Alvaro De La Rocha turns to the Latino Economic Development Center for assistance with HOA fees after being turned away by several other organizations. Frustrated by the lack of understanding, Alvaro finds hope in LEDC's willingness to listen and help him get set on the road to recovery.
Alvaro De La Rocha first came to the Latino Economic Development Center's (LEDC) Washington D.C. office in September 2022, seeking help with his Homeowner's Assistance (HAF) Fund application to help pay over $25,000 in Homeowners Association (HOA) fee arrears.
Alvaro's situation had reached the point where he felt helpless. He had gone to several organizations, and not one could help him and connect with his misfortune over the last few years. "It was shocking that after going to six different agencies, it was always the same; nobody sat down to really listen to my situation," Alvaro said.
At LEDC, he felt a real connection— a place he mentioned was "filled with pure human value and empathy."
Born in Nicaragua, Alvaro moved to the United States when he was young. He lived in San Francisco and Miami before settling in Washington, D.C. over 40 years ago. Art has always been his passion; he has held an art gallery in D.C. for over eight years. He has always involved himself with the community by volunteering in community service with organizations like Martha's Table and Whitman-Walker. Alvaro also works with a committee that helps Nicaraguan, Cuban and Venezuelan families that seek refuge from oppressive governments.
Starting in 2019, Alvaro began to experience a series of complicated and unfortunate events. That year, he lost his job, his partner died of cancer, his mother passed away, and he had been ill. "It was definitely the worst year of my life," Alvaro recalled.
Amid his emotional distress, Alvaro experienced a dramatic loss of income. In the following years, the COVID-19 pandemic did not help his chances of finding financial stability. With all this going on, Alvaro fell behind on his HOA fees. Eventually, he faced potential foreclosure on his condo, which he has owned since the early 1990s.
"I was in a position you never thought you would find yourself in. You think you're ready for whatever comes your way, but you're not," Alvaro stated.
After meeting with DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, he was recommended to contact LEDC.
LEDC helped Alvaro get everything in order as they prepared to begin the HAF application process. LEDC's Julian Talero, a HUD (Housing and Urban Development) Certified Housing Bilingual Counselor, was tasked with helping Alvaro get all the assistance possible to allow him to take a breather and find his footing after a tumultuous few years.
"I was impressed with the level of professionalism," said Alvaro. "But the most shocking thing was his awareness of the problem. I felt lost at the time, but Julian kept me up to date and introduced me to the different options. He began to open doors for me—and the frustration of not feeling heard was diminishing.
"For the first time, at a period when I was desperate and thought there were no open doors, LEDC and Julian made me feel like I was back in school again learning," he continued. "You get so confused with so many different issues that you end up overwhelmed,"
Alvaro mentioned that Julian sat down with him multiple times and offered the most straightforward explanation of their options and the places they could go. "Emotionally, when you find yourself in a situation like the one I was in, it was so encouraging that Julian never stopped supporting me morally," Alvaro stated.
LEDC helped Alvaro apply for the Homeowners Assistance Fund in late 2022. Soon after, Alvaro received a housing counseling session, which provided credit and budgeting advice and a Foreclosure Prevention Action Plan that would help stabilize his finances. "The human aspect, which today is lost in many organizations, I found in LEDC. Julian offered me a lot of information and gave me a list of things we had to do and doors we had to knock on," he said.
In the following months, LEDC continued to support Alvaro as he submitted credit disputes resulting from an identity theft case that also occurred in 2019. LEDC collaborated with Alvaro's foreclosure lawyer, Melanie Murray, by helping her gather documentation that would stall legal foreclosure proceedings on his home. This collaboration resulted in a successful postponement of his case.
Finally, in February 2023, the program approved Alvaro's HOA Fund application. Most recently, the D.C. HAF disbursed payments to his HOA. With this payment of over $29,000 in assistance, Alvaro's HOA arrears were effectively cured, and foreclosure on his home was prevented.
"If you want to feel that your case matters, you must go [to LEDC]. It is an organization full of pure human value," he concluded.
As Alvaro continues to work and make consistent progress, LEDC will continue to support him in his journey toward regaining financial stability and achieving financial freedom.