"I came here as a homeless vet and needed help with a plethora of things, like clothes and food. The most recent thing was bankruptcy. You have to get somewhere to even get to where you can claim bankruptcy.
What this place [Bayview/Hunters Point Community Legal] does is gives people with no possibility ever, in this utterly heartless criminal culture called America, who have gotten down and out and are really in the gutter, and are really poor and homeless, and don't have the courage or the enthusiasm, [it gives them] access to 'normal people resources.' Because of their poverty situation, they would not have a ghost of a chance battling the corporate structure, the people with money, [or getting] the stuff that you need to actually earn a living, or borrow something to get your clothes out of hock, or anything like that.
How we treat poverty in our culture is criminal. This [BHP Community Legal] is one of the few bright lights I've seen. The people that are served here, literally hundreds of them, would have no other way of getting justice, because they can't afford it.
Our legal system, unfortunately, is based on finance. You win or lose because you can buy or sell a good lawyer. [laughs] If you've got a good enough lawyer, I don't care what you do, you can get off. If you don't have a good lawyer, you can steal a loaf of bread and go to jail for life.
I'm a software engineer for 30 years. All I was doing was helping rich people get richer, because I worked in a bank. Half of my career was Bank of America, Wells Fargo. Worked with Apple, worked for Microsoft, and ended up living in a car.
Up until three years ago I earned six figures. Lost my house in a mortgage scam that turned out to be a worldwide scam, utterly criminal. I rented a house for a year and got that ripped out from under us because of the current gentrification of the city. Lost that, and then a couple other things happened and ended up homeless, living in my car with my daughter.
I'm a vet, so I had a way out that eventually got me shelter.
They had AA meetings here and I came to one of the AA meetings. Made friends with Trey, and to make a long story short, I ended up doing data entry, and then deciding to actually work here.
I'm back to being a normal human now, thanks to Obama. He actually did something with the VA. It was one of the scams, too!
This is one of the few places that's actually giving people the kind of help that they need. Their track record is that 90 percent of the people that come in here get some kind of resolution to their problem that they could not afford.
This place rocks. Gets the job done. There are a lot of smart people here, working because they believe in what they're doing."
"I'm a born resident of San Francisco. My mother's from 24th and Mission, my dad's from Shotwell, my grandfather's from Shotwell. Just so you know my background, my grandfather was murdered on Market and 9th. My father was murdered on Shotwell, stabbed 28 times. My mother died of AIDS.
I spent 12 years in prison, 22 years in my own addiction, so I'm very familiar with the community, and a man's heart in the state of brokenness and hopelessness, because I've felt it for many, many years.
Bayview is a place where I've come back to minister to, to go back and be a picture of hope for my brothers and sisters that are here.
I'm the director of a place called Project Bayview, where we take guys that are transitioning from prison, drugs, the hood -- difficult situations -- and really train them up and raise them up to be the leaders that God has called them to be. Teaching them what it looks like to be a father, a husband, a brother, work ethics, and all these different things.
Truthfully, in a lot of cases, these are learned behaviors. People are just not being raised in houses where people are modeling these things out. I know that sounds rough, but it is the truth.
I also have a restaurant called Huli Huli's Hawaiian Grill. Now, Huli Huli is a process of how they make chicken, they keep turning the chicken. I used Huli Huli because it's a place where people's lives are turning around, and so that's how I came up with Huli Huli.
We work hand in hand with Bayview Legal, because there's a lot of things in getting people's life on track. That's a lot of legal things that are all entangled into some of these choices, from child support to traffic tickets.
Community Legal has done a lot, even as far as getting my guys back in school, helping with their financial aid, and navigating through the process. It's kind of tricky, and you take guys who have never even barely got their GED, or their diploma, and now entering them into another season of their life. They need all the help they can get on navigating, that is a blessing.
