The heart of poverty is injustice. The way that we choose to treat one another contributes to high poverty rates across America. And the easiest way to see that is through stories.
“When I moved my family across the globe, I thought that was the end of my problems. Then came the mold.
“I’ve always advocated for the well being of families in my classroom, so my next challenge seemed obvious: fighting for them in court.”
“The only thing that stood in my way was 50 hours of pro bono work. A friend suggested that I volunteer at Open Door Legal– I decided to give it a shot.”
“My mother’s family was upper middle class until the government seized their land and property. They were left with practically nothing; my mother had to start from scratch.”
“That’s when a debt collector showed up at my work saying I owed over $23,000– I had no idea what he was talking about. Still, my wages were being garnished; I wasn’t sure if I could make rent.”
“For example, one Friday, around a quarter till five, everyone was about to head out for the weekend. In walks a client in tears; her husband had abused her. She tried to get help from multiple other legal aid organizations but they all turned her away. We were her only option left.”
“After we won, the client pulled us aside. ‘Never forget,’ she told us, ‘that you saved a little girl’s life.'”
“Open Door Legal has taught me the power of passion. Passionate people can catalyze change and transform communities. I see that fire within everyone who works here. It is not enough to recognize injustice– to make a difference, you must be dedicated to fighting it.”
“Suddenly, my rent increased by $2,000. That was more than my income. I felt filled to the brim with stress. This is where my family celebrated Christmas – getting evicted meant losing my family’s home base.”
“My client never thought that she could get help for living in mold and mildew; that was everyday life for her. And we didn’t stop there. ‘Do you have any custody issues? Do you need to speak with a social worker? We can help you with that too.’”
“I believe that everyone with a legal need deserves a lawyer no matter who they are or what situation they’re in. If you don’t have a way to enforce your rights, you don’t really have them. I hope that the work I’ve done for Open Door Legal brings San Francisco one step closer to creating true equal protection under the law.”
“Because of the accident, I was taking 7 meds a day and needed to use a cane to walk. I had to leave my job. The other driver admitted to causing the accident – yet I never got compensated. I tried to reach out to my employer about this but he wouldn’t answer my calls.”
“Fighting for people matters. We have to claw, sweat, and bleed for the people around us. We need to put ourselves out there and protect each other, because if not, who else will?”
“In every elderly client, I see my own parents and grandparents. I get to learn about their lives and their families. In many ways, Bayview is similar to my home in Romania: access to legal aid is limited, and if we don’t help, no one else will.”
One time, he said he was going to pick her up from school but he never came. I had to stop what I doing and rush to get her. It was terrifying, learning that my young daughter had been left all alone. I worried for her safety.
“I saw how access to legal help can change someone’s life and lift them out of poverty. It was then that I realized I wanted to go into public interest law.”
“Since childhood, I’ve seen the barriers that keep people from what’s rightfully theirs. Now I get to help these people fight back.”
“We went outside our roles as attorneys and just interacted with our clients as human beings.”
“That’s when it hit me: if something were to happen to my health, I would be completely unprepared.”
I saw a lot of poverty and economic depression growing up in Ohio. Now that I am a lawyer, I’m able to see how much this experience has influenced me. I want to use my law degree to help low-income communities and to ensure that people, like my clients, get the treatment they deserve.
To me, it’s all about using my education and experiences to make the law work for everyone. That San Francisco was and remains very segregated has always bothered me. I want to fight this and protect underserved communities. I’ve always wanted to go into social justice work, and that’s where I want to stay.
“One day my landlord told me that she was selling the building. When the new owners came, they said my kids and I had to leave. They wanted to kick me out of my own home. I was lost on what to do: I didn’t want to move, but I didn’t want an eviction on my record, especially when I had done nothing wrong.”
Open Door Legal doesn’t help the community as outsiders; they’re integrated into the community. They have shown me what it means to be empathetic and understanding. I’m able to see what it looks like to treat people as humans and to serve, respect, and represent people even though they may not have a ton of money or power.
My landlord gave me a 30-day notice, saying he was going to move in. He harassed me and made my life miserable. He left me without heating for months. He let me live with dead rodents and refused to patch a hole in the roof. I went to the Mayor’s office for help, and they referred me to an org who said they couldn’t help me. But walking down Third Street, I saw the sign for Open Door Legal and decided to come in.
One of my first cases was against a major insurance company who was accusing our clients of fraud. I’ve never seen someone treated as bad as our clients were. The way the adverse counsel acted … I thought it was reserved for documentaries from 50 years ago. This is supposed to be San Francisco in 2017!
Tasha An Employment Law Client I wouldn’t be here today without Open Door Legal. They listened, validated how I felt. They were honest with me. They helped me get therapy and put on the road to get better. Nobody else I talked to would listen to me, or even validate...
Kimberly Litigation Fellow I learned more in those three months than I did in the rest of law school combined. The hands-on experience made me realize how much I enjoyed legal aid. I wanted to keep doing it. It just felt right. I like how we do all the things. "I grew...
Philip Consumer Attorney I found Open Door Legal’s website and was stunned. When I got hired, I couldn’t believe it. It’s like my first great chance to follow my dreams. At first, it was so challenging, like being back in law school, every day a new issue to explore....
LaChelle A Housing Law Client I found Open Door Legal and we were able to get additional evidence and a new hearing. Even then, they tried to dispute. They became focused on proving me wrong, not on fixing the problem. It was insulting. You know, sometimes...
Alex A Housing Law Fellow The people [at Open Door Legal] are wonderful and committed. It feels like it’s becoming an integrated part of the community in a way that’s only been previously dreamed of. The accomplishments are remarkable. "I’ve had a lot of...
Chelena A Family Law Client It was tough always having to find childcare to go to court. All the hearings forced me to constantly change my work schedule and ask for time off: that lost me a few jobs. I tried paying for an attorney but it was pointless,...
Cynthia A Staff Paralegal One case I worked on involved an elderly woman being defrauded from her home. I knew there were bad actors in the real estate space, but I didn’t realize how sophisticated the scams were. It’s an issue that will affect the seniors...
Joe A Housing Law Client There’s no way I could have paid the new rent. It’s more than my disability check. There’s nowhere else I could have gone. I’ve lived in San Francisco since I was 3 years old. You look for places and they aren’t there no more ... I'd be...