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Kids Are Starting to Sell Face Masks in the Streets Because Their Parents Got Laid Off

4:17 PM PDT on April 1, 2020

[dropcap size=big]W[/dropcap]hile most students in the Los Angeles Unified School District are sheltering at home trying to figure out how to log into their online classrooms, some kids whose parents have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus are taking matters into their own hands.

It’s the late afternoon in Lennox, where a large percentage of working-class “essential” employees are getting home from work. The streets begin to be filed with gardeners, plumbers, and construction trucks from workers who start their shift at 5 AM every day. They are all returning home from Brentwood and Beverly Hills. 

But on the corner of Inglewood Avenue and 104th street, a mini-van with cleaning supplies visible through the window pulls up to a local check-cashing shop and two ladies wearing yellow dishwashing gloves exit the van. They approach two young boys selling masks under a beach umbrella, but they are nowhere near an ocean. They are on the concrete streets of South L.A. on the first hot day of spring. 

“Our parents lost their jobs due to the Corona and we out here trying to help out. My dad worked at a restaurant and my mom worked for a couple of different people.”  

“A cuanto las máscaras, joven?” How much for the masks? One of them asks. “ A cinco cada una!” ($5 each) one of them replied enthusiastically. The lady takes one, looks at it, and as soon as her face begins to show disinterest, the other boy quickly interjects in Spanish, “They have three layers for better protection against coronavirus, and they’re washable. You can reuse these and be protected all day while at work.” The ladies look at each other, shrug, and agree to buy a couple of masks. The taller, older-looking one of them reaches down to the shoe box and pulls out another packaged mask. They just made $10.

Next, a gardener pulls up to the parking lot in his rusty brown Datsun with hoses hanging from the sides of his makeshift lumber rack and a lawnmower sticking out over the tailgate. The kids wave the masks at him, but he ignores them and walks into the shop with a check in hand. Other folks walking down the sidewalk walk past the boys just the same. 

About five people showed up today to buy masks in an hour. They share with L.A. Taco that the little money they made they’ll take back home to their family along with the masks they couldn’t sell. 

A $1,200 government-issued stimulus check does not go a long way in Los Angeles. Not when the average rent here is much more than that and other bills still need to be paid. Even if it is just a $100 a day, still, every dollar counts right now more than ever. If not masks, then these boys along with the thousands of other street vendors around will simply find something else to hustle and make a quick buck out of to survive. Laws or pandemics against them or not. They are surviving, after all. This is the reality for many living in Los Angeles. 

We approached the two boys who hesitated to speak with L.A. Taco but asked to remain anonymous.

L.A. Taco: Why are you out here selling masks?  

Anonymous boys: Our parents lost their jobs due to the Corona and we out here trying to help out. My dad worked at a restaurant and my mom worked for a couple of different people.  

Are you guys worried about getting the virus? 

No, not really. I mean we’re just here. We’re gonna leave in a bit. We’ve been here for two hours.

You seem young like you should be in high school. Are you concerned about school at all? 

No. My family needs money, so you know, we’re trying to help them.

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