“After they stole my truck, I was forced to sleep in a park.”
Thanks to a weak system of enforcement, property rights for the poor are frequently ignored. We’ve seen landlords, relatives, and even the government steal or destroy everything an individual owns – and yet the victim is still unable to get help or compensation. If lawyers were available to everyone, we could ensure that all households in San Francisco – rich and poor – could enforce their property rights and have a fair chance to improve their livelihood.
Featured Story: Everett Wilson
Everett is a homeless man who lived in a van. One day, the police came and illegally towed the vehicle – they claimed he did not have vehicle registration when in fact he did. When he showed them the current DMV registration they replied that it was properly a forged document. The van was sold at public auction, his personal property was destroyed, and he was sent a bill by the towing company for $4,000.
Understanding the Issue
Virtually nobody will help an individual whose dispossessed of property worth $10,000 or less, even if it’s their entire life savings. We’ve seen landlords seize and destroy, without any notice, their tenant’s entire personal property. We’ve seen the government seize someone’s entire life savings without ever opening a criminal case.
Poor households by definition have less earning potential, which means they get much smaller damages when they are injured. For an identical injury, a middle-class person might receive several tens of thousands of dollars, while a poor person would receive a few thousand at most. The small damages available to poor people means that almost no private attorneys will help them, and almost no legal aid nonprofits will help either. This means that when poor people are injured, they have to fend for themselves.