Who We Are
The Homeless Action Center (HAC) provides high-quality public benefits advocacy for free to homeless and disabled residents of Alameda County. With legal representation, people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless are able to access the maze of social safety net programs that provide a pathway to a better life.
Founded in 1990, the Homeless Action Center (HAC) provides free legal assistance with a range of public benefits programs, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Medi-Cal, CalWorks, Cal-Fresh (food stamps) General Assistance (GA) and Cash Assistance Programs for Immigrants (CAPI). HAC also provides informal advice and referrals for non-benefits related legal issues.
Why HAC Is Needed
The social safety net was established to protect the lives of vulnerable individuals experiencing poverty. To give just two examples, Medi-Cal puts medical and mental health treatment within reach. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provides modest, but stable, monthly cash support. It pays the equivalent of less than $5.65 per hour for full-time employment, which is enough to qualify for permanent supportive housing.
However, the application process for these benefits is cumbersome, complicated, bureaucratic, and even adversarial. The homeless people served by HAC are overwhelmingly poor, mentally ill, sick, and marginalized. Without HAC’s help, they could not navigate the maze of social safety net programs that provide a pathway out of homelessness.
With legal assistance, HAC’s clients begin to put their lives back together with sustainable income, healthcare, mental health treatment, housing, and restored dignity. HAC is the only program in the Bay Area that specializes in legal services to those who are chronically homeless.
HAC’s Accomplishments in 2020
Over the last five years, HAC has grown rapidly. In 2016, HAC employed 15 staff attorneys and advocates. Now, HAC employs more than 40 staff attorneys and advocates, including a housing navigator and two outreach specialists. In accordance with this growth, HAC purchased and renovated a new building in West Oakland, which opened in March 2020, just before the COVID-19 shelter-at-home orders were handed down.
With this growth, HAC has been able to serve a greater number of homeless and disabled individuals in Alameda County: In 2020, HAC served 1,780 clients in 1,830 extended services cases. 394 successful SSI cases resulted in clients gaining $9,124,400 in total awards of back-pay and $394,000 in future monthly benefits! These clients are suffering from mental illness or physical disability, and had an average monthly income of $230 before representation. Many had no income at all.
64% of HAC’s clients in 2020 identified as male, 36% as female, and less than 1% as non-binary. Ethnicity was African-American/Black (58%), White (20%), Latinx/Hispanic (10%), Asian/Pacific Islander (5%), Native American (1%), and Other (6%). 60% were in the 18-49 age group. Youth under 18 were less than 1% of clients, while elders 50 and over constituted 39%.
HAC won an SSI case for a homeless client with severe mental illness. Our attorney fought the case for three years! The client was so disillusioned at the beginning he did not even want to apply. Now he will get three years of retroactive benefits and is guaranteed health care!