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China Oseguera [left], and Jazmin Anderson, created the nonprofit organization known as the Helpful Homegirls. China and Jazmin organize several food drives throughout the year to help feed the homeless in their community. Photo credit: Rosemary Montalvo

The Helpful Homegirls

June 8, 2020

On the corner of 6th street and San Pedro in Downtown Los Angeles, a long table is set up in front of a white minivan that has bowls of soup and bags containing chips and burritos.

Two women wearing black long sleeve shirts with big pink glitter letters spelling “Helpful Homegirls” printed in the front are ready to hand out food to the public.

Tarps are lined up throughout the street, some blue, others grey. Homeless people lay in small spaced abandoned doorways wrapped in blankets. Trash is stacked on the sidewalk and graffiti drawings cover the walls of most buildings. Clothes hang on handmade drying racks, while others have their personal belongings in grocery store carts.

A community known for its rising population of homeless people and low-income families walk from all sides of the street toward the direction of the food.

“Is this free food?” a man asks, with baggy, ripped clothes.

The women nod, smile widely, and politely say “Yes, it’s free. Here you go.”

As the man grabs his food, he thanks them three times and leaves smiling.

These are The Helpful Homegirls.

Individually they were known as China Oseguera, 20, public health major at El Camino College and Jazmin Anderson, 21, biotechnology major at California State University of Northridge. But together they were known as The Helpful Homegirls, a nonprofit organization built to serve minority communities in Los Angeles as well as helping the rising homeless population.

In December of 2019, their last public event was held in Downtown L.A. where they fed over 300 homeless people and families with the help of Chipotle and Ultragalatik Catering, making it their biggest event yet.

They never imagined that to be their last event.

However, with no clear date on when COVID-19 will clear up, both China and Jazmin are doing their best to take care of the rising homeless population as well as those trying to make a living in low-income, minority communities.

Due to COVID-19, their events for the year are postponed yet they are still trying to help in any way they can.

“These are tough times for everyone, so we’ve been doing the best we can to still help out, even if it’s a small gesture, you know,” Jazmin says.

With China expecting her first child in September, she has been limited to going outside, but she still tries to share as much information about COVID-19 on her social media.

Jazmin Anderson and China Oseguera discuss the route they will take to distribute care packages for the homeless of Downtown Los Angeles during their second annual sockdrive, Saturday, Dec 21.
Jazmin Anderson and China Oseguera discuss the route they will take to distribute care packages for the homeless of Downtown Los Angeles during their second annual sockdrive, Saturday, Dec 21. Photo credit: Rosemary Montalvo

Jazmin, however, has offered to help in any way she can. She offers free tutoring to students and spreads awareness about the virus to her community.

“I know many students may be struggling with transitioning to online, so I either travel to them or do video calls,” Jazmin says.

Working in the Department of Public Health has helped Jazmin learn about of free and affordable aid. Whether it’s leading people to other resources or helping them fill out forms, they try to be available as much as possible during difficult times like these.

“We are not asking for donations at the moment, because we know it’s a difficult time financially, so we are thinking of ways to hand out food,” China says. “We are still trying to see and plan with caution because we know things are changing quickly and we have to be up to date on all the laws and restrictions.”

Before COVID-19 hit, the original plan for The Helpful Homegirls was to bring awareness of the rising homeless issue to schools. They not only wanted to focus on the issue but also help low-income families and those who are undocumented within their community. Over time their ideas became bigger and one thing led to another, so they decided to reach a wider audience through their Instagram account called TheHelpfulHomegirls.

With 197 Instagram followers, they have received funding and donations from friends, family, and businesses to buy resources for those in need.

“We try to find as much help and funding as possible, so Chiptole has been one of our biggest donors,” Jazmin says. “It’s a great feeling knowing that you are helping out within your community, even if it’s something small or big and we are grateful for any donation we get.”

All the funding they receive goes towards buying clothes, socks, shirts, towels, blankets, etc. They pass them out throughout Downtown L.A. but they currently can’t because of COVID-19.

“We save most funding for future events, like our Annual Sock Drive, where we pass out socks and food,” China says. “But we also spend that on stuff we could hand out to people for free like small care packages.”

Their overall goal for their organization? To help those who need it; specifically minority groups and homeless people in the city of Los Angeles.

“We wanted to make our organization feel more personal, so people can feel comfortable and come to us with anything,” China says. “We were born in this community, raised in this community so it is not easy going in and out, and like a homegirl is someone you rely on.”

A minority community, known for drugs, gangs, crime, and cops.

The idea that some people living there were drug dealers or gang members overlooked the small businesses and working-class trying to make a living in Los Angeles.

Children play outside, elderly people walk together, hand in hand, as they smile at the children playing. A woman is seen walking down San Pedro Street and 97th greeting the neighbors with her grocery store cart filled with tamales.

No cops, no crime, no drugs.

Though from time to time it wasn’t unusual to see flashing red and blue lights swirling around the neighborhoods, there was a sense of peace that roamed the streets of Los Angeles. Throughout the day people walked in a hurry to catch the bus or cross the street before the light turned red. Headphones on, backpacks on, people waited on the sidewalk for the bus.

This was the community China and Jazmin grew up in. Though they moved throughout these areas, their single mothers tried to find better opportunities for them.

Friends and volunteers of the Helpful Homegirls distribute plates of food and beverages to the homeless in Downtown L.A. on Saturday, Dec. 21.
Friends and volunteers of the Helpful Homegirls distribute plates of food and beverages to the homeless in Downtown L.A. on Saturday, Dec. 21. Photo credit: Rosemary Montalvo

Growing up in minority families also set them to become mentors and leaders for their organization, especially when some of their own family, like China’s brother, struggle with being homeless. With hopes of one day reuniting, China wishes her brother would show up to a Helpful Homegirls event.