I've worked handinhand with Bayview Legal, with my nonprofit. We are a community-based organization. I'm in the streets, knocking on doors, seeing how to meet needs. There are immediate things that are going to pop up when you're in some of these places. I can say, there's a place here dedicated to helping with these kind of legal needs: Please take advantage of them."
"I'm a housing attorney, I do a lot of eviction defense.
I really like that we offer full-scope services. We will handle someone's case from beginning to end. A lot of places don't do that, especially in the area of housing law.
We're seeing a lot of no-fault evictions. These are situations where the tenant has done nothing wrong, and they still have to move. It's terrible, but in those situations it's just a matter of getting them some more time, and maybe some more money in terms of a relocation payment.
Some people are extremely grateful for the work that we do here, and thank me profusely, which is always very nice.
But a lot of people are.... Being evicted is a traumatic event, it's a major life change, and it's hard for people. It's hard for them to have perspective and be like, 'Oh, this person actually helped me get another three months in my home, I'm thankful for that.' A lot of people, even if we get them a good outcome, just see me as another cog in the machine, another part of the system that's working so unfairly against them.
These eviction cases operate on a hyper-accelerated timeline compared to regular civil litigation. The idea is that, if you're month to month, on the first of everyone month basically a new contract is created. The law works to resolve these issues and restore the landlord and their value in the unit as quickly as possible. So the cases go super fast.
No one can afford to hire an attorney. Almost every tenant that's represented is represented by someone who works in a non-profit or through the volunteer program at the state bar.
People in our line of work deal with a lot of vicarious trauma. You're working with people who are going through really traumatic events of their own. It has a really big impact on service providers.
So right now I've been dealing with a lot of that. I'm trying to find a better way to address my own symptoms of trauma, basically.
It’s really intense. I need to figure out a better way to deal with it. Also, I graduated from law school a year and a half ago, so I've only really been practicing for a year, so I'm pretty new at this. A lot of folks that I know who have been doing this work for a long time, they get better at compartmentalizing and finding ways to relax. I'm working on it."
"We can provide people with jobs, and housing, and all kinds of social goods, but right now, one bad actor can wipe away everything, send them back into poverty or keep them in poverty, because they can't enforce their civil rights.
I was like, 'What's the point of passing new laws aimed at protecting the poor, when the poor can't even enforce the existing laws?'
So, I wrote a business plan, went to law school, worked all during law school to start the organization. I met Virginia, she agreed to co-found it with me, and we opened right after I got my bar license, in January, 2013.
We had this crazy plan to create universal access in one neighborhood and ensure that everybody was getting help on every issue, no matter how much they made. People told us we were crazy and it would never work, but thankfully they were wrong.
I don't think anyone could reasonably have anticipated our success. We tripled our revenue every year. We've closed over 450 cases. We've gotten damages in excess of $220,000. We've canceled debt in excess of $175,000. We've prevented over 40 evictions.
We've gotten 10 families housed that were being discriminated against. We've done several restraining orders, and the list goes on.
Our typical client is in her 40s, woman, black, makes below $15,000 per year, has children.
Basically, whenever you have two people, one of them has the potential of treating the other one unfairly. It could be a bureaucrat and a beneficiary, it could be a landlord and a tenant, it could be two parents.
In each of these relationships, there's laws that regulate the fairness between them.
We try to look at the system in totality. Rather than pick one or two specific forms of unfairness, we try to treat all forms of unfairness and make sure everybody is treated equally under the law."
"I love the fact that, over here, they don't discriminate. You can come here with any case and they'll take it on. Even if they can't help you, they'll refer other people.
I feel like a lot of people do get discouraged. When they want legal help, they're like, 'Oh, my God, I can't afford it. There's no way out. I don't know what to do.' They can just come in here, no matter what, and get legal aid.
As of right now, I just do a lot of research, helping attorneys do research, calling clients to follow up, reaching different outreach programs to create better relationships with them, or scheduling appointments for other attorneys to come in here to further their education.
I am here every Monday. I have another job. I work in retail, so when I'm not there and I have a day off, I'll be more than willing to come in here and do more work.
