A Life Transformed: How Live-Work Spaces are Helping Building Karina Orozco’s American Dream

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EAST LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Karina Orozco stops in mid-sentence, emotions taking her to a place she’d been trying to avoid.

“It’s hard, but I would do anything for my children,” she says through her tears. “As parents, we don’t take days off. We don’t get sick. We do what we can for our kids.”

She pauses again.

“All of this … it’s worth it.”

A single mom with four children, Karina embodies the spirit of working class Americans determined to provide their kids with opportunities they never had. One of her children is in college. Another attends a Catholic High School – at a cost to Karina of $10,000 per year. Their two younger siblings soon will follow their lead.

In order to make ends meet, Karina commutes to downtown Los Angeles five days a week, where she works as a full-time dental assistant, then returns home at night to run a health and exercise studio she owns under a model live-work program developed by National Community Renaissance (National CORE) and the East LA Community Corporation (ELACC).

The program operates at the Alta Vista apartments in East Los Angeles – a 60-unit community that includes 11 ground-floor live-work units for resident small businesses. The connection between living space and work space helps small business owners manage family and child-care responsibilities, avoid costly commercial leasing costs and set up flexible business hours. In addition, business development services through ELACC and other project partners help entrepreneurs – many with little or no experience owning a business – to navigate the complexities of licensing, insurance and taxes.

In Karina’s case, the money she makes from her Better Life Nutritional Center pays for her children’s education. Because of her tight schedule – she gets home from her day job at 7 p.m. and opens her studio at 7:30 – the adjoining living space is more than a convenience.

“I couldn’t do this any other way. Living here and working here, it’s very important,” she says. “As a single mom, this is such a blessing.”

Through her business, Karina sells nutritional supplements and conducts physical training classes five nights a week. She has a steady clientele of about 20 customers, most of them through word of mouth.

Running her own business hasn’t been easy, even with the support she receives from ELACC and National CORE. She would like more customers – and more time and money to spend on marketing. But she’s learning along the way: The new floor-to-ceiling mirrors in her studio were bought for $20 at a nearby Habitat for Humanity Restore.

Karina learned about the Alta Vista community by chance. She happened to pass by during construction in 2013 and put her name on a waiting list.

“There were 10,000 people on the list, but before long, they called me,” she says. “I’m very happy with the community. I’m very happy with the whole area.”

Steve PonTell, President and Chief Executive Officer for National CORE, says Karina’s story illustrates the American dream of working hard, providing for your family and transforming community.

“Alta Vista is a community of like-minded, hard-working people determined to build their lives and make sure that their kids have the education they need to enjoy even greater success and prosperity,” PonTell says. “We’re proud to be part of that dream though innovative communities and programs such as this. By transforming individual lives, entire communities benefit.”

About National CORE, Hope through Housing
National Community Renaissance, based in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., is one of the nation’s largest nonprofit developers of affordable housing. National CORE manages nearly 9,000 affordable, senior and market-rate units in California, Arkansas, Texas and Florida. Over its nearly two decade history, the Hope through Housing Foundation has provided more than 2 million hours of transformational social services such as financial education and asset building training, senior wellness, and preschool and afterschool programs. For more information on National CORE and Hope through Housing, please visit www.nationalcore.org.

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