For Bamby Salcedo, founder of the Los Angeles-based TransLatin@ Coalition, her work is more than just a job – it’s personal.
She and her team work every day to serve the diverse needs of the transgender community, from healthcare and housing, to immigration services and economic support. Her organization produces educational and research projects on health issues faced by trans women, such as TransVisible, a project examining the unique needs and problems faced by trans Latina women in the United States.
“I’ve learned through my work that transgender people are very resilient,” says Bamby.
The same could certainly be said about Bamby. She immigrated to the United States from Guadalajara, Mexico as a teenager following a childhood filled with abuse, stigma and drug use. Once in the United States, she continued using drugs to cope with the trauma she experienced and engaged in the street economy to survive, eventually ending up in a state prison for men in California.
It was through this period of incarceration that Bamby began to think about her future, and who she wanted to be. As she exited the criminal justice system, she started to pursue a path toward healing, based in community support. She put herself through college, and began a career in healthcare and social justice.
For eight years she held the role of Health Education and HIV Prevention Services Coordinator at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA). But while her work there was vital, Bamby could not ignore the lack of support for trans Latina women living in the United States. On top of the challenges transgender individuals face due to stigma, she found that many trans Latina women were dealing with complex immigration issues.
In 2009, she launched the TransLatin@ Coalition, and six years later, she left CHLA to run it full time. The organization has grown immensely over the years, and now features programs such as English classes, support in navigating low-income housing, workforce training and leadership development workshops.
Bamby and her team are not slowing down. In 2019, with the support of a $100,000 grant from Gilead’s TRANScend Community Impact Fund, Bamby was able to launch an innovative, trans-specific housing program.
The Helping Our People Evolve (HOPE) House offers six months of housing for trans-identified people who have some form of income, but may not have the means to access traditional housing. Residents pay a small portion of their income as “rent” each month – which is then returned to them in full at the end of the six-month program. The program includes additional services offered by the TransLatin@ Coalition, such as case management support, career development and peer counseling.
With her background in hospital work, Bamby knows housing programs such as HOPE House are needed to make a significant difference in the health of trans communities – in particular, the disproportionate effect of HIV.
“If we are able to address the social determinants, which include housing, employment, access to education, access to healthcare, all of those things can help prevent HIV infections in our community,” she says.
And while the obstacles faced by the trans Latina community can seem daunting at times, Bamby is optimistic about the future.
“Trans people are coming into our power,” she says. “We are organizing and fighting for the health and strength of our community, and we won’t stop.”
Source: Green Justice