My internship with the Los Angeles Center for Community Law and Action hasn’t been the most traditional. To start with, the two attorneys who make up the organization work out of a converted home in Boyle Heights, LA. While it might lack some of the benefits that a typical office might provide, the location enables the organization to be integrated in the community that they serve, since many of their clients live in Boyle Heights. In addition to this, the organization also holds weekly community meetings at a local church, in which they discuss current issues on housing such as rent control, ways they can advocate for these issues in their community, as well as hold a free legal clinic after the meeting. They provide legal services on housing cases completely free of charge; their only stipulation is that their clients must be actively involved with the organization, which includes attending the weekly meeting and participating in other events like protests.
Another important detail is that these meetings are held completely in Spanish, since the vast majority of Boyle Heights residents’ are Spanish speaking. Although translation is provided at the meetings, as someone who is used to speaking and hearing English for 99% of my interactions in LA, its taken some getting used to. It also has made me realize how difficult it must be for immigrants whose native language is not English, to come to the US and be suddenly surrounded by only English speakers, except that they do not have the luxury of having automatic translation.
However, what surprised me the most was how welcoming all the community members are, and how willing they are to help newer members that are going through either eviction lawsuits, severe rent increases, or so on. I am constantly humbled and inspired by this community, and it has been a valuable experience to be able to meet and interact with the people that the organization is directly helping.