Pride Month, SEIU 721 — How Raymond Jimenez of the LGBT Center Connects with His Clients

This Pride Month, SEIU 721 will celebrate LGBTQ colleagues. Below, read about how Raymond Jimenez of the Los Angeles LGBT Center finds common ground with his clients.

Raymond Jimenez says he can relate to the people he works with who seek services at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. After all, he was one of them.

In 2000, Jimenez went to the center, which offers an array of social and health programs to members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) community.

For about two decades, Jimenez, now 52, had struggled with addiction to crystal meth fueled by a life of hard partying — often in East Los Angeles and Hollywood, at spots known to be friendly to members of the LGBTQ community, where Jimenez, who is gay, felt accepted. As an addict, Jimenez often had difficulties finding stable income and housing.

“I did what I had to do to get my next fix,” Jimenez says. “Some of those things weren’t good things. Some of those things were bad things. I may have been in County jail with some of the clients I currently work with.”

Over several years, through an addiction program he was connected to by the center and other resources, Jimenez got sober. He found a job working at a residential treatment center, which kickstarted a career in human-service work.

“I found people who believed in me,” Jimenez says. “Mostly, I started to believe in myself.”

Today, Jimenez works for the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) program, which he helped establish a few years ago.

As a housing navigator specialist, he assists HIV-positive clients who are homeless or unstably housed find housing through various government and nonprofit programs.

Like him, many of the people he works with struggle with addiction, and Jimenez often tells them about his past substance use and nights out in Hollywood and East Los Angeles.

“A lot of my clients tell me, ‘You don’t know where I’m at,” Jimenez says. “I let them know, ‘Hey, I was there.’”

Jimenez says he thinks his past helps him establish a connection with the people he serves.

“I can meet clients exactly where they are at,” he says. “The only difference between me and my clients is I haven’t used in the past 19 years.”

LGBTQ Members and the Labor Movement

Jimenez, who is training to be an SEIU 721 steward at the center, says the labor movement must accept members of the LGBTQ community for who they are and honor their contributions.

Jimenez says: “Everybody deserves the same respect everybody else gets.”

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