Gaby Gonzalez and Veona Rogers chat at the patio table like old friends. They might have gone to high school together or had their children play on the same football team. But the truth is, they only met a few months ago.
What started out with Veona’s distressed phone call about her sons’ struggles with asthma spun into a multidimensional, colorful and trusting friendship with Gaby, a community health promotora from Esperanza Community Housing.
When Gaby was first invited to Veona’s home to see what could be done to alleviate both of her sons’ constant asthma flare ups, Gaby did a health and housing survey, searching the home for mold and cockroach droppings. Promotoras rely on their trusting relationships and trained eye to find the triggers that are causing the asthma attacks.
Gaby knows all too well that children from families with limited economic resources suffer disproportionately from asthma. This is a point that Dr. David Bolour, a pediatrician from St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, echoed; “Asthma is an acute problem in low-income communities. It’s heightened by poor housing conditions that landlords don’t have a big incentive to fix because their residents don’t always know how to assert their rights.”
But there is only so much Dr. Bolour can do if housing conditions are triggering his patients’ asthma symptoms. Lasting change requires a systemic approach, which is why Dr. Bolour values his partnership with Esperanza Community Housing.
Esperanza works with families to teach them how to advocate for their rights as tenants. It can be a challenge to deal with landlords who might address a challenge like mold by simply painting over it instead of addressing the leaky pipe.
Gaby graduated in 1999 from the Community Health Promoters Training Program at Esperanza, where she was taught about the inextricable connection between housing and health.
When the landlords don’t address the root of the problem, Esperanza will partner with tenant advocacy groups like Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE) to teach clients about their rights.
The benefits of civic leadership development extend outside the home. As community members learn more about advocating for their families’ health, they develop their voice to advocate for their neighbors. It’s a chain reaction of positive energy.
It’s this positive community energy that CCF is so proud to be a part of through our partnership with Esperanza Community Housing. Our funding helps give families the education and tools they need through community health promotoras. Pair those resources with a clear understanding of a person’s right to breathe healthy, and the positive and lasting change within a home and a community become evident.
“Without the resources I got from Gaby, my kids wouldn’t be sitting here this comfortable in this heat,” Veona said. “My boys play football Monday through Friday, and they haven’t had breathing issues, because when they come home, their air is controlled. Everything is controlled. Life is better.”
Like turning a kaleidoscope, one shift creates a whole new perspective. For Veona, making a change to the conditions of her home created a new vision — one where her boys can play and study and enjoy life in their home without the paralyzing fear of an asthma attack.
Seeing Veona and her children playing, happy and healthy in their home, reminds Gaby that her work is about something bigger. “I not only invest in the information that I give the families, but I also invest with my heart. Working in my community is a privilege, and it’s my passion to work with my neighbors in South L.A.”
To learn more, visit calfund.org/health
Audrey Backus Charitable Trust
Audrey Royall Backus was a long-time Bel Air resident who was passionate about ensuring health care was available to those who needed it most. The CCF Field of Interest Fund she established through her estate has provided more than $20 million to support L.A. nonprofits providing health services to those who were elderly, ill, incapacitated or unable to care for themselves.