Douglas’ Story

Douglas was defrauded and denied housing.

After an accident at the San Francisco Shipyard, Douglas was suddenly disabled, out of work, and falling further and further into debt. He became the victim of several scams and ultimately was rejected for housing. He had lost hope until he found Open Door Legal. Working with our partners at The Salvation Army, we were able to resolve his consumer, family, and tax issues and help get him into housing.

Thanks to a mother who was determined to instill her children with a strong work ethic, Douglas started working in construction at an early age. Beginning with a stint at Pier 39, Douglas found steady work in constructing the first housing projects in Fillmore, Hayes Valley, and other parts of San Francisco. In 2013, he went to the San Francisco Shipyard in search of what should have been “just another” carpentry position with the Department of Public Works. But as Douglas stood waiting for his dispatch, a 6x12 beam tumbled from the nearest building and hurtled towards him. His world went black.

The next thing Douglas remembers is waking up in a hospital with a concussion, back injuries, and neck injuries. The extent of Douglas’ injuries meant that he would have to wear a neck brace for a year, undergo physical therapy, and end his work in construction. Douglas would receive disability income, but not enough to cover his child support.

Without a court order, Douglas’ child support obligations were never adjusted to reflect his reduced disability income and he accrued over $25,000 in debt. At the same time, Douglas had trusted members of his family to file his taxes during his recovery. It was only when he got a notice for back-taxes amounting to several thousand dollars that he realized that they’d been defrauding him all along.

It’s not just for legal work, they offer more than that… They make you feel like they love you.

Douglas’ bad luck continued when he signed up for a program that promised to solve the problem of his back-taxes. The program scammed Douglas and collected over $6,000 from him without doing any work on his case.  Thanks to the cumulative debt that resulted from Douglas’ back-taxes and what he owed for child support, Douglas’ driver’s license was suspended and his application for new, subsidized housing was rejected.

Douglas came to Open Door Legal for help with modifying his child support obligations, and was struck by how friendly and hospitable the team was. Working together with our partners at The Salvation Army, we appealed the denial of Douglas’ housing application and got a court order that modified his child support to a manageable level; clearing his debt. After resolving his child support obligations, we resolved his back-tax issues with the IRS and even worked to get compensation for the tax scam.

“It’s important to see people helping you out in your own neighborhood, and [Open Door Legal] is right in our backyard.”

With his debt resolved, Douglas won the appeal on his housing denial. He now lives in a newly constructed one-bedroom apartment. He looks forward to sharing his story with those who may not know where to go for legal help, and helping Open Door Legal reach more people across the community. When asked what stuck with him most about his experience, he pauses then laughs. “They make you feel like they love you.”