Vision Zero Displacement

Daybreak PAC teams up with Open Door Legal to prevent “Tsunami of Evictions”

June 10, 2021

With an estimated 32,000 San Francisco households behind on rent — and an unknown number behind on mortgages — due to the pandemic, legal aid organizations are bracing for a tsunami of evictions and foreclosures threatening to overwhelm the system. Experts at Open Door Legal have predicted a 400% increase in their eviction defense caseload and a doubling of their foreclosure caseload by the end of 2021.

“The good news is that there is some relief funding available, the bad news is that California has only paid out about $1M so far for a state of 40 million residents, with San Francisco residents alone having an estimated $81M to $186M in cumulative back rent,” said Adrian Tirtanadi, co-founder and Executive Director of Open Door Legal. “We need to massively scale up outreach, especially in areas like Bayview, Hunters Point, Visitacion Valley, and the Excelsior.”

Daybreak PAC, who recently conducted a successful vaccination outreach drive in the Southeast, has partnered with Open Door Legal to identify residents behind on rent and mortgage payments and support them with accessing assistance.

“Districts 10 and 11 are far and away the most diverse areas of the city, and home to more children — both total and per capita — than any other districts,” said Daybreak PAC Director and 3rd generation Southeast resident, Róisín Isner. “Mass eviction and foreclosure would effectively level our neighborhoods. Entire demographics could get swept off the map completely. The loss to our city would be incalculable.”

According to Nikki Love, Open Door Legal’s Managing Housing Attorney, “Our hardest hit communities are just trying to make it to the next day. By the time tenants contact us they are at the point of desperation. If we hope to get ahead of this impending eviction disaster, our community needs access to this money now. I’m proud that Open Door Legal is stepping up to do our part.” 

Prior to the pandemic, the Southeast neighborhoods were already experiencing mass displacement, with many multi-generational families forced to leave due to the cost of rent. The Southeast — which has long been home to a large population of low-income homeowners — also suffered a third of the city’s foreclosures following the great recession of 2008.

“There’s a very real concern that unwarranted and illegal displacement will occur if we can’t get people connected to support fast enough and we enter a mass eviction and foreclosure crisis,” said Daybreak PAC founder Jackie Fielder. “The local and state governments have been too slow to respond to an eviction cliff we’ve all seen coming for more than a year. Right now we’re quite literally taking a final stand against one of the greatest displacement events in our city’s history.”

Daybreak PAC and Open Door Legal will be hosting phone banks every Wednesday at 5pm. If you or a loved one have been unable to pay rent or mortgage because of the pandemic, visit opendoorlegal.org/covid.

Requests for comment may be directed to roisin@daybreakpac.org or jess@opendoorlegal.org

CITATIONS

1. American University, Key Studies and Data About How Legal Aid Improves Housing Outcomes https://www.american.edu/spa/jpo/toolkit/upload/housing-7-30-19.pdf

2. George Washington Law School, In Pursuit of Justice? Case Outcomes and the Delivery of Unbundled Legal Services https://scholarship.law.gwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi

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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.

Please make checks payable to Open Door Legal and mail them to:

Open Door Legal
60 Ocean Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94112

We also accept donations via:

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You can view all of the ways to give at https://opendoorlegal.org/donation-information

Please contact laurat@opendoorlegal.org if you have any questions or need any additional information.  Thank you so much for the support!