What We Do
The Homeless Action Center (HAC) provides free, high-quality public benefits advocacy to unhoused and disabled residents of Alameda County.
HAC was founded in 1990 as a storefront in Berkeley with one attorney and one advocate. Today, with a diverse staff currently numbering 80+, we assist our clients in obtaining and maintaining a stable income and health care insurance so they can better focus on finding safe and affordable housing.
HAC’s attorneys and advocates specialize in helping people access Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI). While assisting with those benefits, we also help clients obtain and retain General Assistance (GA—cash aid for individuals), CalWORKs (cash aid for families with minor children), CalFresh (food stamps), and Medi-Cal.
HAC’s Approach to Benefits Advocacy
Early in HAC’s growth, the decision to concentrate on SSI advocacy was made from a primarily economic standpoint: successfully moving a client from GA to SSI results in a tripling of that client’s income. Currently, in Alameda County, that means going from $336 per month up to $1,133—not to mention automatic eligibility for Medi-Cal and Denti-Cal insurance! With this level of monthly income, our clients have the ability to consider various options for becoming stably housed in the long term.
However, because of the complex bureaucracy of the local, state, and federal benefits systems named above, it is extremely difficult for our clients to navigate these crucial safety net programs without help. Application forms are long, often written in a way that makes it difficult for most of us to understand, and frequently require documentation of medical treatment to meet a complicated definition of disability. Resolution of these cases regularly takes many months—the average case takes two years until resolution.
HAC’s advocacy strives to be culturally humble and client-centered. Staff languages include Spanish, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Korean, French, Farsi, Hindi, Punjabi, Portuguese, and Khmer. For other languages, HAC has interpreters on call. Staff are trained to be sensitive to client needs associated with homelessness, disability, limited English proficiency, and prior history of incarceration. They are equally sensitive to intersectional issues around race, class, gender, gender identity, body size, and sexual orientation.
2601 San Pablo Avenue
Oakland, CA 94612
(510) 858-7867 (fax)
3126 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94705
(510) 540-0403 (fax)
Helpline: (510) 775-0035