Open Door Legal

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The city of San Francisco has taken a pledge to use funds reallocated from the police budget to support the city’s Black community. We at Open Door Legal are proposing that those funds go toward an expansion of civil legal services in Bayview/Hunters Point, so that the neighborhood’s most vulnerable residents can protect their rights and build wealth.

Bayview/Hunters Point is such an important part of our city’s history. Post-WWII, San Francisco saw an influx of Black residents to the South-Eastern part of the city due to a combination of available jobs and housing discrimination elsewhere. Its residents fed San Francisco, fueled San Francisco, and built San Francisco. Yet historically, the Bayview area has been underfunded.

When we were deciding where to open our first office back in 2013, we compared the highest-need areas of the city with a map of where service providers were located. At the time, there was not a single legal aid office in Bayview/Hunters Point, despite it clearly having a high concentration of need.

Within our first month of opening, we were overwhelmed with clients who had strong cases but had been turned away everywhere else.

One of these clients was a Bayview native named Michelle. Michelle’s property manager completely neglected her unit. The neglect was so severe that Michelle had sewage bubbling up from the drain in her bathtub and in her toilet. She went to multiple organizations for help and was turned away every time.

Michelle came to Open Door Legal. We took her case and got her property manager to fix the problems with her unit. Now, Michelle feels safe in her home and can focus on spending time with her grandchildren.

Michelle, a former ODL client and a member of our board of directors.

Since then, we have won over $5 million in awards for our clients, kept over 700 families safe and housed, and helped 71 seniors pass their homes onto their children.

Yet despite these successful outcomes, there are still many Bayview area residents who need legal help but are not able to easily access our services. Potential clients who are elderly, have mental health challenges, or are homeless may have more difficulty learning about our work. Even after they’ve found us, these clients may have additional barriers that may get in the way of solving their legal problem without additional support.

Closing these access gaps is especially crucial for Black Bayview residents. Studies show that Black Americans are more likely to be evicted, receive predatory loans, and be in poverty than white Americans. These systemic problems have led to more than half of San Francisco’s Black community being displaced from the city.

We believe that with some key increases in staff, we can grow our client base in Bayview by 25% and reduce displacement in the Black community.

In order to achieve these outcomes, we would like to hire the following new staff:

  • A community outreach worker, who will help us find new clients and will ensure that our services are meeting the most current needs of the Bayview community

We are also eager to learn more from our clients and partners about the biggest needs and are open to adjusting these based on feedback from our community.

So many Bayview families have been forced out of San Francisco because of illegal rent increases, landlord harassment, fraud schemes targeting Black and minority homeowners, and more. We believe that with more investment into District 10, we can help many more families not only stay in San Francisco, but thrive here.

In the words of the author and activist James Baldwin, Bayview is “the San Francisco America pretends does not exist.” In 2020, recognition is long overdue. To the city of San Francisco, we are calling on you to #GiveBackToBayview.

Want to get involved? Here’s how:

@LondonBreed Universal legal services are one of the most effective ways to reduce displacement and build Black wealth. That’s why I am calling on you to fund @OpenDoorLegal’s expansion within D10. We can’t leave Bayview behind anymore #GiveBackToBayview https://bit.ly/39nZIfB

We are a San Francisco-based non-profit pioneering the country’s first system of universal access to legal help. Learn more about our work at opendoorlegal.org