JDC's Homeless Advocacy Project

The Justice & Diversity Center's (JDC) Homeless Advocacy Project (HAP) provides free legal services and supporting social services to people who are homeless or at serious risk of homelessness in San Francisco. HAP staff, together with legal and social services volunteers, help clients with a wide variety of issues, in the belief that a holistic approach to the client's situation is the most effective way to truly make a difference in a person's life.

Volunteers are needed! HAP volunteer advocates--attorneys, or other qualified professionals--are matched with clients by HAP.

To find out how YOU can get involved, please contact:


NOTE: Volunteers for HAP must be available to commit a significant amount of time to this project.

Training. The MCLE-accredited seven-hour training contains an introduction to HAP, general information on homelessness, the most common substantive legal issues and basic psycho-social issues, as well as a two-hour supervised HAP visit. The training is free in exchange for a commitment to take at least 3 HAP cases within a year of the training.

Support. HAP provides volunteers with extensive resources, including a 450-page substantive manual and a resource manual. Join the Homeless Advocacy practice area on probono.net/bayarea to gain access to the manuals online, sample pleadings, and message boards to allow you to share questions and tips with others. HAP staff and volunteer experts are also available to provide advice and assistance.

Typical Cases. Here are some examples of cases that a HAP advocate may encounter while staffing a clinic:

Mr. Lee is a 67-year-old man, born in China, who came to HAP regarding Social Security benefits and his immigration status. He came to the United States when he was 13 years old and had never left. For more than 50 years, he had provided for himself through various jobs. He had never had to provide proof of his immigration status until he tried to receive social security benefits. The client had never had an Alien Registration card nor documentation of any kind. The only facts that he could provide were his birth date and the date of entry into the United States from China. In this case, the advocate was able to locate the client's original file at the National Archives/Pacific Sierra Region in San Bruno, California. Contained in the file was a copy of his Certificate of Citizenship, which was issued in 1947. Mr. Lee was able to get his Social Security benefits. 

Ms. Smith is a 55-year-old woman who has been living in the same apartment for 15 years and her rent is still affordable. However, her landlord has refused to make repairs to the apartment and the building for many months. The elevator usually doesn't work and Ms. Smith is unable to use the stairs due to a physical disability. Also, the heat often doesn't work in her apartment. Finally, in frustration, Ms. Smith stopped paying rent because the landlord wouldn't fix anything and now the landlord has served Ms. Smith with a 3-day notice to pay rent or quit. It is crucial that Ms. Smith keep her affordable housing and a legal advocate can help by negotiating with the landlord over the rent due and the conditions, helping Ms. Smith get emergency funds to pay the rent within the notice period, and helping her file a petition with the rent board if the landlord continues to refuse to make the necessary repairs. 

Public Benefits
Mr. Jones is a 45-year-old single man who is receiving General Assistance (GA) through the County Adult Assistance Programs. On a grant of only $294, he is unable to pay rent for an entire month and so remains homeless, sleeping outside away from other people. Through the GA program, he has been assigned to do workfare twice a week but is always getting cut off of GA because he is unable to make it to his workfare assignment. He appears to be severely depressed and often forgets appointments. Mr. Jones needs an advocate to help him with the County Adult Assistance Program, so that his depression can be documented and he can be placed in the appropriate program for people with disabilities and will not be required to do workfare.

SSI Benefits
Mr. Jones from the above example also needs to apply for SSI on the basis of his depression. Mr. Jones has worked off and on for the past several years but always loses his job because there are just some days that he is unable to get to work because of his depression and he has a hard time being around other people. Mr. Jones has tried in the past to apply for SSI benefits but has always been denied and has never been able to navigate the appeal process. He has been unable to find regular medical treatment for his condition, since he does not have any medical insurance. Mr. Jones needs an advocate who can help him either get medical treatment or get an evaluation for his depression and then to advocate on his behalf with the Social Security Administration regarding his application for benefits. If Mr. Jones can get SSI benefits, his monthly income will significantly increase and he will get medical insurance.