Pasa

Housing Law Client

When I moved my family across the globe, I thought that was the end of my problems. Then came the mold. 

When I moved my family across the globe, I thought that was the end of my problems. We to California from Samoa so that our six kids could have more opportunities. Then came the mold. 

We quickly learned that our Bayview home was infested. The bathroom wall was covered in toxic mold, the smell so severe we couldn’t close the windows. We found worms in the drains. The conditions caused my asthma to flare up, sending me to the hospital for breathing problems. 

But my biggest worry was for the kids; many of them woke up with nose bleeds every morning and developed respiratory illnesses. I reported the issue to my landlord and nothing happened.

I was scared. Scared that my kids’ health could be permanently damaged or that their lives were at risk. My only thoughts were about them and how I could better take care of them. I worried that I wouldn’t get to watch my kids grow up.

Out of options, I came to Open Door Legal. They fought for my case and won me $11,407 for what our family endured. Without Open Door Legal, I wouldn’t have had anywhere to turn. Now, I can focus on spending time with my kids and have peace of mind, knowing that they are in a clean and safe environment.”

Ever since childhood, our co-founder Adrian has been dedicated to reducing poverty.

He studied systemic poverty in college and went to work in the field for a few years. Eventually, he had a thesis that legal aid was the most cost-effective way to address poverty in America. He wrote up a business plan and used it to apply to law school. 

The idea was to create the country’s first system of universal access to civil legal representation that ensures everyone can obtain timely, competent legal help for any legal issue, regardless of ability to pay. That had never been done before in the history of the United States.

In law school, he met Virginia, our Programs Director. Together, they co-founded the organization, two weeks after Adrian passed the bar.

When we opened we put a sign in the window, and with just that marketing and almost no other outreach we were overwhelmed with requests for help from people with good cases who had been turned away everywhere else.

Our first year we had revenue of $35,000. We would hand shred documents because a shredder was too expensive. Despite the financial challenges, we were able to work on over 280 cases in everything from housing law to family law to consumer law in the first year alone.

The hours were extreme, the pay was low, and the learning curve was steep. Still, we persisted. We knew that almost everyone we helped was not able to receive services anywhere else. Eventually, we attracted the interest of funders. We tripled our revenue for several years in a row. In 2015, we won the Bay Area Google Impact Challenge, which enabled us to expand even more. In 2019, we secured additional funding from the city that allowed us to open two new centers in the Excelsior and Western Addition.

As of 2020, our staff has grown to 27 full-time employees. We’ve shown that universal access is possible. Now, we plan to scale city-wide, make San Francisco the first city in the country’s history to have universal access to legal help, and become a model for national replication.