Who We Are

Prairie State Legal Services is an organization that offers free legal services for low income persons and those age 60 and over who have serious civil legal problems and need legal help to solve them. There are 12 office locations serving 36 counties in northern Illinois. The resources page also provides references to self-help information.

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Prairie State Legal Services is a charitable not-for-profit organization and gifts are tax deductible under IRS section 501(c)(3). Learn about ways to donate. Ask us about volunteer opportunities. Consider us for cy pres awards.

Our Mission

The mission of Prairie State Legal Services, Inc. is to provide or coordinate the delivery of high quality legal services to low-income individuals, families, and groups. The delivery of legal services will be directed to protecting the client’s basic human needs including income, shelter, and physical safety; enhancing the client’s independence and resolving related legal problems.

Throughout its history, Prairie State Legal Services has focused on providing legal help to the most vulnerable groups in our society, including the poor, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

Special Projects

To view a Project's Description, Click on a title to open the panel. Click it again to close the panel.

     Prairie State has expanded legal services available for homeowners and tenants facing foreclosure. The primary goal of the Project is to help homeowners and tenants save their homes through available legal strategies. These include foreclosure defenses in court, bankruptcy, income generation, loan modification, and various alternatives to foreclosure. Legal help is free. If needed, please call the Project at 888-966-7757.

     This Project has more inclusive eligibility guidelines, permitting a wider range of persons to qualify. These services are possible due to a special grant from Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, with funds secured from a national settlement with the nation's largest bank mortgage servicers.

     In addition, Project attorneys will conduct community education and outreach with the goal of informing homeowners of their legal rights and connecting clients with foreclosure prevention services.

     Since February, 2009, PSLS has operated a Low-income Tax Clinic which provides free legal representation for clients having tax disputes with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Clients residing anywhere in the 36- county PSLS service area can apply to the Clinic for representation from our experienced tax attorney by calling 855-TAX-PSLS (855-829-7757). Examples of services available from the Clinic include: placing clients in currently not-collectible status, assisting clients prepare offers in compromise, representing clients in tax court cases to challenge a proposed deficiency assessment, advising clients about available collection alternatives, responding to IRS notices, contesting classifications and assessments, challenging fraudulently filed returns, advising and assisting clients prepare requests for innocent spouse relief, requesting Collection Due Process or equivalent hearings to propose a collection alternative, and working to help retrieve tax refunds that were unlawfully withheld.

     Prairie State Legal Services has been recognized by the United States Tax Court as a nonacademic clinical program that can represent pro-se litigants who have requested Chicago or Peoria, Illinois, as their place of trial. Prior to Prairie State's recognition, there were no recognized programs that served pro-se Tax Court litigants in Peoria.

     Prairie State has expanded legal services to assist people who have experienced housing discrimination because of their race, color, national origin, sex, familial status, religion, and other protected characteristics. The Fair Housing Project’s main objectives include investigation of housing discrimination, free legal representation in administrative and judicial forums, and community education. We serve the Waukegan area (Lake and McHenry counties), Rockford area (Winnebago and Boone counties) and Peoria area (Peoria and Tazwell counties). If you or someone you know has been discriminated against in housing, please call the Project at 855-347-7757.

     This Project has more inclusive eligibility guidelines, permitting a wider range of persons to qualify. These services are made possible by a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

     Prairie State receives special funding from Area Agencies on Aging through Title III of the Older Americans Act to provide legal services to persons age 60 and older. Senior citizens in that age group are served regardless of income or assets.

     However, project services are focused to serve the needs of senior citizens who are in the greatest social and economic need. Typically, cases in the project surround such issues as: (1) health care and insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid; (2) Social Security; (3) elder abuse and financial exploitation; (4) housing issues; (5) nursing home issues; and (6) legal assistance to preserve the personal autonomy of seniors.

     Project attorneys assist seniors in preparing Powers of Attorney or living wills and counsel couples when one spouse requires nursing home or home health care. As resources permit, a range of other services are offered. The project is available throughout the Prairie State service area.

How to apply for services

Call our Legal Assistance for Older Adults toll free number (888-965-7757) or call the office serving your county of residence. Your application can be taken by telephone and will require information from you such as:

  • Your Name
  • Your Address
  • Your Telephone Number
  • Your Date of Birth
  • Your Income
  • Your Assets*
  • and information about your legal problem
Funding Statement
Legal Services for Older Adults is provided via funding from a variety of sources including local United Ways; Legal Services Corporation; Illinois Equal Justice Foundation; McHenry, Kendall, and Dekalb Counties Senior Citizens Tax Levy; The Retirement Research Foundation; and Area Agencies on Aging (AAA)
*Services funded by: Northeastern Illinois AAA, Northwestern Illinois AAA, Central Illinois AAA, Western Illinois AAA, and East Central Illinois AA are provided without regard to financial eligibility. Donation are gratefully accepted.
Non-Discrimination Statement
Prairie State does not discriminate in admission to programs or activities in compliance with appropriate State and Federal statutes. If you feel you have been discriminated against, you have the right to file a complaint with the Illinois Department on Aging. For more information, call the Senior Helpline: 1-800-252-8966 (voice and TTY).
*Services funded by: Northeastern Illinois AAA, Northwestern Illinois AAA, Central Illinois AAA, Western Illinois AAA, and East Central Illinois AA are provided without regard to financial eligibility. Donation are gratefully accepted.

