Living Paycheck-to-Paycheck is a Way of Life

E“verything is so expensive. I would love to take my kids out and do more things, but I can’t. I get my paycheck and I have to make sure I have enough for rent, gas, and food,” says Moises Orellana Patriz, a Campus Aide with the Los Angeles Unified School District. As part of his job, Moises is responsible for the safety and well-being of everyone on campus. “I do this work because I believe I have a gift for being patient with every student. I know how to talk to the kids in a way that makes them feel comfortable and good about themselves.”

Living Paycheck-to-Paycheck is a Way of Life

E“verything is so expensive. I would love to take my kids out and do more things, but I can’t. I get my paycheck and I have to make sure I have enough for rent, gas, and food,” says Moises Orellana Patriz, a Campus Aide with the Los Angeles Unified School District. As part of his job, Moises is responsible for the safety and well-being of everyone on campus. “I do this work because I believe I have a gift for being patient with every student. I know how to talk to the kids in a way that makes them feel comfortable and good about themselves.”

Moises describes his job as being the eyes of the school, inside and outside the classroom. When he clocks in at Dorsey High School, he’s in charge of scanning all the teachers, staff, students and parents that enter the school with daily passes. He works his way to the back of the campus where he walks the hallways to make sure students are in class, locks the school gates if needed, and even assists teachers if students are being difficult in the classroom. “I know I am already creating a difference at this school. The students trust me and some even look at me as a father figure,” says Moises.

Moises previously worked for an asbestos removal company that later went out of business, leaving him without a job, raising two children. “As I was collecting unemployment, I enrolled my kids at Virginia Road Elementary and started volunteering. I planted trees, cleaned around the school, and later was asked to apply for the district,” says Moises. “I remember telling the principal, I was just hoping you would finally ask me that.”

Ten years later, he loves every minute of being a Campus Aide but wishes he was not forced to make these stressful choices every month: Pay for rent or food? Utility bills or car payment?

“I get paid, and my whole check goes towards bills. My rent is $900 a month, my car payment is $310, my insurance is $130, groceries are easily $100 a week, and my gross income is about $1440 a month. I am struggling big time right now,” says Moises. He said he’s been struggling for a couple of years now, ever since he was forced to stop working his second job at Costco due to a hernia injury. He currently lives in an apartment unit that LAUSD developed to help provide affordable housing for staff. These units house low-income employees like him. “There’s no way I would be able to afford anything else,” he said.

No one should have to choose between rent or food, and although that’s Moises’ situation right now he says he will remain positive. “I love the work I do and I know parents, students, and the staff see the value in us, and I hope the district does too. But it seems like they would rather replace us with someone else than give us the higher wages we deserve. It’s sad.”

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0%
of LAUSD school workers say they often 24% or very often do not have enough to eat.*
0 in 3
LAUSD school workers say they have been homeless or at high risk of becoming homeless while working at LAUSD.*
0%
of LAUSD school workers say they have been sick and not gone to the doctor or taken medication because they could not afford it.*
0%
Increase in shelter, gasoline, food, and other items over the last 12 months – the largest increase since 1981.**
* SEIU Local 99 LAUSD Bargaining Survey 2022, February, 2022
** Consumer Price Index, May 2022