In 1972, a pastor and a publisher encouraged a young attorney to respond to challenges and opportunities in the Cabrini Green neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. That attorney heard and responded to the call, and with the help of an initial grant from Tyndale House Foundation, Cabrini Green Legal Aid was established, launching its first full-time legal clinic in 1973.
At that time, CGLA was the only full-time legal clinic to provide free services to the impoverished and disenfranchised individuals of the Cabrini Green neighborhood and surrounding areas. After housing developments were dismantled in the Cabrini Green area, CGLA expanded their services to all of Chicago. Combining legal services and social work, they focused on serving individuals who had limited means. They began by offering services related to criminal defense, housing, and family law. In 2001, they recognized an increase in individuals who were being denied employment opportunities because of a past encounter with the criminal justice system. In response, CGLA began offering services to assist with criminal records by offering a service that helps eligible people seal or expunge their records.
By 2013, CGLA had shifted their focus to specifically assist individuals experiencing collateral consequences from negative encounters with the criminal justice system. Through leveraging internal resources with supportive service groups, CGLA was able to expand their reach through a network of partner agencies to offer workforce development, as well as housing and mental health services.
Since 1973, Tyndale House Foundation has continued to be a strong supporter of Cabrini Green Legal Aid in their efforts to respond to God’s call to seek justice and mercy for the under-served, at-risk, and impoverished populations. CGLA is recognized as the sole statewide provider of services that strengthen the lives of individuals facing collateral consequences from the criminal justice system. Through legal aid services, advocacy, and integrated support services, they have become a catalyst for positive change in the lives of individuals, families, and communities throughout Chicago.