Cristina Headley has always wanted to help disadvantaged people gain access to opportunities and resources. Her PILI Internship at Chicago Coalition for the Homeless in 2009 gave her the opportunity to do just that.
“One thing that I experienced as an Intern was the constant fight to secure the resources to help those who most need those resources,” she said. During her Internship she interviewed potential clients, investigated their claims and performed legal research. She also assisted in distributing a legal needs survey around homeless shelters.
“I was impressed with how the Coalition was interested in continually assessing the legal needs of the community it served and adapting the services it provided to meet those needs,” she said. “My fondest memory was primarily working with the passionate and dedicated staff of the Coalition.”
After graduating from The John Marshall Law School in 2011, she received a two-year fellowship at The John Marshall Law School Fair Housing Clinic. There, she investigated and litigated housing discrimination cases and supervised law students working on those cases with her.
When her fellowship ended, she went on to become a staff attorney at Equip for Equality. She primarily works on cases involving abuse of individuals’ rights or neglect of individuals in facilities and in the community. “I have heard firsthand how individuals with disabilities lack the resources to support themselves despite their desires to do so,” she said. “They have limited access to the legal system and the political process, to education, employment, health care, family support and housing. As a result, there are fewer options and choices available to them and they can struggle to find a place in society.”
Cristina gives a voice to those who may not be able to speak up. In one case, she successfully defended an older man who resided in a nursing home against a family member who tried to obtain an order of protection against him. The family member was trying to gain possession of all his belongings while he was in the nursing home. She also assists individuals who have a guardian but no longer need one to terminate the guardianship. She works with her clients to find solutions to her problems and fights systematic discrimination. “Often times, the solutions are simple and would benefit society as a whole,” she explained.
Cristina also volunteers as the Service Team Leader on the Alumni Network Leadership Council, planning service opportunities for other PILI Alumni. She enjoys getting to know others in the Alumni Network and being involved. “PILI has provided me with an invaluable network of individuals who are committed to public service work and to fostering the commitment in the next generation of attorneys,” she said.