Photo of Thomas Edwards

Thomas Edwards

  • Hosted by Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
  • Sponsored by Mondelez Global LLC
  • Service location Chicago, Illinois
  • Law school Loyola University Chicago School of Law
  • Issue area Family Law, Housing/Homelessness
  • Fellowship class year 2021
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Thomas (he/him/his) is working at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless to develop and expand family preservation legal assistance to families facing homelessness in Chicago. He is filling this family legal services gap through advocacy, outreach, community education, and direct representation.

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 a phone, stable address, and access to transportation. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic 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 Highlights to Date

In the first year of the Fellowship, Thomas has:

  • Provided brief service, referrals, and legal advice to 42 clients
  • Represented individuals in Orders of Protection hearings
  • Represented parents in Guardianship proceedings and Parentage cases
  • Assisted seven parents recoup their Child Tax Credits
  • Advocated as Class Counsel for Parenting Youth in the care of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to access entitlements, identified seven additional parents entitled to additional services, and advocated for and won childcare for all class members
  • Developed and conducted education workshops regarding family related legal issues for service providers working with new mothers and other homeless families
  • Worked with his sponsor to create a Child Tax Credit flyer and distributed over 500 copies

Next Steps

In the next year, Thomas plans to:

  • Work closely with his sponsor to increase the project’s pro bono capacity
  • Expand outreach sites
  • Conduct community education in person and virtually to help families in the care of DCFS to receive childcare

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

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