     Since 1994, PSLS has maintained a special project to deliver legal services to children between the ages of 3 and 21 who are wards of DCFS, and who need legal services to secure and protect their rights to special education and related services. Funding for this project comes from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

     All children referred to PSLS under this project are wards of DCFS, meaning that DCFS is their court-appointed guardian. These children are placed by DCFS in the home of a family member or a foster parent. Depending on the age and capabilities of the child, our clients are either the child or the foster parent or family member. The opposing party is usually the local school district responsible for the child(ren).

     Referrals under the project are made to PSLS either by a local DCFS office, by a delegate agency to which DCFS has assigned casework responsibility, or by a foster parent. Typically, they raise concerns about the child's educational environment or placement. In some cases, the issue involves a school's failure to identify a child as eligible for special education. In other cases, the issue involves the appropriateness of the special education and related services which the child may or may not be receiving, or the child's placement. Sometimes, the school proposes a change in placement through the expulsion process. In all cases, the goal is to assure that the child receives a free, appropriate public education.

     A wide array of legal services is available. Project activities include: 1) participation and advocacy at Multidisciplinary Conferences (MDC meetings); 2) participation and advocacy at meetings to write the student's Individual Educational Plan (IEP meetings); 3) representation at expulsion and other disciplinary hearings, and finding alternatives to expulsion; 4) review of school records and evaluations; 5) setting up independent evaluations and re-evaluations; 6) sending letters and other forms of negotiation with school personnel; 7) representation in dispute proceedings, such as administrative due process hearings, complaints to the ISBE, or mediation; 8) representation in the state or federal courts.

     In 1999, the project expanded to include referrals from DCFS of cases in which their wards are subject to expulsion by their local school districts. It is not a pre-requisite for acceptance of an expulsion case that the child be eligible for or receiving special education services.

     Since April, 1995, PSLS has maintained a project to deliver legal assistance at no cost to persons who are HIV+ or who have AIDS. The financial eligibility criteria to qualify for Prairie State Legal Services help have been expanded for this project. Eligible clients must document their medical serostatus, and be a resident in one of the PSLS counties where project services are available. At the present time, the project serves all PSLS counties, except Kankakee, Iroquois and Livingston. Project funding comes from Parts A and B of the federal Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Modernization Act. Part A funds are administered by the Chicago Department of Public Health for an 8-county extended metropolitan area around Chicago (the "collar counties"). Funds for the remaining counties are provided by several different regional HIV consortia.

     The project addresses client needs for assistance in civil legal matters such as: (1) housing and landlord tenant; (2) health care and insurance issues, including Medicare and Medicaid; (3) future planning and advance directives, such as living wills and powers of attorney; (4) public benefits such as TANF, food stamps, and unemployment insurance; (5) disability benefits, including Social Security and SSI; (6) family law matters; (7) employment; (8) education; (9) consumer and debt collection problems; (10) guardianships, and (11) discrimination and other civil rights issues. A client's legal problem handled under the project may be related specifically to his or her HIV status. However, in most situations, that is not necessarily the case. The client's rights to confidentiality are respected at all times.

     Broad-based outreach is conducted about the availability of services. The intake process is flexible and responsive, accommodating disabilities and health conditions. As with many PSLS projects, we make accommodations for linguistic and cultural diversity. Clients are kept informed and work together with staff to determine the objective of the representation, to make decisions regarding the case, and to achieve goals in a timely fashion. Staff are trained and knowledgeable in the law and have HIV/AIDS awareness. Services are provided in a sensitive, compassionate, nonjudgmental and comprehensible manner. Our project attorneys are part of a continuum of care for persons with HIV/AIDS in their communities. Information, referral, networking and training regularly are exchanged with human service providers working with this population, and with HIV support groups. We are linked in all of these ways with the HIV/AIDS community, including with the various systems of case management.

     This project provides legal services and representation for persons with disabilities who are having problems appropriately receiving or who have been denied certain services from the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS), a division within the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS). Specifically, the project serves persons who are seeking either:

  1. Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) services to obtain a specific employment goal, provided by DHS, by Centers for Independent Living, rehabilitation facilities or by Projects with Industry; or
  2. Home Services to prevent the unnecessary institutionalization of individuals who may be satisfactorily maintained at home, under the DRS Home Services Program (HSP).

     All clients eligible for legal services under this project are collectively referred to as "DORS customers". This project serves every county in the Prairie State service area.

     Funding for this project comes from a contract with the Client Assistance Program (CAP), a semi-autonomous division within DRS, which is legally mandated by the federal Rehabilitation Act to provide independent advocacy services for DRS customers. The legal services available from this project allow CAP to appropriately meet this legal mandate. It allows DRS customers an alternative to CAP advocates (non-attorneys) for consultation and representation. Finally, it provides CAP personnel and advocates a resource for legal consultation. For DRS customers, the normal financial eligibility criteria do not apply in the determination of eligibility for PSLS services. PSLS accepts all referrals from CAP, except to the extent there is a conflict of interest or other ethical problem.

     The scope of work under the project includes: (1) providing legal information, counsel and advice; (2) advocacy and negotiation services; (3) representation at Hearing Appeals; and (4) litigation in the state or federal courts. We also provide program advice to CAP on systemic problems and issues that adversely affect clients.

     These projects are funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help persons who are homeless to overcome obstacles to their ability to obtain housing. Extensive outreach to the homeless is an important part of this project. In addition, project attorneys tend to handle a wider range of legal problems for these clients, which are directed at a long-term resolution of the client's housing problems.

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