The Housing Crisis in Boyle Heights

Just west of the 5 freeway in the center of Boyle Heights, across the street from Evergreen Playground park, sits Our Lady of Talpa School, a K-8 school run by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. We recently visited the campus and spoke with Principal John Rojas about some of the hardships faced by the families at his school, including the effect of the housing crisis in Los Angeles.

What are the biggest issues faced by the families at your school, and how does poverty affect your students’ school performance?

The biggest issue facing families at the moment is finding affordable housing. Boyle Heights is undergoing a period of gentrification. A significant number of new residents are moving into the community and are driving out the current residents—it is the simple law of supply and demand. A number of our families have had their rent increase significantly and have been forced to move in with other families in one apartment to divide the rent. When students and their families are worried if they are going to have a place to live, it is bound to affect their performance in school. If they are living in overcrowded apartments, they do not have a quiet place to study or do their homework.

Can you share some stories of things you’ve heard from families in regards to the struggle of living in poverty in LA?

Due to the housing crisis, we had a family that was essentially homeless. They were living in a dilapidated recreational vehicle which they were renting for $600 per month. The conditions were terrible—they had no access to electricity or running water. But in their minds it was better than living in a park or underneath a freeway. This is a new phenomenon that has arisen. Some people are renting awful RVs to families who simply cannot afford the astronomical rent prices. The owners take away the battery and keys from the renters, because they want to control its location. They typically are parked in unsafe, industrial areas where residents will not complain that they are permanently parked there.

If you could snap your fingers and change something for the children at your school and their families, what would it be?

If I could snap my fingers and change something for our families, it would be increasing access to safe and affordable housing. Having a roof over our heads is one of the most basic human needs. If students don’t have that sense of safety and security, it is very difficult to ask them to make gains in the classroom.

5 Articles to Get Smart on Poverty


Poverty is complex and and the path forward may not always seem clear or direct. We hear from a lot of people that the issue is overwhelming. As a result, they disengage.

We’ve put together a list of articles to help you get smart about child poverty. The truth is it’s not that complicated, and after you learn more about it, you’ll see that real solutions are everywhere.

Happy reading!

The Way to Beat Poverty | The New York Times discusses the importance of intervening early and addressing the opportunity gap in America.

What Poverty Does to the Young Brain | The New Yorker dives into the physiological effects that poverty has on children’s brains.

Child Poverty in the United States Today | The Academic Pediatric Association provides an overview of child poverty in the United States today.

The Safety Net Is Crucial for Kids | US News & World Report outlines the importance of the safety net and how government programs like tax credits and SNAP are proven to lower childhood poverty rates.

How Poverty Can Follow Children Into Adulthood | Frontline dives into the long-term effects of poverty for children and how it leads to negative outcomes in adulthood.

Poverty as a Childhood Disease | The New York Times discusses poverty as an underlying threat to health and development.

Who’s it going to be?

A damn tough year in America

GRACE CEO Conway Collis, photo credit Phil Desmangles

After a roller-coaster ride of bad policies, the federal government capped off the year with a billionaire tax cut that says private planes are more important than kids living in poverty.

This is a shocking and terrible reality of today’s politics. But there are good reasons to be determined and hopeful about 2018.

This year, California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1520—the Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Act—which established a statewide Task Force to reduce child poverty in our state.

This is a critical first step.

In December, the Task Force met for the first time to work on a comprehensive plan. The 35 members represented important perspectives: people with direct experience living in poverty, state and local service providers, state agency leaders, and criminal justice and local government representatives.

The same fact-based, expert-led strategy that has reduced California’s greenhouse gas emissions and made our state a world leader in environmental protections is now being focused on child poverty.

So, in spite of the bad news from Washington, we have every reason to be optimistic. 2018 will be a milestone year in the fight to end child poverty in California. We will elect a new governor and 100 state legislators. Let’s make sure our incoming leaders make our most vulnerable children a priority.

Updates will be coming your way throughout the year. It is your involvement that will make the difference. Let’s get this done.

Together let’s make 2018 count!

Conway Collis

California Kids Have a Right to Health Care

Unless Congress acts now, California could lose hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). About 1.3 million kids in California rely on CHIP for everything from prescriptions to emergency services—and without federal funds, their health is at risk.

Congress let funding for CHIP expire in September, and since then, legislators haven’t made a serious effort to restore funding for the program. That’s a problem, because California estimates that its CHIP funding will run out by January.

It’s important to know that California is legally obligated to pay for CHIP when federal funding runs out, and state lawmakers have no idea where they will get that money on short notice. To put it more bluntly: There is no backup plan.

End Child Poverty in California is petitioning Congress to keep financing CHIP, and we need your signature. Over the course of 20 years, the program has decreased the rate of uninsured children in California from 13.9 percent to 4.5 percent. We can’t let that number rise again.

CHIP makes health care affordable for millions of California families:

The program also helps children grow into thriving, financially secure adults:

Without federal money for CHIP, our state could reverse the progress we’ve made for low- and middle-income children—and that’s unacceptable. Please add your signature to our petition and remind Congress that California kids deserve good health.

