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Bar Association of San Francisco Member Benefits: Publications

Homeless Advocacy Project Teams Up with Adult Protective Services to Keep 82-Year Old Client Off the Streets


By Teresa Friend, Managing Attorney, Homeless Advocacy Project, VLSP


Eighty-two year old Ms. B* was brought to VLSP’s Homeless Advocacy Project (HAP) by Adult Protective Services (APS.) She had been scheduled for eviction the previous week, but the sheriff deputies had been so concerned about her that they put off the eviction and called APS. Katie Danielson, HAP’s Senior Supervising Attorney who did the intake interview was able to determine that Ms. B’s house had been foreclosed on and sold on the courthouse steps. She determined further that the new owners had filed an eviction action against Ms. B, and that her default had been taken when she did not file a response. It was also clear that Ms. B suffered from dementia and did not understand what was happening to her.

Danielson needed to file a motion to vacate the default judgment, but first she needed more information. She and the APS worker went to the client’s house to look for documents that would shed light on the situation. While initially hesitant to let them in, the attorney persuaded Ms. B that it was important, and the attorney was able to gather bank statements, foreclosure documents, and unpaid bills.

The APS worker set in motion the process of getting a conservator appointed for Ms. B. Meanwhile, Danielson found evidence that the client might actually have substantial resources, as well as an ongoing pension. (Ms. B had once worked for the City and County of San Francisco.) She also determined that the house had sold for substantially less than its current market value, but substantially more than the client had owed on the mortgage.

Danielson persuaded the landlord’s attorney to voluntarily set aside the default judgment, and represented Ms. B in the eviction proceedings, while continuing to work with the APS worker, and eventually with the court-appointed Conservator.

On the day of trial, the case was settled. Ms. B was allowed to buy back her house. The plaintiff in the case (an investment group that had bought the house and was evicting Ms. B) still made a significant profit on their investment, but Ms. B will be able to stay in her home. The APS worker felt strongly that Ms. B was healthy and spry despite her dementia, and that staying in her home was in her best interest.

When Ms. B was brought to the HAP office, she was on the brink of becoming an elderly homeless woman. In the end, the conservator found that Ms. B had very substantial assets. Yet without the intervention of HAP and APS, it is quite likely that Ms. B would have ended up homeless and her life savings would eventually have escheated to the state.

If you are interested in volunteering with VLSP’s Homeless Advocacy Project, email for more information.

* Client’s name has been changed.

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