The mission of the Uptown People's Law Center is to establish, administer, and promote programs providing legal aid to indigent persons, assisting community residents in obtaining legal services and benefits, and educating and training residents, paraprofessionals and community attorneys. However, this mission has always been as much about raising awareness as handling cases. The Law Center operates on the belief that educating people on their legal rights will help enable them to fully exercise self-help - an essential step in building and preserving a strong and vibrant community. The Chicago Area Foundation for Legal Services, in its first newsletter, succinctly described the Law Center as "a classic community organization that just happens to practice law."
The Law Center was founded in 1975 by former coal miners and their widows in an effort to secure black lung benefits for disabled coal miners, whose efforts were thwarted by the legalese of the federal bureaucracy formed to assist them. In 1978, it was incorporated as an Illinois not-for-profit and obtained federal 501(c)(3) status. Over the last 35 years the Law Center has been based in Uptown, but has served poor and working people not only in Uptown, but also in surrounding Chicago communities and State-wide. Our work focuses on landlord tenant issues, public benefits, including both public aid and social security disability benefits, and protecting the civil rights of the incarcerated.