Though they only shared the same dad, she says she was very close to her brother growing up, however, she lost communication with him due to drugs.

“I can say a moment I’ve repeatedly thought about is my brother, because right now somewhere out there he is doing drugs,” China says. “He’s homeless and we don’t know where he is.”

Losing her brother helped her realize that being homeless could happen to anyone, regardless of their lifestyle.

“We don’t know what type of life they live or have lived, and a lot of people get into an unfortunate situation or are born in unfortunate situations, so it’s sad,” China says.

China was born and raised in Paramount but moved around a lot throughout her childhood. She now resides in South Central Los Angeles. Her wide smile presents her outgoing personality as her laugh makes others around her laugh.

Her wavy hair is noticed because of her hot pink tips and is emphasized in a half-up, half-down hairdo. Around her neck is a gold necklace with her name, China, on it. She wears that necklace every day.

China was raised in a Honduran and Black family by a single mother, but never lost contact with her father as he always lived nearby.

Though her dad was still around during her childhood, it wasn’t long until he got deported back to Honduras. She then realized the real struggles minority people lived through, especially those living in immigrant families.

“In comparison to some of my peers, like I can’t even imagine what some of them were going through and still having to come to school,” China says. “I guess that’s what kind of shaped me but ever since I was young, probably like around eight or nine I always knew I wanted to help people from minority families.”

Her motivation in creating The Helpful Homegirls not only came from her dad, but it was also for her brother, knowing that he was out there in need of help.

A friend, sister, and business partner.

Jazmin grew up in Los Angeles and still resides there. Slightly taller than China, at 5’7, her hair is long and straight to where it meets her waist. Her personality is subtle, calm, and professional.

She grew up in a single-mother household in Los Angeles. Having little to no communication with her dad, she was raised by a household of women which included her aunt, sister, and mom.

“Growing up I’ve seen my mom struggle,” Jazmin says. “I’ve seen how my family is always there trying to help each other and support each other in any way they can.”

Witnessing this helped Jazmin serve around her community.

“I have always found ways to be helpful, but during high school is when I found my passion for helping, like babysitting,” Jazmin says. “I enjoy doing things for others because I’ve experienced it first hand where I would see my mom not having enough money for some things, but somehow she made it work.”

China leads the group of volunteers–each carrying care packages for the homeless–down a street in Downtown L.A., Sat. Dec. 21.
China leads the group of volunteers–each carrying care packages for the homeless–down a street in Downtown L.A., Sat. Dec. 21. Photo credit: Rosemary Montalvo

Both China and Jazmin are proud of being raised in “the hood.” Their struggles and personal challenges, before they met, led them to create The Helpful Homegirls.

They met in August of 2014, where they both attended the same school, King Drew Magnet High School, and decided to join their leadership program.

Most of their time was spent planning for school events and ways to help their community. Then they realized they wanted to do more than help in their school. They wanted to help within their community.

This was the beginning of a friendship.

“My high school shaped our vision for The Helpful Homegirls,” China says. “At King-Drew, they gave us great opportunities to go out and see other communities, and I would realize like now I see why people say minorities are held back.”

High school friend Jai’Myah Henderson, 20, philosophy major, met China and Jazmin during their high school leadership program. Seven years later, Jai’Myah has seen the growth in both of them through The Helpful Homegirls.

“They have become strong leaders and I see them really tapping into their passion for helping people,” Jai’Myah says in a phone interview. “The effort that they put into their projects just shows their commitment to the community and their gift of encouraging people to join them in making a difference.”

A year after graduating high school on October 22, 2018, Jazmin and China became business partners as they set out to create The Helpful Homegirls. With six years of friendship, they have successfully been running the organization for two years now. The effort both Jazmin and

China put into their projects can be “overwhelming, but fun” China says. Communication is key.

“We always try and communicate when sharing ideas,” Jazmin says. “We both can be creative so we like to get all ideas out there to see what to work with and what ideas we can save for later.”

Valencia Ross, 42, is an eligibility worker in Los Angeles. As China’s mother, she has seen first-hand the challenges that both Jazmin and China have faced in the last two years to create their organization. She has also seen the friendship and partnership that has been created through the organization.

“I’ve known Jazmin for about six years, but I always say she is like my daughter that I’ve adopted,” Valencia says during a phone interview. “I was excited for them when I found out about The Helpful Homegirls because they are young and doing something positive for the community.”

Though Valencia has not been able to attend one of their events, she does donate and supports with what she can whether it’s socks, clothes, or food.

She knows and trusts Jazmin and China are doing their best work.

“China has always been very mature for her age and she always took that initiative to go that extra mile for people,” Valencia says. “She’s always been outspoken ever since age two and an all-around go-getter; and Jazmin is a motivator, ambitious, and very helpful. I’ve seen her growth and excels at whatever she’s doing.”

Throughout today’s COVID-19 pandemic, Jazmin and China continue to strive to help homeless and minority groups.

“It’s truly devastating seeing people struggle during these times,” China says. “I am so ready to go back out there and help because life feels more fulfilling and this has given me more confidence in my community.”

It has made them realize their true path in life is to help others, Jazmin says.

“I love being a Helpful Homegirl because everything we do and stand for is done from the heart and in the best interest of supporting our community in any way that we can,” Jazmin says.