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More than 150 Boyle Heights tenants struggling to pay rent will have a new opportunity for rental assistance from LA’s first attempt at a citizens-led budgeting program.

Two Boyle Heights-based nonprofits were awarded a total of $775,000 from L.A. REPAIR Participatory Budgeting, a pilot program of the city’s Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department (LA Civil Rights).

Proyecto Pastoral, a social justice, community-building organization based out of Dolores Mission Catholic church, will receive $261,870 intended to support 70 households. Developer East LA Community Corporation (ELACC) will support 100 households with $450,000. 

Agreements between LA REPAIR and the organizations, on how to use the award monies, will not be finalized until the end of the year. An actual disbursement of funds is expected in January. 

“There are people asking me almost every other day about the funding.” said Raquel Roman, executive director of Proyecto Pastoral. “When we get [the] funding, when we can, we will support with rental assistance.” 

While Proyecto Pastoral will direct all of its grant money to the 70 tenants/families, ELACC has said it will use part of its award money to pay for a staffer to help streamline the process and make the rental assistance more accessible to Boyle Heights residents. 

“We’re already very familiar with the process for applying for assistance,” said Elba Serrano, director of Community Wealth & Services at ELACC. “We know that it’s not easy. We wanted to make it to where our team, that already has experience, can assist people with that.”

Neither of the two nonprofits has determined which families will get the assistance or how Boyle Heights tenants in need will have to apply for the help.

L.A Repair is run by L.A. Civil Rights in partnership with the nonprofit Participatory Budgeting Project, which works with communities across the US and Canada to decide together on how to spend public money. In its first round of funding, the city allocated nearly $8.5 million through a participatory process – communities voted to choose the programs to be funded.

The city will distribute the first awards in two equal parts: the first when the agreements are finalized with the recipients and the second after a satisfactory progress report, at six months into the funding.

Boyle Heights was one of nine “repair zones” identified by L.A. Civil Rights for the pilot – neighborhoods with a high percentage of people of color who have been historically affected by racist policies from the city.

Proposals for the pilot program were submitted by community based non-profits in response to residents’ ideas and concerns. All proposals had to fall under one of the three themes: Environment and Climate, Housing and Transportation, or Health and Wellbeing. 

Voting took place in April, in person and online. For the ballot to be eligible, voters had to be 15 years old or older and live, work, study, or be the guardian of a student in the REPAIR Zone.

In Boyle Heights, a total 396 ballots were eligible. 

For Proyecto Pastoral, the award means the organization will be able to continue with its ongoing social justice work.

“We’ve been doing rent assistance for more than 10 years,” said Roman. “I know that there are a lot of barriers for people accessing funding. Our ultimate goal is to keep people housed.”

Carmen González is a radio host and reporter. She was a youth reporter for Boyle Heights Beat from 2017 to 2019 where they wrote about societal issues and hosted the Boyle Heights Beat podcast, Radio...

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