Anthony’s Story

After 35 years in the construction trade, Anthony suffered a stroke. After he was denied disability, the bills piled up. That’s when Anthony turned to Open Door Legal.

Anthony has lived in San Francisco for 60 years. He grew up right in Bayview. After his mom passed away and while still working full-time, Anthony was overcome with stress. In November of 2019, Anthony suffered a devastating stroke- he became entirely paralyzed on the left side of his body.

Anthony has lived in Bayview his entire life. He has watched the city grow and change. Through his work in construction, Anthony has also done remodels and has completed buildings from the ground up, all over the city. His mom even lived right next door. When she got older, Anthony would walk next door every day. In the mornings he would go to take care of her and cook breakfast, and then would go to work on the construction sites. After work, he would come back home and check on her, make sure that she ate, and then go home. Anthony did this everyday for years. At the age of 92, Anthony’s mom passed away. 

Anthony became entirely paralyzed on my left side. He was in so much pain but was also worried about all the money. He was close to retirement, but was still working, and knew he needed to apply for disability pay. Anthony always paid his taxes and has never been late on mortgage payments in 41 years. Anthony applied for disability in December of 2019. And then in January, February, and March he never heard from them- and never got checks.

When Anthony left the hospital, he was still in bad health. He went to stay with his daughter in the East Bay. She encouraged him to keep doing his physical therapy. She helped him get back on his feet physically. Anthony practiced everyday. But financially, he could not get back on his feet. Anthony was so worried about the finances because the checks weren’t coming. Anthony feared the bank was going to take away his house, and he loved his home. 

I was a ball of stress. I would only sleep two hours a night and then be awake, my mind on all these stressful things.

When Lindsey and the Employment Law team first connected with Anthony, it was clear his finances were in a hard place. He needed help accessing the benefits that he deserved until he was physically better. He also needed it backdated, meaning, Social Security and the State owed him for the time that he’d been unable to work, regardless of if they had processed the paperwork or not.

Anthony had done everything right— he filled out the right paperwork, he applied for the right things, he called the correct offices. But that didn’t work, and none of it was because of his fault.

That’s when Anthony found Open Door Legal. He went online and found us. 

Lindsey is a wonder-woman. My hero. The checks started coming in. I was able to move back home and I could finally sleep at night.

Today, Anthony is back at his home. Lindsey and our Employment Law team were able to get the checks rolling for Anthony, and finally provide him with the financial relief he had been waiting so long for. We even had a generous donor who provided Open Door Legal with a number of grocery store gift cards to provide relief to families for the holiday season. Anthony was a recipient of one of these gift cards.

Anthony says, “This is what you helped me keep. Now I know I’m staying; I know I have the finances to keep the house. So I’m going to replace the carpet, and paint the walls. I thought I was going to be homeless, and now I’m all caught up on the bills. I got my life back.”

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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.