Mission and Overview
People who are homeless are overwhelmingly poor, disabled, ill and marginalized. The Homeless Action Center (HAC) provides no-cost, barrier-free, culturally competent legal representation that makes it possible for homeless men and women to access the maze of social safety net programs that provide a pathway out of homelessness. Through HAC’s legal assistance, clients obtain health care, housing, a sustainable income and restored dignity. HAC is the only program in the Bay Area that specializes in legal assistance to those who are chronically homeless.
“CB” became unable to work after suffering a repetitive stress injury to her neck and back. Despite a long work history, as a result of losing her job, she became homeless. HAC met her through our partnership with East Oakland Community Project, an Oakland shelter. In addition to severe back, neck and shoulder problems, CB was dealing with lifelong depression that had been exacerbated by her homelessness and chronic pain. HAC fought her case for seven years. Her case was appealed multiple times, and finally allowed by the 7th judge to consider it, who told CB and her attorney that he was pleased they had continued to fight, and that “the system eventually worked.” After receiving SSI, CB was able to find low-income housing and even return to work for a few hours a week.
“SC” has had severe mental illness since he was 5 years old. He has been in and out of the criminal justice system, and homeless since age 17. His applications were repeatedly denied, but HAC continued to represent him, filing a new SSI case based on new facts, helping him get mental health treatment and taking him to appointments. After six years, his application was finally allowed and he started receiving SSI benefits. Because he now has a steady income, he has been able to stay out of jail, and can actively look for housing. He still comes by HAC to get his mail and to check in with his attorney, to whom he is quite attached.
“Jim” was in his early 50’s, a former Marine. He had lived under an overpass for three years. He had been attacked on several occasions. After three months of frequent visits by his HAC attorney who bicycled to his place of encampment, Jim finally showed up for a medical appointment. After a team effort from his HAC attorney and other care providers who collaborated with HAC, Jim now has his own apartment, health care and SSI, which provides a modest, but stable, income.