Meet Itzel Patiño, Housing and Advocacy Coordinator

Itzel and Joshua soaking up the sunshine at the James River.

Itzel, What’s Your Story?

I am from Smithfield, North Carolina a small town in central NC right below Raleigh. I was born to Mexican immigrant parents and I’m the oldest of four siblings. I’ve lived in Richmond for a little over 10 years, and I have to say it’s grown a bit more on me over the years. My favorite season is Spring, and during this time I would usually travel down to the city of Cuernavaca in Mexico, nicknamed the City of Eternal Spring to celebrate the beginning of this season.  I love to be surrounded by nature, art, and learning about alternative methods of healing to balance our bodies. I also have two cats who I adore, Chase and Cozy.

A pink Guayacan tree in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico with pink leaves all over the ground and on cars. Image courtesy of Chris Lejarazu- Travel Photography.
A pink Guayacan tree in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico. Image courtesy of Chris Lejarazu- Travel Photography

Growing up in rural North Carolina and being one the few immigrant families in the area, was an interesting challenge to navigate growing up but it inspired me to be in a place where I could help others navigate language barriers & systems. My advocacy work began on the Action Alliance Statewide Hotline where I worked as a Bilingual Crisis Hotline Specialist. Shortly after, I joined the staff at a local program, Hanover Safe Place, where I worked with survivors of domestic and sexual violence in multiple capacities, from Emergency Shelter Staff to Community Client Advocate.

What excites you about your role as the Housing and Advocacy Coordinator?

I am thrilled that this new role allows for there to be a larger focus on housing needs of survivors. Having been involved in direct service advocacy work, where I was helping survivors navigate difficult barriers to safety, housing, and financial stability, gave me an understanding of the frustrations and struggles related to housing that survivors encounter when they are looking to escape an abusive situation. Housing is such a valuable and essential human need. Lack of pathways to safe, livable, and affordable housing options creates a vicious cycle of housing insecurity, specifically for survivors who are BIPOC, who tend to be overrepresented in homeless populations. By engaging in opportunities and partnerships that expand and improve housing options, we create a positive ripple effect that creates pathways towards empowerment and healing at multiple levels for survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

What’s one goal you have for your first year as the Housing and Advocacy Coordinator? 

For my first year as the Housing and Advocacy Coordinator, I look forward to gaining an understanding of the barriers to housing that advocates and survivors face in the different regions of the state. I hope to create new partnerships that can address these challenges in ways that create bridges towards empowerment for survivors!

Who is your favorite artist right now? 

My favorite artist right now is Bad Bunny. I owe it to Bad Bunny’s music to getting me out of a funk especially over this last year!  He also challenges sexuality and gender norms in LatinX culture, and I love his unique way of expressing himself.

If you were an animal what kind would you be and why?  

Right now, I would be an eagle because I would get a bird’s eye view of the world. I would travel to any part of the world and safely take in the many beautiful views that I hope to see again one day in person!

Orange tabby cat in foreground with gray tabby cat in background.
Chase and Cozy waking up from a nap.
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