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Dantae's story

Dantae was living with his aunt, Delores, his cousins Derrick and Yvonne, and Yvonne’s young daughter Evanette when he was seriously injured in a shooting. He struggled both with his physical recovery and in dealing with the police investigation.

The shooting also had a major impact on each member of his family. They struggled to pay for Derrick's funeral and burial. They also struggled to pay for healthcare and housing costs, until they got help from local organizations.

Your story

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Week 1

Dantae and his cousin, Derrick were both shot in gang-related shooting at a party in their neighborhood. Derrick did not survive. Dantae suffered serious injuries and was rushed to the hospital. The doctors and nurses told him that he needed several major medical procedures right away and that he would probably need long-term medical care too. His doctors suggested that he request a social worker to explain the types of help he could get to pay his medical bills.
Delores and Yvonne went to their church where their pastor referred them to a funeral home. She also gave them some information about victim’s compensation and explained that it could cover up to $7,500 in funeral and burial costs. 


Options for help

Victims of violent crimes can get up to $27,000 for some reimbursable expenses like funeral, burial, lost wages, and medical costs under the Illinois Crime Victims Compensation Act

Week 2

Dantae’s injuries in the shooting left him paralyzed. While he was recovering, the police questioned him. He didn’t say much because he was worried that his behavior at the party would get him in more trouble. He also didn’t trust the police and he had his doubts that they could help his family get justice for Derrick’s death. 
The police questioned Dolores and Yvonne too, but they didn’t have much information because they weren’t at the party where the shooting happened. After the coroner did  an autopsy and released Derrick’s body, Delores and Yvonne went to the funeral home. They were told that the funeral would cost over $7,000. This meant that they still needed to come up with money to pay for the burial and any other expenses. The funeral home gave them a bill to submit with their victim’s compensation application.


Options for help

If you or someone you know is being held by the Chicago Police Department, you can call First Defense Legal Aid at 1-800-529-7374 for a free lawyer, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. 
Victims of violent crimes can get up to $27,000 for some expenses like funeral, burial and medical costs under the Illinois Crime Victims Compensation Act. For more information see Frequently asked questions on Crime Victim Compensation.  If you or someone you love is having difficulty coping with the long-term effects of a violent crime, call the toll-free Crime Victims Assistance Line for more information about applying for compensation and other statewide victim services: 1-800-228-3368.

Week 8

The police questioned Dantae again, but he refused to cooperate. The police arrested Dantae, hoping it would pressure him into giving more information about the shooting. He couldn’t afford a lawyer, so he was given a public defender. The public defender told Dantae that it was in his best interest to cooperate with the police. Dantae gave in, so the police released him and he was never actually charged with a crime. Still, without Derrick around and Dantae unable to work because of his injuries, the family was struggling to make ends meet. They started thinking about finding other housing options.

Options for help

It is always best to speak with a criminal defense lawyer before deciding if you should take part in an investigation. For more information see Your rights during a criminal investigation and What are my rights when I am under arrest or custody.

Week 12

Dantae needed another surgery. He was worried about how he would be able to pay for it along with his other medical bills. The rest of the family was also still struggling with money. Yvonne decided to move to Minnesota where she had an old friend to escape the violence of the neighborhood and to start over. She asked Delores to take care of Evanette until she could get set up in her new home. Delores was also thinking about moving out of the neighborhood. She started looking at housing programs that might be able to help her.

Options for help

Dealing with hospital bills while trying to recover can be overwhelming. There are several government programs that provide public benefits for low income and disabled people, including SNAP (food stamps) and TANF
Access Living is a bridge that connects low income housing developers to people with disabilities in search of housing in Chicago. For more information visit the Chicago Housing Authority

Week 20

Dantae had a couple surgeries, but he was still paralyzed. He realized that he would need long term medical care. He was finally given a social worker who helped him with his applications for:

  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), 
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and
  • Medicaid benefits. 

Options for help

You can get SSDI/SSI if you are unable to work because of a physical or mental impairment. The impairment must last for at least 12 months or will result in death. 
Medicaid is a state and federal program that pays for medical costs for people with low income. 

Week 24

Dantae started looking for another place to live. He had been cooperating with the police and was worried about gang retaliation. He also didn’t want to be a burden to Delores anymore. But Dantae couldn't work due to his injuries so he didn't have an income. Even when he started getting disability income, it wouldn't be enough to cover his own place, medical care, and other daily needs. 


Delores had just received a letter from the Attorney General’s office explaining that her victim’s compensation application was denied because the crime was gang related and the police reports had indicated that Dantae and Derrick were both gang members. Delores wanted to appeal the decision, but she needed help. She also needed to figure out how to pay for both the funeral and burial costs without victim’s compensation.

Options for help

There are community based organizations that provide resources and advocacy to persons with disabilities. For more information visit Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living and Community integrated living arrangements
Mobility and transportation are also important for people with disabilities. See People with disabilities and their rights as drivers for more information.  

Week 26

Delores was barely making enough money to cover rent and living expenses. Evanette had recently moved to Minnesota with her mother, but Dantae was still living with her and depending on her for his day-to-day needs. She didn’t have any money to pay for the funeral and burial they had for Derrick. She was worried that the funeral home would take her to small claims court or garnish her wages. She knew that she needed legal help to avoid possibly going to jail for not paying her debts. Delores found a legal aid lawyer who could help her appeal the victim's compensation decision so she could get money to pay for the funeral.

Options for help

There are several government programs that provide public benefits for low income and disabled people, including SNAP (food stamps), and TANF. Additionally, the Illinois Crime Victims Compensation Act may provide up to $27,000 in financial assistance. For more information see Frequently asked questions on Crime Victim Compensation.
Small claims court is a civil court where you can be sued for $10,000 or less. It has simplified rules and can go much faster than other courts. Although there’s no debtor’s prison, it’s possible to wind up in jail in a collection case, but not because you owe money, or can’t pay it. Jail can only happen if you’re able to pay, and refuse to, or if you miss a court-ordered court date. For more information see Can you go to jail because of unpaid debt?

Week 32

The prosecutor subpoenaed Dantae and Delores and they were forced to testify in the murder trial. Dantae was also contacted by a Victim Witness Assistance Specialist, who helped to clarify questions he had about cooperating with the prosecution and testifying in court. 


Delores decided she was going to fight the eviction and try to stay in her home for now. The housing programs couldn't help her find a new home fast enough. She also couldn't get her own place because she didn't have the money for a security deposit or to move. Delores asked the lawyer who helped her file the victim's compensation appeal if there was a lawyer who could help her fight the eviction, so she and Dantae could stay in her home until they found a new place. 

Options for help

You should always talk to a lawyer to know what your rights are in a criminal case. For more information see Rights of crime victims and witnesses.
There are special rules and procedures that must be followed in eviction, and organizations that can represent you in court. For more information see My landlord is trying to evict me and How a tenant can stop an eviction.