Reina Moreno, a mother of two children, a Honduran immigrant, and a survivor of domestic violence living in Washington, DC, has become a big advocate for other women and undocumented and excluded workers in the city.
Reina Moreno's story is inspiring and empowering; she came to the United States a few years ago without knowing much about her rights and where to go for help if needed. After experiencing homelessness in the past, living in the streets of Washington, DC, and at one point out of a laundromat, Reina wanted to make sure she never went through a similar situation.
Then the pandemic hit, affecting many workers in the city with business closures, particularly domestic workers. After losing her job cleaning homes acquired before the pandemic, Reina's other side jobs during the pandemic were insufficient to feed her family, fully care for her son, and sustain most rent payments. Once again, the pandemic had put Reina and her family in a precarious situation.
"Before the pandemic hit, I rented a small room," Reina further mentions how she managed to make this small room a safe home for her and her first child, "and then the pandemic took away my decent, honest job and the ability to pay rent...I felt cornered because I couldn't pay the rent for almost four months or give my kid other necessities," Moreno continued.
Finally, through the DC government, Reina found out about LEDC and filled out a rental assistance intake form for the organization. Mary Jane Regalado, a now Bilingual Tenant Services Coordinator for LEDC, supported Reina in the application process for the StayDC program in early October of 2021, just before they stopped accepting applications.
Mary Jane's guidance provided Reina with future rent payments and utility assistance for three months. The advice and help came at the right moment, about one week after Reina gave birth to her second child. For Reina, it was thrilling to feel that she could get the aid she needed from LEDC with all the required paperwork for participation in different programs offered across the city.
Moreno's pursuance of equal rights has also led her to refer over ten additional clients to LEDC's Housing Program; clients referred are mostly immigrant mothers and DC tenants facing similar economic hardships. Thanks to Reina's connection and continuous advocacy, LEDC's Tenant Services Program has been able to help more clients with rental assistance applications, food support, SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program), TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), and domestic violence support referrals.
"I will keep recommending others to the Latino Economic Development Center; there are few organizations that help you with such amiability and care…LEDC is a support for us, and they try their best to handle our problems and do things correctly. They also provide more information for the community to know," Moreno says in Spanish.
For now, Reina has found strength in making sure everyone, including immigrants, can hear about their rights when possible. She is consistently working on demanding better working conditions and fights workplace discrimination when given a chance. Her experience as a spokeswoman for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, other coalitions, and published anecdotes in the media (including The Washington Post) has inspired other members in the community that meet her to seek help and learn about their civil liberties.
Looking towards the future, Reina would like to keep teaching her children about their fundamental rights as she teaches her community. She also hopes to fully own a house with more space for her and her family and continue helping other women encountering the same difficulties she faced.
Reina Moreno speaking at the DC Domestic Workers Employment Rights Amendment Act of 2022 Bill IntroductionAll pictures courtesy of La Alianza Nacional de Los Trabajadores del Hogar (National Domestic Workers Alliance) and photographer Yilmaz Akin.
Story Credit: Sofia Iszard, LEDC Communications