This year, Milbank will be bringing holiday cheer to three families who are working with Inner City Law Center. As in years past, the generosity of the people who work at Milbank will make an enormous difference to local Angelenos who are struggling to get by and to provide a festive holiday for their families.
Ms. Caruso (not her real name) is a single mother who suffers from a muscle degenerative disease for which there is no cure. Ms. Caruso has lost a significant amount of weight in the last few years. She is wheelchair bound and very weak due to her lack of muscle. Until recently, Ms. Caruso was homeless with her teenage daughter in South LA. Her daughter helped her mother go to the bathroom and care for herself.
Ms. Caruso came to Inner City Law Center seeking help enrolling her daughter into school, applying for disability benefits, and obtaining housing. With the assistance of our partners, Inner City Law Center found a hotel for Ms. Caruso and her daughter. They have since moved into interim housing. We helped her daughter to enroll in school and to access LAUSD homeless student services. ICLC staff even donated school supplies and new clothing for her daughter's first day at school!
With the assistance of our community partners, Ms. Caruso was able to receive an access pass, so that she has easy transportation to doctor’s appointments. She was recently approved for funding from a LA County program that helps pay for housing for individuals with disabilities. We are now working to find her an apartment, and also to help her apply for social security disability benefits.
Milbank's support this holiday season will allow Ms. Caruso to provide her daughter with a laptop for school and to purchase household items for their new apartment.
Ms. Fuentes (not her real name) is a 50-year-old single mom of two kids, ages 10 and 14. After receiving an eviction notice to vacate the apartment where they had lived for eight years, Ms. Fuentes and her family struggled to find an affordable apartment where she could use her Section 8 voucher.
Inner City Law Center got to know Ms. Fuentes and her family when we represented them in their eviction action. Since her apartment was not rent-controlled, we were not able to keep them in their home. However, we did negotiate 138 days to move-out, a waiver of all back rent and rent due until the move out date, and the sealing of the court record. Ms. Fuentes, her son and daughter are currently using a Section 8 voucher to help pay for another apartment in North Hills.
Recently, Ms. Fuentes lost her job as a prep cook for Bottega Louie in downtown Los Angeles. She is struggling to make ends meet by recycling and selling food as she does not receive any child support from her children’s father. With the holidays approaching, Ms. Fuentes is concerned about paying her rent.
Milbank's support this holiday season will allow Ms. Fuentes to pay the rent, payoff overdue utility bills, cook dinner on Christmas Eve for her two kids, and purchase shoes and sweaters for her children to stay warm during the winter.
Ms. Culver (not her real name) is a quiet and reserved 30-year-old woman who suffered from a traumatic brain injury as a young child. Ms. Culver lives with her mother, her two younger sisters, and her five-year-old nephew, who has autism. Her mother does not earn an income, as she is the primary caretaker for Ms. Culver and her nephew. Her two younger sisters are still in school.
Ms. Culver's older sister does not live with them, but has financially supported the family throughout the years. Until Inner City Law Center got involved, she paid for most of the family's rent and expenses. The only exception was the $195 in food stamps that Ms. Culver received monthly. Because Ms. Culver is a legal permanent resident, she is not eligible for social security disability benefits.
Inner City Law Center helped Ms. Culver to apply for the State of California's Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI), which provides monthly cash benefits to disabled non-citizens who are ineligible for social security solely due to their immigration status. Her application was successful and Ms. Culver now receives $900 a month in support.
This family will continue to struggle, as a $900 monthly income for a family of five does not go far in Los Angeles. But their hope of something better ahead and their gratitude for what they already have, including the support of others and each other, keep them going.
Milbank's support this holiday season will allow the family to purchase gifts for one another. It will also pay for some long-postponed dental work for Ms. Culver. And it will allow the family to take a day trip to Big Bear to see snow for the first time.