I want to live without fear and anxiety.


Busy schedules, unfriendly work environments, and unsafe situations make day-to-day life feel fragile and unstable.


The system set up to keep individuals and families safe and stable are failing some Californians. Participants shared stories that captured their fear and anxiety. They described a few different types: from the anxiety that comes with not having enough money to cover the necessities to fear for their own or their family’s safety. They want to feel more confident about where their lives are headed, they want to make enough money, and they want to have the time and resources to feel happy.

A recently unemployed single mother in San Diego shared her struggle with the pressure of finding work, going back to school, and raising her children. For Californians like her, every week feels like a gamble, never quite knowing if they will make it through. She was anxious about today, and the unknown needs and challenges that she and her family might face tomorrow.

The stress of wanting to do well for themselves and others is a burden for young Californians too. Young people still in high school work hard to make their parents proud, set a good example, and pave a path for their siblings.

Participants hope for — or actively work to build — strong neighborhoods. When drawing and writing about their hopes and aspirations, listening session participants portrayed scenes of security and stability. However, some communities were challenged by often unavoidable and unsafe situations — gang activity, drugs, violence, and over-policing. In other communities, a lack of jobs and other opportunities created too many ways for young people to fall into precarious situations.




I’m so Stressed

All participants in the listening sessions who talked about their stress connected it to their economic situation. This includes concerns about falling short financially. For instance, some Californians work jobs with inconsistent hours and paychecks, meaning it isn’t certain whether they will be able to pay rent or the electric bill each month.

Stress also stems from hectic schedules and an overwhelming day-to-day life. There isn’t enough time in the day for a person to juggle two or more part-time jobs and still be home to eat dinner with his or her family.

We heard repeatedly about stress and anxiety from young adults, particularly first-generation high school graduates and children of immigrants. They feel pressure to pave the way forward for younger siblings or to find and keep a job to support themselves and their families.

Many watch their parents make significant sacrifices on their behalf. Their busy lives make it difficult to deal with the combined pressures of homework, exams, part-time jobs, and family expectations.

Such stressors affected many participants and their perspectives on the world, performances at work, and interpersonal relationships, but these individuals also showed resiliency when talking about stress.

If I had papers, I would have a better future.
— Participant, Fresno
I feel like we struggle now. It seems like my life used to have less stress and less hours. Now, I work more hours and have more stress.
— Home Healthcare Worker, Lancaster

I’m always stressed out with everything I’m supposed to be doing, trying to just provide. I feel like I can’t be the best mom to my kids.

— Participant, San Diego

It’d be nice if we could get a mental health class, where you literally go to class to meditate and relieve all your stress. [It would make students] a lot more happier and have a better work ethic too.

— Participant, Ontario

A participant from Salinas shared that when they have free time, they like to take walks with their children. This was a way for her to relieve stress and have a moment of silence and privacy. It was their time to recharge.

A participant from San Bernardino drew an idea for a healing space where communities of color could come together to do yoga and meditate.




An unexpected expense, an injury, or a loss in the family are just a few of the many unexpected crises that can devastate struggling Californians. A crisis can require time or money that these individuals and families simply don’t have.

For many participants there’s no way to maintain a savings account or extra money in the bank when living paycheck to paycheck and struggling to make ends meet.

A car is a critical lifeline in some communities. We heard about the expense of owning one in California. One participant shared that she couldn’t afford to pay her parking tickets, even though those outstanding tickets may lead to a warrant. Other participants couldnt afford maintenance on older cars to prevent them from breaking down, and every day it was possible that the car would stop working altogether.

One participant in Lancaster found herself and her family in crisis after her husband was severely injured in an accident. Suddenly she was the only one working in a five-person family with medical bills piling up. The accident fundamentally changed their living situation: They have downsized from a house to a small trailer, and she took on additional work. Although they are now stable in their new lifestyle, they have little to no room to accommodate another crisis.

My car is old, but I can’t really afford to pay to have it maintained. Everyday I take a risk by driving it.

— Participant, Fresno





Some Californians living in low-income neighborhoods said that gangs, drugs, random violence, and police brutality make growing up or raising a family in those areas even more difficult. Violence tears at their sense of security in the very place they should feel the most protected.

Source: Homicide in California, 2014 California Department of Justice

It can be a barrier to getting to know neighbors or playing a more active role in the community. Some feel stuck and segregated from safer and more affluent communities with little control or agency to make change.

For example, we heard from teens who dealt with numerous deaths throughout the year, including two young men who recently lost their brothers to violence. In another urban community, a young man has been close to three people who died from violence. In a rural community in California, some families struggle to steer their children away from gangs. With friends and family members lost to gun violence, it has become difficult for some participants to see a bright future — or a future at all — for themselves.

We heard a lot of fear and worry regarding individuals’ immigration statuses, especially after the results of the 2016 presidential election. Families are terrified of being torn apart with some relatives facing the threat of deportation. Some immigrants who can’t speak English well are hesitant to travel to other neighborhoods or communities.

Even while sharing their personal stories with violence, several participants demonstrated tremendous strength. Some see the negative impact of drugs and violence as a reason to engage and rally their community. They created their own marches, community meetings, and neighborhood watch organizations to inform and protect their communities.

I want a future where us DREAMers have opportunities, and don’t have to be afraid of being separated from our families.
— Participant, Coachella
I want San Bernardino [in five years] to be the most beautiful city in California. We’re going to stop the violence. I’m going to see the people from my high school come back to help the community. I see houses full of people, job offers, more public things for people to do.
— Warehouse Worker and High School Student, San Bernardino

The violence is out of control in my neighborhood. There have been three shootings. One person died. Just last week, my son’s friend got shot in her sleep. My son is having a lot of anxiety just about staying here.

— Participant, Fresno

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[Regarding the election] as an Asian LGBT individual I am genuinely scared for my future. I’m scared that I’m not going to be accepted. I’m scared that I’m going to be bullied even more. I’m scared for the future of my children. I don’t know what’s going to happen.

— Mobile Research Participant, Sacramento

One participant drew an idea for the future where kids are safe in community parks.





Not all participants feel empowered to voice their opinions. Across the state, we heard that advocating for themselves or others at work or in their community could jeopardize their jobs or damage their social network. An employee who speaks up against unfair treatment or unsafe conditions risks getting fired. And voicing dissenting opinions in tight-knit communities, even through social media, could bring swift condemnation and confrontation.

Some fight back despite the potential repercussions. One recently unemployed grocery clerk in El Centro was verbally abused and harassed by her boss daily. He was racially insensitive and openly paid her less than other employees, despite her tenure and hard work. Eventually, she stood up for herself and quit her job.

Similarly, warehouse workers in San Bernardino spoke of feeling stuck with not being able to speak out about unhealthy work conditions. In addition, their employer actively discouraged them from organizing or joining a union.


I spoke up about bathroom conditions. The next season [my employer] did not give me work.

— Participant, Coachella Valley

This election has caused even more divide than we had before. I’ve witnessed so many people immediately dismiss those with opposing opinions regarding the election. I was guilty of it myself.

— Mobile Research Participant, Los Angeles

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The Warehouse Worker Resource Center gives space to warehouse workers to learn their rights and to have someone to talk to when things get tough.

— Participant, Ontario