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Meet Jenn Laurent

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jenn Laurent.

Hi Jenn, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I am a South LA resident and have lived here for the past 30 years. I raised my children here and am watching my grandchildren grow up here. I lived in different neighborhoods in South LA. And, no matter where I lived, a strong sense of community and belonging has always been present. Neighbors always became extended family.

In the early 1990’s I completed a degree in Paralegal Studies. I then completed additional classes at West Los Angeles to earn a Real Estate Certificate. I was already working as a real estate salesperson and mortgage loan officer, so after I graduated, I decided to get a Real Estate Broker’s license.

Today, I combine my legal knowledge and real estate experience to advocate for my community. I founded LA Legal Assistant, a nonprofit organization, committed to serving families in South LA. Beyond helping my community, I love to garden, listen to live music and spend time with my six grandchildren.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
No, it has not been a smooth road. I don’t know that any of us ever really has a smooth road. I am a firm believer that our “struggles” can be character builders. Honestly, to me, there are no struggles, only invitations to grow past challenges.

I was a young mother. I had my first child when I was 18 years old and right out of high school. Being responsible for another person before I knew how to be fully responsible for myself challenged me and forced me to mature quickly.

My daughter is one of the greatest gifts in my life and I am thankful for the lessons learned and strength gained as I navigated being a mother while still figuring out how to be an adult. I was blessed with a son a year later. Finding a way to balance children, college, and work was trying at times. Finding quality daycare within my budget was a struggle. Finding safe, affordable housing in LA, even 20 years ago, was a struggle. However, all of these “struggles” provided the foundation for the work I do today. There are thousands of young families in underserved communities that face similar struggles all these years later. My first-hand experience with these struggles fuels my passion to bring resources into the community.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I am the founder and Executive Director of LA Legal Assistant, a community-based nonprofit in South LA. I started LA Legal Assistant during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The idea came to me as I noticed many low-income families not receiving pandemic assistance. These families could not apply for pandemic relief because they did not have access to the internet. Before the pandemic started, people could access the internet and computers in public places like schools, libraries, and cyber cafes. Once mandatory COVID shutdowns happened, access was lost.

People who lost access could not apply for essential services. Stimulus payments, unemployment benefits, and rent relief applications were online. If you could not get on the internet, you were left without financial assistance to pay for food and housing. I started LA Legal Assistant by hosting pop-up events with a hotspot and iPad on the sidewalk in Leimert Park Village. As I helped people complete online applications, they began to ask for help to locate additional resources. In response, LA Legal Assistant began to research local resources and created a database to guide people. Street vendors in Leimert also began to ask for assistance with business licenses and permits, so LA Legal Assistant now provides technical assistance and business coaching.

As I began to fully understand the community’s need for resources, I reached out to other community-based organizations for collaboration and partnership. During the past two years, I am honored to have worked with groups like Inclusive Action, Project 43, CA Street Vendors, MoCaFi/Angeleno Connect, Community Power Collective, Hunger Action LA, Vermont Slauson Economic Development Corporation, and the Leimert Park Village Vendors. I am also proud to have been invited in as a referral partner for the Kaiser Permanente Unite Us social health network.

I am extremely proud to work with Black street vendors throughout the City of Los Angeles. It is an amazing feeling to know that I am helping Black entrepreneurs scale their businesses to the next level of success. Some of these same vendors have paid it forward and contributed to our community work. A group of Black street vendors which included Island Spice Tingz Jamaican Food, Kalypso Sweet Shave Ice, Juice By Chanel, My Daddy’s Recipes, and The Melanin Collection donated 100 hot meals and wellness drinks to attendees at one of our community housing resource events.

Many neighborhoods in South LA are not only underserved but are oftentimes completely overlooked when resources are made available. LA Legal Assistant strives to a source to fill the voids when our community is overlooked.

If you had to, what characteristic of yours would you give the most credit to?
The characteristic most important to my success is perseverance. My dad use to post affirmations and inspirational quotes around our home when I was a child. The one I remember most is “Quitters never win and winners never quit.” I have always tried to complete anything that I start.


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Main image (photo wearing jean jacket and turquoise dress): Jason Armond/LA Times

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