Preventing an emergency from becoming a catastrophe: A partnership with The Change Reaction gives NLSLA advocates a new way to help clients
So many of NLSLA’s clients are just one financial emergency away from losing their tenuous grip on stability. An unexpected health expense, job loss, rent increase or eviction could easily derail their lives, and the consequences of that derailment are far-reaching for their families.
That’s what happened to Ms. F, a. domestic violence survivor who was supporting her four children with a flower shop she opened after escaping abuse. The pandemic shut her business down, and she was subsequently evicted. By the time she came to NLSLA for help, she was living in her car with her children, unable to cook and running out of money to pay for food.
NLSLA advocates began working to secure unemployment insurance, housing, and other critical benefits for Ms. F and her children. But how to meet the family’s most immediate needs? Because of a new partnership with The Change Reaction, NLSLA was able to offer Ms. F and her children what they needed immediately—food, shelter and car repairs—to get them through while their advocates worked to change their long-term situation.
Thanks to The Change Reaction’s emergency support, our advocates were able to secure Ms. F and her family benefits and stable housing. Her flower shop is open and she had a booming business for Mother’s Day.
“We want to take an emergency situation and prevent it from becoming catastrophic,” said Wade Trimmer, The Change Reaction’s president. “There is no long-term unless you can get through the short term.”
Close to 40% of Americans would not be able to cover a $400 emergency expense, according to a 2019 Federal Reserve survey. Trimmer Believes that number is likely higher in Los Angeles, where a staggering lack of affordable housing and growing income inequality have left low-income families perpetually on the brink of homelessness.
“So much of what we’re doing is relieving stress to free people’s minds so they can solve the problem,” Trimmer said.
For Ms. F, The Change Reaction grant, which paid for one month of hotel vouchers and food, as well as emergency car repairs, got her through a desperate situation. Now she is getting the help she needs and rebuilding her flower business. Her orders are increasing every month.
“As advocates, we are fighting for access to the housing, healthcare, benefits and justice our clients are entitled to. But we are also scrambling to take care of their most immediate needs,” said NLSLA’s Trinidad Ocampo. “Being able to pay for shelter and food, or to pay for a medical device that isn’t covered by insurance—it makes a huge difference for our clients, and also for us as advocates.”
The Change Reaction was founded in 2019 by Greg and Jodi Perlman, who wanted to use their financial resources to make a difference in their community.
“We asked ourselves: “How can we move as much money as possible at critical junctures where it’s going to make the most impact for people?” said Greg Perlman. “The money is one thing. The message we want to send to people is: You are worthy. We hear your story, and we recognize that you need more than luck. You need help.”
The organization works with more than 100 nonprofit partners who identify clients needing emergency financial intervention. The Change Reaction then matches the request with one of the handful of donor families who contribute to the effort.
“It’s a very personal gift and a very personal experience,” said Daphna Gerendash, the organization’s program manager.
The Change Reaction began working with NLSLA in 2020, and has already helped 27 clients. They include Mr. S, a single father of two boys who lost everything when a fire tore through their apartment after he had made repeated complaints to management about dangerous electricity and wiring issues in the unit. The Change Reaction paid for clothing and laptops for the kids, as well as appliances and a sofa for the family, while NLSLA worked on addressing fraudulent practices by the landlord, who forced the family into a new unit that cost more than twice as much in rent.
“Every attorney at NLSLA that we’ve worked with—they’re all in,” Trimmer said. “We have seen the team at NLSLA go the distance over and over again. It’s been an amazing partnership.”