higher rates in majority Black community areas. Chicago landlords are represented in almost 80% of eviction cases filed, while only 11% of tenants have attorneys, demonstrating an unmet legal need.

Before attending law school, Katie worked with Teach For America in the West Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago where she spent three years there teaching children ages 8-18 everything from math to social studies. Through this experience, she gained an intimate understanding of how critical housing is to a child’s educational success. Katie eventually left the classroom to positively impact the lives of low-income families, like those of her former students, on a higher level.

Fellowship Highlights

During her two-year Fellowship, Kaitlin:

  • Established in-person school clinic operations at the George Leland Elementary School in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago in February and March of 2020
  • Utilized a virtual clinic model to continue school clinic operations after Chicago Public School closures in March of 2020 in response to the pandemic
  • Conducted numerous community outreach events to inform tenants of recent COVID-19 related changes to the eviction process and other areas of housing law
  • Provided brief legal advice and direct representation to over 90 clients facing eviction and other housing needs
  • Helped to pass housing legislation in Illinois, in collaboration with other advocacy groups, which provided for codification of a statewide rental assistance program and mandatory sealing of eviction cases filed during the COVID-19 pandemic

Next Steps

Kaitlin plans to continue working with her host organization Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing, providing free legal aid to tenants and their families.

Meet Other Fellows Like Kaitlin

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Andrew Neuhauser

Host: Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc.

Sponsor: Ohio Access to Justice Foundation

Sara Simon Tompkins

Host: National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty

Sponsor: Individual Donors, Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

Vallen Solomon

Host: King County Bar Association's Housing Justice Project

Sponsor: Costco Wholesale, The Raikes Foundation

Current Fellow

Michael Deemer

Host: Ohio State Legal Services Association

Sponsor: Ohio Access to Justice Foundation