Giving Tuesday California Anti-poverty Give Guide

The holidays are a time of joy and gratitude, but they also come with challenges. You can make a meaningful difference for kids in California this Giving Tuesday with donations to our partners doing amazing work in local communities to help kids and families overcome adversity and thrive. Use this season to make a big difference for vulnerable Californians!

Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County: Meeting people of all backgrounds and faiths where they are with a holistic approach to care-taking is critical for our partner Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County. (And they serve over 38,000 people each year!) Your holiday season donation will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $50,000. Click here to find out more.


Catholic Charities San Francisco, Marin, San Mateo: Donate or volunteer your time this holiday season in the Bay Area! Visit the Catholic Charities San Francisco site to find out about their extensive children and youth services, their homelessness and housing programs, and how they are transforming lives for children, families, and individuals. The first $15,000 in donations on Giving Tuesday will be matched.


Children’s Defense Fund of California: The Beat the Odds Scholarship program raises money for promising teens who have overcome amazing odds. The Children’s Defense Fund of California highlights their incredible stories to inspire us to change the odds for all kids. Find out more and donate directly to the scholarship fund here.


Common Sense Kids Action: State- and national-level advocacy on behalf of kids is crucial so that all kids 0-5 have access to vital education and health resources, positive digital media experiences, and the opportunity to succeed through reducing child poverty. Common Sense’s advocacy platform is building a movement dedicated to making kids our nation’s top priority. Donate by clicking here.


LA Conservation Corps: The LA corps has an ingenious way to give–choose practical items on Amazon that will go directly to youth in their job-training program that helps transform 500 lives each year. Nothing beats poverty better than a good job. Click here to shop, and click here find out more about LA Conservation Corps.


National Foster Youth Institute: Changing outcomes for foster youth will only happen when youth voices are amplified. Started in California, the National Youth Foster Institute is committed to transforming the child welfare system into a beacon of hope. Every dollar donated on November 28 from 8 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. EST will be matched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Find out more here, and donate here.


Para los Niños / For the Children: Founded on Skid Row in 1980, Para Los Niños raises children out of poverty and supports their future through positive educational opportunities and wrap-around support in Los Angeles. All through November and December, 10% of proceeds from Lucky Brand gift card purchases go to Para los Niños. Click here to find out more.


SHIELDS for Families: Want to double your impact? SHIELDS for Families has a challenge grant from the Good Hope Medical Foundation: check it out and donate here. SHIELDS thinks outside the box to provide an innovative, integrated model of holistic services reaching 10,000 at-risk families every year… and saving LA County money along the way.


St. John’s Well Child and Family Center: St. John’s is asking us to commit to health care for all on Giving Tuesday. Read President and CEO Jim Mangia’s op-ed in the Huffington Post here. Donate to St. John’s and the work they are doing nationally and locally–serving families, children, and individuals in need by providing comprehensive health care–here.


Youth Policy Institute: Help Youth Policy Institute combat intergenerational poverty one family at a time through after-school and summer programs and high-quality early education in Los Angeles. Youth Policy Institute has served over 112,000 youth and adults at 138 program sites. Giving is as easy as sending a text.

Put poverty on your Thanksgiving Menu

Thanksgiving is here, which means it’s time for us to come together, set aside our diets, and celebrate our messy, beautiful families. Every year we talk about the things we’re thankful for, but this year let’s show our gratitude by trying to make the world—and California, in particular—a better place.

Tell us how your family does Thanksgiving, and we’ll give you a way to help the 1.9 million California kids living in poverty.

However you celebrate Thanksgiving, we wish the best for you and your loved ones.


People Are Saying Some Crazy Things…

We’ve been seeing a lot of trolls online lately. It’s no surprise.

Campaign Launch! The Head and the Heart

Let’s talk about your head and your heart.

Child poverty is upsetting. It’s frustrating. It’s also a problem we’re smart enough to solve. That’s why we’re launching our campaign to ensure that there are no excuses. Whether you are the type of person who makes decisions using your head or your heart, we have the facts that will convince you that we can end child poverty.

There are a lot of myths about poverty — that it’s a choice, for one. Not only is that false, it doesn’t make any sense. Kids have no control over their circumstances, and we have a moral imperative to reach out and do something.

If that doesn’t move you, think about it this way:

Poverty is terrible for our state’s economy. It reduces productivity and increases crime. Expanding childhood services and intervening early has a 7-to-1 return on investment. Want to go back in time and buy Apple stock? This is like that, only righteous.

Learn with your head and feel with your heart, and use the information there to get others involved.

We’re Californians. Together we have built the most progressive, powerful, forward-thinking state in the country. We’re saving the planet and inventing cars that drive themselves. We’ve got this!

Stay tuned! Our New Campaign Launch Is Around the Corner

We’re coming off an exciting win with the governor signing AB 1520, the Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Act, and now we’re taking our work to the next level.

We’re here to show California that we can end child poverty. Our new Head and Heart Campaign launches soon!

For now, take a sneak peek at these two videos from the campaign:


Help us share the new videos to let fellow Californians know we can solve our child poverty crisis.




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