Los Angeles, CA (March 17, 2023)— As the end of the COVID-19 pandemic state of emergency in Los Angeles County approaches, and we remember back to the beginning of the global pandemic, United Way of Greater Los Angeles is excited to share a Community Conversations Report, which reflects the urgent needs of our communities that have not recovered from the pandemic and need increased and significant support to prepare for the next destabilizing event, like a massive earthquake similar to the recent one in Turkey and Syria.

The Community Conversations Report was developed through a series of surveys, one-on-one and collective conversations with community and corporate partners, leaders,  and community residents, resulting in the new organizational focus to address the specific disparities experienced by the residents of the diverse neighborhoods across the county during the pandemic. Over a hundred voices from community members in South Los Angeles, Westlake/ Pico Union and San Fernando Valley were part of  these conversations.

“The pandemic state of emergency ends, but our commitment to supporting families and individuals experiencing the daily crisis of poverty must grow, ” said Elise Buik, CEO, United Way of Greater Los Angeles.  “The experience with COVID-19 showed us that together we can help people stay in their homes and increase their stability.  Our Community Conversations Report makes clear what our most vulnerable are asking for, and shows how we can be more prepared the next time we have to face a major crisis so that we won’t ever again witness the horrific disproportionate effects the pandemic had on marginalized communities of color.”

The Community Conversations Report makes the following recommendations, and commits United Way of Greater L.A. to working on these issues as it heads into its next 100 years:

  • A Stable Home: People from every income level and sector believe the housing crisis is this region’s most pressing issue.

  • Support to Weather Crises: People do not have what they need to navigate crises, including access to the right information and resources.

  • New Tools to Build Wealth & Prosperity:  Addressing health disparities, an inability to generate wealth, a cycle of low-paying jobs, and interpersonal racism for a disproportionate number of BIPOC people by investing in partners embedded in those communities.

  • Prioritize Housing: Support new housing ownership models and structures that help residents build wealth.

“The cross section of Los Angeles County residents that came together for these conversations makes an invaluable contribution to what we’ve already learned about the needs of our region and its residents in this tumultuous time,” said report author Jeimee Estrada, co-founder of Estrada Darley Miller Group. “Their voices raise known issues: residents are rent burdened, income inequality and systemic racism uniquely disadvantage BIPOC communities’ daily lives and they stack the deck against their chances of weathering any type of crisis. What is unique about this report is uplifting the solutions that a set of diverse Angelenos from many walks of life believe need to happen to address what we know is happening.”

Partners and community members are calling on UWGLA to prioritize housing, facilitate basic resources people need in their daily lives, and collaborate with neighborhoods to attract more investments.

“During the pandemic, Inclusive Action for the City was proud to work with United Way to deliver resources to people who might have been overlooked because of the work they do or their immigration status,” said Rudy Espinoza, executive director of Inclusive Action for the City. “Now it’s time for us to build community power and community wealth to shore up our resilience for whatever comes next.”

As UWGLA closes its centennial anniversary this summer, the organization is fully engaged in policy work, and continues catalyzing coalitions, all while delivering on its intended mission to ensure every person in Los Angeles have equal access to housing, education and the opportunity to build generational wealth.

“This pandemic really demonstrated that there was already a need and it just has been exacerbated. So mental health within our LAUSD schools is a high priority as well as supporting our highest needs students for example, English learning students, and ensuring that all of the intersectional pieces that affect the student from immigration status, homelessness, among other issues, are addressed,” said Azucena Hernandez, director of community transformation for East L.A.-based nonprofit Promesa Boyle Heights, a UWGLA grantee that provided direct relief during COVID-19.

UWGLA’s plan to support grantees to build community wealth includes engaging in conversations with local organizations to set up priorities of the specific needs of the neighborhoods they serve, especially with BIPOC or women-led community organizations and individuals. It will also boost funding for organizations to take a leadership role in coalition and policy work, allowing systemic change for communities to be led by communities.

“Helping people who are in crisis, we actually see it on a weekly basis for our food distribution and every school that we attend,” said Elizabeth Padilla, COO for community organization It’s Bigger than Us, another grantee. “For us, we want to make sure that we’re providing folks with different solutions in their crisis depending on where they’re at,” Padilla said. “Helping people take care of every essential aspect in their lives is what sets them up for a successful life.”