We had the good fortune of connecting with Claudia Salazar and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Claudia, do you have some perspective or insight you can share with us on the question of when someone should give up versus when they should keep going?
I have been a Counselor/Case Manager over 10 years. I have had so many moments where the barriers as a provider are frustrating and I want to give up. In those moments, I take the time to reflect on the people that I have helped over the years. I think of the single mother who was able to get a restraining order because of our support. I think about the elderly man who I supported in leaving an abusive family and going to safer housing. I remember that families that followed through on applications and received services because they received guidance. It is recognizing that my work matters and people are impacted by it that push to keep going. It is my fuel to continue even in moments when the work is difficult and change feels impossible. Lastly, I will say a time will come where you become desensitized from hearing so many stories of pain and trauma which is normal. However, that will put providers at risk of getting jaded and letting baises determine care. When that happens in my opinion it is when a provider needs to reflect and consider leaving the field or at least the position they are in.  Our biases when left unchecked lead to excluding people from care who are counting on us to provide support.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My career started when I chose to complete Chemical Dependency Counseling program at East Los Angeles College in 2011. I grew up around addiction and wanted to help others find freedom from drugs and/or alcohol. I worked in treatment centers the first two years after graduated but needed a full time job and the organization I was working with could not offer me a position. I applied to a position in a Domestic Violence Emergency Crisis shelter that served survivors with addictions. That is where I became a Case Manager which was different from a counselor. At first, I had no idea what a Case Manager was nor the skills it takes to be affective. At first I did not have support from staff and was expected to know what to do and how to serve the population. Added to that, I was experiencing a number of triggers related to my childhood which led me to perform poorly. In my last 2 years after many costly mistakes I chose to begin therapy and look at the wounds that prevented me from giving my best. In that season, staff at the shelter changed and I used skills that I had learned over the years. I became one of the best Case Managers in the program and was able to train others have it be staff or volunteers. I discovered my ability to understand how systems work which fueled my passion to advocate and empower families to get access to resources that will help them thrive.

In 2017, after 4 1/2 years I was hired as a Case Manager/Rehab Specialist for the Outpatient Clinical Services program at Violence Intervention Program (VIP) where I currently work. In this position I have worked with families across Los Angeles County providing them with mental health services, linkage to legal services and several other services. It was here where I discovered the passion to understand programs and desire to change so that we as a city can provide quality care. This position has been an avenue to work with other organizations such as Its Bigger Than Us to continue bringing change to Los Angeles. My passion for working with people has grown during COVID-19. I am more focused than ever to continue providing services and grow as a professional so I can continue serving my community in anyway that I am able to.

My journey has been difficult and full of uncertainty as I have had to discover each steps as it comes. Now, I will be pursuing higher education as a I continue at VIP. Our communities need services from healthy leaders as they navigate the affects of COVID-19 that will be felt for years to come. Ultimately, I cant say that I have one dream or position I want to obtain in the work I do. I want to create systemic change that will empower communities across Los Angeles County. I want to train others entering the field so they can be healthy leaders with the capacity to carry what we are given everyday as providers. I will fill any role needed, work wherever I am able to within my scope and continue learning so my work can expand. I have had to break a lot of chains in my life and I want to help others so the same.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
First I would plan hikes at Griffith Park, Malibu and Angeles Forest. Then I would take them to beautiful gems such as Descanso Gardens, The Arboretum, Los Angeles River Center and Gardens.

Los Angeles has some of the best food so I would take them to Banh Mi Che Cali for Pho, peruvian restaurant, Half and Half or Twinkle Tea for refreshing boba, Portos, food trucks in East LA and K-Town for desert and Nimbus Coffee because I love Harry Potter.

Lastly, I would take them to Xelas or Ixtapa for drinks and dancing. Since I love metal I would I find a good thrash metal band!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
First and foremost my mom. She is the backbone of our family and I would not be here if not for her unwavering love and support.

My best friend Annie Loau who pushes and speaks truth when I need to hear it. She believes in me and encourages to take risks when I am too scared to take a step.

Website: https://movingwithoutchains.substack.com/

Instagram: @movingwithoutchains

Linkedin: Claudia Salazar

Other: Voices Rising: Women of Color Finding and Restoring Hope in the City

Image Credits
Headshot- David Cornejo
Other Photos- Tyrone Nance

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