Growing up, I always had this passion for helping people out. I have family members who have had legal issues, and I see the kinds of things that they go through and how it is very expensive to seek a private attorney. Dabbling in law, being able to help people out, and give them advice and things like that has always been something I wanted to do.
Working here definitely reaffirms my passion for wanting to be in law, being able to speak to clients. This past Friday, I was actually able to go with one of the attorneys on her trial and see what that's all about. That really, really is pushing me, inspiring me to become a paralegal and work with family law."
"I live in this community, right next to Candlestick Park.
This is an intern job that I have from this program called New Doors. New Doors is a program for youth age 17 to 24.
When I first started here, it was kind of hard, because I wasn't really used to two computers. I was only used to one. At my last job, they didn't have Salesforce and all that stuff, so I was new to it. I caught up to it within a week, though.
I'm working to become a PO -- a probation officer for youth.
I like working with kids that are around like my age or younger, like in their teens. They might be hard to deal with sometimes, but at least they listen. They know what they're supposed to be doing and what not to do.
I just want to show people that not all probation officers or police officers are bad people. They always making it seem like they all bad in the news and all that stuff.
My sister told me she didn't like her PO, and I'm like, 'Well, I'm not going to be the type that you had. I'm going to be a different type. I'm not going to be the strict one.' They're supposed to give you three strikes. Probably like the second strike, I would let them know that, "If this happened a third time, then I can't go easy on you no more." I'm just trying to be a better example.
What also caught my attention was that my mom, she always needed help, so I thought maybe they can just help me understand more about housing.
They are helping me with a few things, too. They helped me get my ID, money to pay for my permit test. They're also are helping me with trying to get my name off my dad's lease and put my name on my mom's. They're also helping my mom with getting custody of my nephew.
They're not just helping other people, they're also helping the people that work here, too. That's what I like about this job."
"I never thought, 'I'll never get in trouble, or need to know any laws.' Come to find out, I do, and these guys are awesome.
I've had a landlord tenant situation going on, and it was being played off as a language barrier. My landlord doesn't mind playing dumb with me, but she's a businesswoman. If she's talking to Trey, she's a lot more aware of words that she's confused by when I say them.
There was a whole blame-game thing going on, and then these guys sent me some guidelines of tenant responsibilities and landlord responsibilities, and I sent it to her.
The blame game was backed off to, 'How can we do this together? Let's work together.'
I've had sit downs with the lawyer, and ultimately it was him having to tell me, 'This is what you need to do.' It set me on [the right path], because I was taking care of things a different way. I stopped paying rent, because I was mad. That gets me in more trouble, because then my landlord has something against me. They really guided me through the proper way.
It's been nice for me to have some backup, as to who's responsible for what, as far as this landlord tenant situation.
I'm really enjoying my community. The first three years I was here, I was terrified. Six years ago, things were a lot different.
I worked in Hollywood for 20 years, I'm a costume designer. My partner had passed, so I decided to come here. This is where we traveled, and most of our friends were here.
All my friends coaxed me into it. It only took about a year to get my shit together, and get out here, but I did, and I couldn't be happier.
I found this place, barely off 3rd. The 24 picks me up there, right on my corner, and that cuts through half of the city, and then the T is up there, so I don't have a problem being here at all.
I do get a lot of the finger, like I'm the one-percent white man changing this neighborhood. It's my fault, because they can't hang out on my street corner anymore, like they used to. Like I'm the one in charge of gentrification around here.
Back to these guys, they're friends and neighbors. They're not lawyers and pastors, people that I come here because I need something. My backyard butts up to their backyard. From my little veranda out back, I can see these guys, and I always get invited to the employee barbecue.
I was out here, smelling the barbecue, and they were like, 'Come on over.' They're my neighbors, they're family."
"Adrian and I met at USF in our Rebellious Lawyering class. It’s actually called Rebellious Lawyering, which is slightly funny to me because it's about how to be collaborative with your clients, and working collaboratively is rebellious for lawyers.
