Bay Area Proud

East Palo Alto Nonprofit Shifts Gears Due to Pandemic, Helps Hundreds Stay in Homes

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It didn't take long for Heather Starnes-Logwood to realize that the pandemic was going to change everything for Live In Peace, the East Palo Alto nonprofit she directs.

"It was immediate," Starnes-Logwood said.

Live In Peace was founded more than 20 years ago as a violence prevention program in East Palo Alto, back when the city was still known as the "murder capital" of the country.

The nonprofit has evolved and grown since then but never had to change as quickly as it did in the spring. Many of the organization's most popular programs — a bike workshop, a gym and family gatherings — had to shut down immediately due to county-wide COVID-19 restrictions.

At the very same time, new challenges were arising for the community Live In Peace serves.

"The county shut down March 16," Starnes-Logwood recalled. "People had already lost jobs. That day, kids were like, 'My mom's not working.'"

So, the nonprofit asked their clients how they could help.

"They said, 'What do you need? What scares you? What are you going to need most?'" Howard Kushlan, a Live In Peace volunteer, said. "The answer was resounding: rent relief."

So, never having done it before, Live In Peace began raising money to help residents of East Palo Alto pay their rents and stay in their homes.

The goal was modest at first: $100,000.

To date, Live In Peace has raised more than $2.3 million. That has been enough to pay three months of rent for more than 370 families.

The total is more than twice Live In Peace's annual budget.

The nonprofit responded in other ways as well. They have established a handful of learning pods for students who need assistance with distance learning. Some may lack internet access at home while others, like Gunn High School junior Caitlyn Mendoza, needed a distraction-free zone.

"At home we're a family of seven so it's really hard to focus at home when I have younger siblings doing their Zoom classes, too," Mendoza said.

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