NLSLA President & CEO Yvonne Mariajimenez and housing advocate Trini Ocampo joined actor and activist Wilmer Valderrama on his “Essential Voices” podcast to discuss the pandemic’s impact on Los Angeles’ housing crisis.
Trini kicked off the podcast, giving listeners a vivid picture of what vulnerable tenants have faced in the last year and a half, as landlords tried to remove them despite a moratorium on evictions.
“There was one landlord who removed the front door from the home of a single mother with young children,” she said. “We saw another property owner shut off the water and power for a month.” A nearly-blind elderly man was locked out of his home. A teacher conducting her class on Zoom was interrupted by sheriff’s deputies after a landlord claimed she was threatening him with a gun.
Yvonne joined the conversation, along with Los Angeles City Councilmember Nithya Raman, to talk about how we got here.
“The pandemic shined a very strong light on disparities we all know have existed for a long time—lack of access to healthcare, lack of access to affordable and decent housing,” she said. “For people who were living on the margins, the pandemic exacerbated their hardships. For some, it pushed them into crisis.”
When Valderrama asked why Yvonne does this kind of work, she talked about her own childhood in East Los Angeles. “I grew up in the neighborhoods we represent in our organization—I grew up in poverty,” she said. “My mother was a single mom. She didn’t speak the language, and she suffered from severe mental health issues. From a very early age I became her translator and her advocate.”
Yvonne said her work is her passion. “I’m a tenacious advocate for individuals and families who are at risk of losing their housing and who don’t have access to jobs, who don’t have access to healthcare,” she said. “Because I experienced that in my own family.”