Thomas Edwards

The Project

Thomas (he/him/his) will advocate for and provide family preservation legal assistance to families facing homelessness in Chicago through advocacy, outreach, community education, and direct representation.

Families experiencing homelessness face significant obstacles to accessing family-related legal services. CCH estimates 76,998 people experienced homelessness in Chicago in 2018. Homelessness disproportionately impacts families of color. 61% of homeless individuals in Chicago identified as Black.

Tragically, families experiencing homelessness in the Chicago area have little to no access to legal assistance for family-related legal issues such as child custody, parental responsibilities, and protection from domestic violence. Even where family legal aid services exist, homeless families face barriers like lack of phone, stable address, and access to transportation. Moreover, Covid­-19 has exacerbated legal issues facing homeless families. Reported domestic violence has increased during the pandemic and a rise in eviction and foreclosure is expected. These civil legal issues can be life-altering and there is an urgent need for civil representation for homeless families.

Thomas’s experience working with people experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity motivates his work. His years organizing low-income people guides his commitment to supporting systemic approaches to curbing homelessness.

Fellowship Plans

During his Fellowship, Thomas will represent families in domestic relations and child welfare proceedings. He will conduct outreach and community education workshops to families experiencing homelessness at schools, shelters, and community service providers in the Chicago Area. Additionally, Thomas will draft a report including barriers that families experiencing housing have in accessing legal services and proposed policy solutions.

Media

As Eviction Crisis Looms, Advocates Fear an Increase in Child Removals

Homelessness is too often caused by lack of access to family legal support and family issues, I felt a strong connection to the work of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless’ fight to address homelessness at the root.”

Thomas Edwards /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow