By Ashley Orona
HUNTING PARK — As more families stay home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, three friends have begun renovating homes in low-income communities to make quarantine more bearable.
Daisy Figueroa, Francisco Millan and Joseph Rios have founded Hood Renovationz after recognizing the need for home improvements in their Southeast L.A. communities. They first saw the potential for home renovations after the overwhelming interest they received when they worked on Figueroa and her family’s home.
Since then, all three have been raising funds through Gofundme to renovate other families’ homes. They also organized a desk giveaway for 10 students engaging in distance learning this fall.
Many families in Southeast L.A., especially in immigrant communities of color, live in cramped spaces and have difficulty renovating their homes because of income and language barriers or because they are afraid to ask landlords to make repairs.
“We think that it’s so timely that we’re doing this now because this whole notion of stay[ing] home,” Figueroa said. “People don’t stop and realize that not everybody’s home is a safe haven and not everybody’s home is a comfortable place to be in.”
Hood Renovationz began when Rios and Millan helped renovate Figueroa and her family’s bedroom and kitchen. Figueroa, her two sisters and parents all grew up in a one-bedroom apartment in Huntington Park after her parents emigrated from Mexico. Figueroa recalled having to share bunk beds with her sisters until college. With the renovation, she is finally able to give her parents their own space.
“I think my parents are kind of the epitome of the American dream,” Figueroa said. “They migrated here to form a better life for my siblings and in migrating, they left a lot of things behind and you know they sacrificed a lot for us to be here and within that sacrifice came the sacrifice of space.”
Forty-six percent of residents in Southeast Los Angeles are renters and 47% of respondents living in households of three adults or more, according to a survey by SELA Collaborative. More people to a home means limited peace and privacy for all of them, making distance learning and working from home that much more difficult.
“We found how great the need is for this type of work,” Rios said. “One, having housing is a huge issue and also having adequate housing, livable housing.”
The group learned that many renters are often scared or intimidated to request that their landlord make renovations to their homes out of fear that they will raise the rent or evict them. Many of these renters are also undocumented and fear retaliation for speaking up about repairs.
The group has already done a complete renovation on a community member’s kitchen and has given away the 10 desks to local students. They have received a lot of support on Instagram from people who say the home makeover stories resonate with them. Some have even taken it upon themselves to learn how to make renovations in their own homes.
“The overwhelming response just from the people who won the desks was just super grateful,” Millan said. “And then the response from everyone tuning in on Instagram and following along [felt] super supportive — I feel like [we’re part of a] really big community right now.”