Several days after the coronavirus pandemic began to shut down Los Angeles, Robert Saucedo saw people lining up for food and medicine in South L.A. He paused for spiritual reflection, then started working fast.
Saucedo leads Community Build, a service organization based in Leimert Park. That put him in position to rally community partners to respond to the economic effects that L.A.’s Safer at Home isolation order would have on South L.A.’s neighborhoods. The result: the new Community Response System of South Los Angeles.
Its member organizations provide emergency operation centers, command centers and facilities for distributing food and supplies during the COVID-19. The community network also supports government agencies responding to the crisis.
“We’re striving for a culture of care,” Saucedo said. “In the past, there’s been overenforcement, a punitive approach, a lack of trust. We’ll walk alongside public safety responders and neighbors so we have cooperation rather than conflict.”
Community network offers connection, support
Saucedo, whose daughter is a USC graduate, developed a partnership with the university while operating Community Build. The organization was founded after the 1992 civil unrest to de-escalate conflict, provide community services, reduce gang activity and support youth development. Saucedo connected with the university early in the process of creating the Community Response System of South Los Angeles. USC provides funding and fresh produce that’s already being distributed to South L.A. neighbors.
“USC is glad to be part of this strong, growing community-based network during this unprecedented pandemic,” said Sam Garrison, interim senior vice president for university relations. “It’s moments like this where we all must come together to support our neighbors and each other.”
Looking beyond the COVID-19 pandemic
The Community Response System of South Los Angeles has arranged for a long-term network of resources for South L.A. neighborhoods. Many of the organizations in the network have facilities that can be used during emergencies. Saucedo’s goal was to be prepared for crises, prevent panic and reduce the fear that he’s seen in the past few weeks.
“We’ve got people talking who haven’t talked in years, and we’ve got to keep this going,” Saucedo said. “We’ve always seen USC as a solid partner when we’re looking for ways to serve our community.”