LOS ANGELES — Not that long ago, people were lining up around the block in Lincoln Heights to get meals from Healing Urban Barrios.
“People were calling us from all over the city asking how to enroll in our food program. We had lines around the block,” said founder Christina Navarro of her nonprofit’s pivot during pandemic lockdowns.
Navarro launched Healing Urban Barrios to provide case management services, education and job training to community members coming out of jail in prison.
Now that lockdowns are over, Navarro’s nonprofit is pivoting back to its original mission.
“Now we see a little difference, where we’re forcing our clients to go back to work,” she said.
Navarro will be watching Gov. Gavin Newsom’s State of the State speech Tuesday, looking for him to speak to Californians like her who hustle to make ends meet.
“I was born and raised right here in Lincoln Heights. My grandmother worked. My mother worked. My father worked," said Navarro. "We’re not perfect but we’ve built something and I just want to know that our governor and the officials we elect identify with us."
Latinos are a powerful force in California, making up about 30% of registered voters.
During his speech, Newsom should focus on the state’s most pressing issues, such as inflation, public safety and homelessness, said Mark Gonzalez, chair of Los Angeles County’s Democratic Party.
Gonzalez also grew up in a home where the family lived paycheck to paycheck. He’d like to see Newsom extend pandemic-era programs that help working families.
“In California, we’re kind of holding the line here, making sure the child tax credit still exists, so people can stay in their homes,” he said.
In Lincoln Heights, Healing Urban Barrios has a new program to help clients when paychecks fall short, with bill assistance in exchange for time volunteering.
“Just one time a month, like, ‘I’m just stuck with one bill.’ Let’s offer them assistance because they won’t meet poverty standards, but they still need help,” Navarro said.
Her team is moving forward with lessons they learned during the pandemic. Now, Navarro hopes her governor will do the same.