That’s no understatement. Meet Jessie. Jessie first came to San Francisco for a vacation, fell in love, and never looked back. Then she found herself living in a tent, and subsequently in legal trouble that had her back and forth between homelessness and incarceration for 28 years.
When Jessie found herself back in San Francisco with no shoes, the clothes on her back, and a borrowed tent, she received a flyer from a social worker about PRC’s legal services. She was told the lawyers there might be able to help her with her legal troubles and accessing social security disability. That’s when she met Ron.
Ron Kurlaender, Jessie’s PRC lawyer and advocate, and his legal assistant at the time, Anna, welcomed Jessie with open arms. Over the course of three years and with infinite patience, they worked with Jessie to secure the necessary medical and other documents to appeal her very complicated case. And they won.
“If it weren’t for Ron and PRC, I don’t know where I’d be right now, and that’s the truth. I’d probably be back in jail or dead.” Jessie shared. “Ron single-handedly saved my life with PRC backing him. He worked so hard for me. He really did save my life. I will always remember Ron as family. He’s like the only family I have right now.”
Now Jessie is off the streets. She has a home. She has responsibilities. She pays her bills. She’s built up her credit, sharing that it was 3 when she first came to PRC but is now in the 800’s. She even recently got a dog, Ricky.
“They gave me a life, a life that I yearned for but couldn’t reach. I was used to being put down. It’s so hard on the streets. You can’t trust anyone. My depression got so bad I couldn’t leave my tent. Ron and Anna were the only people I wanted to talk to. Ron has patience I’ve never seen in anyone. He cares from his heart. I have a way of being alive now and that’s all because of Ron and PRC.”
Jessie is one of thousands of vulnerable adults who take advantage of PRC’s Legal Advocacy program to gain access to income and healthcare necessary for stable housing and improved health outcomes. This program was the forerunner for all other PRC services, formed in 1987 as AIDS Benefits Counselors in direct response to the AIDS epidemic to help those affected by HIV to navigate their way through a purposely cumbersome process to get the disability benefits they deserved. The program has grown tremendously over the years but maintains its commitment to providing legal services, using a harm reduction model, to the most vulnerable populations in the community, including homeless, non-English speaking, active drug-using, and other marginalized individuals.
Our team of attorneys and legal assistants don’t just provide legal consultation and representation. They’re often called upon to act as social workers and hunt down documents that are elusive to those in crisis and without a home. They’re caring when no one else is. And they fight. And win. In 2019/20, they secured 207 notices of award, resulting in more than $6 million in income for vulnerable San Francisco adults and their families.
You can help guide individuals like Jessie to do positive in the world. Consider making a donation to support PRC.