For 20 years, Francisco and Elvis lived peacefully in a Koreatown apartment off of Pico Boulevard with their two small dogs. People in the building were longtime residents; they were friendly with each other, saying hello as they passed. But in 2016, the owner sold the building to his nephew. And that’s when everything changed for this couple.
“One day, the new landlord told me he was no longer accepting our rent,” Francisco explains. “He was homophobic. He told me that he didn’t want us in the building and that we had to leave.”
A few months later, the new landlord began shouting slurs and even threw a rock at their window. When Elvis opened the door to see what was happening, he was hit in the head with another rock.
“Believe me—when you look at someone with so much hate in their face, it’s a look you’ll never forget,” Francisco said, his palms sweating as he recounted this story. “This situation is going to affect me for the rest of my life.”
Over the course of the next year, Francisco and Elvis endured daily harassment from their landlord. He would pace outside of their apartment at all hours, muttering that they were “queer” and “bad.” He continued to throw objects at their door and windows.
The couple made multiple police reports. The neighbors were witnesses, but they apologized, saying they couldn’t go on the record because they didn’t want trouble. But the landlord persisted with his hateful taunts.
“Every day, it affected my health,” Francisco said. He developed Bell’s Palsy, which his doctor attributed to stress. He was advised to move.
Reaching Out to KYCC
KYCC Economic Specialist Doris Valenzuela had long worked with Francisco, filing his taxes in the spring for the past seven years through KYCC’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program. For Francisco, this free tax service brought back considerable refunds, which he always sent to his brothers and nephews in Puebla, Mexico. He also worked with KYCC’s Low Income Taxpayer Clinic, solving some of his legal tax issues with our staff attorney.
As a behavioral health educator at El Centro del Pueblo, Francisco worked with different communities—elderly, LGBT, youth—on reducing HIV and STD risk behaviors. He was committed to nonprofits, and often volunteered with KYCC’s Environmental Services, at community cleanups, where he picked up trash and painted walls.
Doris had kept in touch with Francisco, and he told her about the homophobic abuse he was enduring from his landlord. She linked him to the Gay and Lesbian Center, the Housing Authority and the Eviction Defense Network. They worked together for almost 10 months, trying to document the case as a hate crime, which was hard to prove. The landlord had never put hands on him, there was no police report filed that qualified the incidents as hate crimes. EDN helped him take the case to court and the judge ruled in favor. He was awarded $10,000.
Francisco refused. “I didn’t take it,” he said. “I wanted the landlord to know that I wasn’t doing it for the money. I considered it dirty money.”
Francisco and Elvis searched for housing, but with rising rents in Koreatown, they were unable to come up with a security deposit or find a pet-friendly, affordable place.
Doris applied on Francisco’s behalf for the Pass It Along Fund, a California Community Foundation grant that gifts individuals in critical need, within 72 hours of the request. Given the homophobic and violent nature of their living situation, the grant was gifted immediately.
“It was very fast,” Francisco recalled with gratitude. “I want to say ‘thank you’ to KYCC. We were able to move within 30 days.”
Keeping Up with Francisco
In their new apartment near Macarthur Park, Francisco and Elvis sat on their leather couch with their chihuahuas. Paintings of Our Lady of Guadalupe and The Last Supper adorn the walls, as protectors of their new space. They are happily discussing their upcoming wedding—which they anticipate holding in their new home.
“It’ll be small,” they said. “Around 15 people…just close friends.”
Doris, of course, was one of the attendees.
“It feels great to be able to connect our clients in need to our services,” Doris says. “As a multiservice agency, KYCC has dozens of programs and community partners that we can easily approach. I’m so glad that we were able to be of service to Francisco to provide him a safe place to live.”