Adrian was working on this organization, and gave me his plan. I thought, 'He's never going to be able to make that actually happen, but if he does, I'll come aboard.'
After I took the bar, I went to Argentina for two months, and I came back and he had an organization created, a 501(c)(3) application in. We had a gala for our first fundraiser. He had found the office. I was pretty shocked. [laughs]
In the first year, I lived at home making basically minimum wage. The two of us sat on couches in the back of the Salvation Army office. There weren't even tables. We didn't even have anything to put our computers on. We just gave advice to random people that walked in.
As we started doing more and more case work, we took over the space, and the Salvation Army created systems. They stopped giving food and instead created programs around what our clients needed.
We are extremely thankful to The Salvation Army. Trey and Jen have also been really good support systems for us. Now their caseworkers support our clients and the people that walk in off the street. They help people get glasses, and health care, and help them with their public benefits, and financial counseling, and credit reports. That's been amazing.
In law school, I worked at almost every nonprofit downtown. My first internship was at Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, which was women related, but it was my first eye-opening to the prison system and to poverty in general.
I come from a very privileged background, I have discovered. I did not realize that growing up, but I do now. I had my own horses. I know, crazy, right?
When I was working for Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, we went and interviewed women prisoners. There was a woman who was gay, and she was black, and she was in prison for life, basically.
I told her that I understood, and she said, 'You don't understand. There's nothing about you, and your background, and where you're from, that can understand.' That was kind of a big eye opening moment for me. I will never completely understand, and I shouldn't say that to people.
But I think at least I can make a little bit of a difference with a law license, to be able to change things for people.
We've had some really good cases. We've kept people in their homes when they could have been evicted, gotten people their kids back. I get people restraining orders for domestic violence.
Also I like that we can do all these different things. I had a client who came in last week who's trying to get money from a certain type of trust account that was left to her kid. I can't get access to that account. It's really hard to do that. Then, I realized where she lives, and she lives in public housing. I'm guessing she lives in squalor, and I've gotten money back for people for living in that condition before. I can't get you money for this, but if your life is as hard as it sounds, I can maybe help in this other area.
She never thought that she could ever get any help for living in this mold and mildew, and that was everyday life for her. I was like, 'Well, maybe I can do something about that. Then, we have some social workers that can help you with some other things. Oh, you have custody issues? Maybe I can help you get some better custody stuff on this.'
People have all these issues. Because we have a holistic view and we have universal access policy, and because we do every type of law, I can think about other laws, and other areas in her life where I could help get what she needs, which is more stability and more income.
The first month or two that we were here, and I was trying to do everything to help people. The first time someone told me that you can't save everybody, I cried. [laughs]
That’s one of the other things. You try so hard to help everybody and to work with everybody. And sometimes, you learn, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink. That's hard, but I think it's OK, because we'll be there for people when they're ready.
I like that we're not typical lawyers in that way, that we do understand that there's a lot of other things going on in people's life."
"The first time we met was actually at a big Salvation Army event and he was being honored. I talked to him afterwards because he was an eloquent speaker and seemed like a really good guy. But then he totally blew me off and was just kind of a douchebag.
Then a few months later, we did outreach together for the first time. He ran the homeless outreach program. We ended up liking the same music and we were singing together in the car, so I thought, 'Okay, he’s not so bad.'
We get to the very last spot and he jumps out of the car and grabs this really gross, I mean, really gross, smelly, skinny, emaciated drug addict homeless guy and he’s just hugging on this guy and they’re hugging each other, laughing together, and crying together. I was kind of amazed and just did my own thing, and fed the people we were giving sandwiches to. Then we got back in the car and he was just wearing a t-shirt and it was kind of cold. He had this really nice flannel shirt on so I asked him, 'Where is your shirt?'and he said, 'Raymond didn’t have a jacket so I gave him mine.'
I just thought, 'This is not the guy I thought he was.' We just started hanging out after that."