Laura Flores became a caregiver when she least expected it. Her love, dedication, and attention changed the life of a young man when he needed help the most—and caring for him changed her life, too.
Laura’s journey began in the fall of 2022, when she met Leobardo Juarez, a young houseless man near her home in Kern County. She learned that Leobardo had lost his sight, and with it his stability and his home. He was all alone and needed help, and without hesitation Laura extended a helping hand.
Laura and her family embraced Leobardo in their home, giving him a safe haven to rest and making sure his basic needs were met. Laura helped him get the medication, basic services, and care that he needed. She took him to his medical appointments, which is where she discovered the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program.
In less than five months, Laura’s unwavering dedication guided Leobardo through two life-changing eye surgeries, restoring hope and vision to his world. From strangers to family, their bond grew stronger. Leobardo had a place to call home and a family to lean on.
Tragically, Leobardo died suddenly just a few months after regaining his sight. It was devastating, and Laura was left to decide where Leobardo’s final resting place would be. Laura had never met Leobardo’s family, but she did everything she could and after a few short days she found out that they lived in Guerrero, Mexico. She knew Leobardo was meant to make his way home to rest in peace, a difficult and costly endeavor.
Laura and her family jumped into action. They sold homemade tamales, collected donations, jumped through hoops and red tape, and after raising thousands of dollars, were finally able to reunite Leobardo with his family in his hometown so that he could be laid to rest.
Helping Leobardo was Laura’s first experience as a care provider and today her heart remains devoted to caring for others. Through the IHSS program, she cares for her own aging parents as well as a blind woman in her neighborhood. Beyond providing essential services, Laura goes the extra mile, lending a helping hand with schoolwork to her client’s son and offering her heart to those she cares for.
Although Laura’s story may seem rare—who among us can say that we have opened our homes to complete strangers like she did?—it echoes the compassion and dedication to care shared by countless home care workers across California.
And though this work feels like a calling to so many of us, we should not have to face the challenges of caregiving alone, much less systemic challenges like the homelessness and housing crisis in our state. In order to address these issues we must stand united to bring about change and fight for our rights and the policies and legislation needed to effect real change in our communities. Together, we can be the champions of compassion and justice in our communities and beyond.
About California’s homelessness crisis
- California has the largest homeless population in the nation. (1)
- As of 2022, 30% of all people in the United States experiencing homelessness resided in California, including half of all unsheltered people (115,491 in California; 233,832 in the US).(2)
- Local governments have issued permits to build less than one-fifth of the housing low-income Californians need. (1)
Why homelessness in California persists
- State leaders have not coordinated resources and strategies across the many different agencies fighting homelessness and the lack of affordable housing. (1)
- The State has not required local entities to reduce barriers to affordable housing and follow best practices to end homelessness. (1)
- The State has not tracked funding and outcomes for homeless and housing programs so that it can target billions of dollars annually to programs that best meet the greatest needs. (2)
Some solutions to this crisis
- Coordinate agencies’ efforts by regularly updating state homeless and housing plans (across the state, rather than by county). (1)
- Strengthen state requirements for and oversight of local entities’ homeless and housing efforts. (1)
- Create housing models that take into consideration the challenges and input of those who are experiencing homelessness. (1)
(1) California State Auditor: https://www.auditor.ca.gov/issues/briefs/housing-and-homelessness
(2) Public Policy Institute of California: https://www.ppic.org/blog/homeless-populations-are-rising-around-california/