Chicago Lawyers’ Committee and DLA Piper secure major win for fair housing in Lake County

November 14th, 2016

Chicago – In a win for fair and affordable housing, Mariah DiGrino and Ken Schmetterer of the law firm DLA Piper achieved a significant victory on behalf of PADS-Lake County and the people they serve when a Lake County Circuit judge cleared the way to open a homeless assistance program.

In 2014, PADS Lake County, a nonprofit that provides housing and resources to people experiencing homelessness and mental health issues, agreed with the Lake County Housing Authority to use a vacant building in Lake Zurich to house 13 individuals who had been deemed “chronically homeless” by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

PADS plans to move its Safe Haven program from the Lovell Federal Health Center in North Chicago to Midlothian Manor, a building surrounded by single family homes in Lake Zurich. Yet after PADS secured a permit from Lake Zurich, local residents formed an organization called Residents for an Engaged Community and filed suit at the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) seeking to halt the move. The Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights arranged for DLA Piper to serve as pro bono lead counsel for PADS in that action.

On May 26, 2015, the ZBA reversed PADS’ occupancy permit for the building. The Lake County Housing Authority appealed the decision to the Circuit Court, and PADS joined the action, represented by DLA Piper.

Last Monday, the circuit court overturned the ZBA ruling, calling it “clearly erroneous” and resulting in a win for PADS and the Lake County Housing Authority. This ruling will give the organization the opportunity to provide affordable housing for clients in their Safe Haven program, and open the door for similar organizations in Lake County to provide housing for low income people. The ruling also reinforces the opportunity for nonprofits to partner with units of government that own property.

“We are very pleased with the ruling as it removes one of the many barriers faced by the people we serve when trying to get into housing,” said Joel Williams, Executive Director of PADS Lake County. “We know there is still much work to be done, not the least of which is engaging the community as neighbors and finding ways to work together to provide this much needed service, while ensuring the quality of life remains high for everyone. We look forward to that opportunity.”


DLA Piper is a global law firm with lawyers located in more than 30 countries throughout the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific.

Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is a recognized expert with a long history of fighting discrimination in housing. The Fair Housing Project works to eliminate housing discrimination and segregation in the Chicago metropolitan area. Each year, volunteer attorneys from prominent member law firms donate over 15,000 hours of legal services through the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee.

PADS Lake County offers a comprehensive approach to combatting homelessness with the compassion and respect we all deserve. Since 1972, PADS has faithfully provided immediate, critical services to the neediest among us – individuals and families that are experiencing homelessness in Lake County. PADS’ vision is to provide a path to stable housing and self- sufficiency for everyone who experiences homelessness in Lake County. Our greatest hope is to help end homelessness and ensure happy, healthy, and safe lives for generations to come.