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What Happens To The Maids And Gardeners Of Malibu When The Houses Are Gone

Andres Masariegos is a day laborer who finds work in Malibu. He's on his way back to L.A. after trying and failing to get through the police blockade on the Pacific Coast Highway. (Emily Dugdale/LAist)
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The affluent community of Malibu relies on a legion of day laborers, housekeepers and gardeners who have been hit hard in the aftermath of the Woolsey Fire. For some workers, missing a week's pay is a critical situation, but evacuation orders kept them away for that long. For others workers, there's no house to even go back to.

Last week we rode a nearly empty bus from Downtown Santa Monica to Malibu -- a commute typically packed with dozens of service workers.

The driver, Darrell Carter, said it had been mostly empty all week and his friendly smile faded as he talked about his customers not getting to work.

"I feel bad for them," he said, shaking his head as he reaches the end of his new route. Just after Sunset Boulevard and the Pacific Coast Highway, he's forced to turn around.

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As the bus turned back towards Santa Monica, four Latino day workers get on.

Andres Masariegos was one of them. He said in Spanish that they all tried to get into Malibu to work that day today, but were stopped by police. The officers were concerned they might be looters.

"It's really difficult," he said, shrugging. "Maybe I'll have to borrow money in order to survive."

Genevieve Flores-Haro from the Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project said there's few accessible resources for these workers during an emergency.

"They're not at the forefront of who one thinks of when you think of a natural disaster," she said. "This community loses out."

Flores-Haro started a collective called the 805 Undocufund during last year's devastating Thomas Fire to help undocumented or low income workers. She said they were able to support over 700 families get back on their feet after losing their jobs or homes. But the funds are limited. People affected by the Woolsey fire will have to get on a waitlist with over 400 families ahead of them.

Julio Osorio couldn't wait that long. He commutes to Malibu every day from South Gate and picks up day jobs in construction or house maintenance through an organization called the Malibu Community Labor Exchange. He gets up at 4:00 a.m. in order to be in front of the Malibu Civic Center by 6:30 a.m.

Julio Osorio stands outside his first bus stop a few blocks away from his home in South Gate, his bus in the foreground. He usually wakes up at 4am to take at least two buses and the lightrail to get to work in Malibu. (Emily Dugdale/LAist)

On a good day, he can bring home about $100 to $120 a day. "I'm a hard worker," he said. But Osorio hadn't worked in a week. He needed to come up with $600 in rent and support his young daughter.

He'd tried the bus everyday, but had no luck.

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On this day, he made it as far as a McDonalds in Santa Monica before turning back. "I got a call from this friend of mine. And he said, 'Julio, it's still the same. Don't even keep going. Just turn around and go. Go back.'"

He pulled a crumpled wad of business cards and paper scraps out of his pocket with the names of various people who've hired him. Only one of them called to tell him that their house burned down.

"I need the money, I need to keep working. To be honest, I don't know what to do," Osorio said.

He said all he can do is keep getting on the bus.

You can hear the full audio of this story here.

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