Fiercely Fighting Homelessness

Steve Propes
JONAS CORONA in Sacramento with Assemblymember Patrick O'Donnell, (D-70th District)

Imagine the daily activities of a typical 13-year-old male: Going to school, playing sports, hanging with friends and playing video games. Heading up a foundation to help the homeless might well not come to mind. In fact, 13-year-old Long Beach resident Jonas Corona began his role of helping the homeless at age four.

While living in Dallas, Jonas’ mother, Renee Corona, helped the homeless on a weekly basis. So when her sister-in-law, a teacher, told her about downtown LA’s skid row, mother and son visited. “I did not think I was introducing him to it, I needed a babysitter.

It was more fun than anything for him. He didn’t understand what was going on. People from We Care Outreach from South LA were making hot chocolate in buckets, they gave him a big spoon and he was handing it to people,” his mother said.

Jonas himself recalled, “I started helping out at 4 years old. I started feeding and giving them clothing. I had no idea of skid row, but I loved it. I wanted to go as much as I could. People there made it fun for me, having me hand out hot chocolate and fruit punch.” And, yeah, he did recall using a big spoon.

Jonas realized with “more people on the streets, more people needed help,” said his mother. “I was in law school at time. He asked why were we going there only once a month. He asked if he could do more. When we went to organizations here, they said he was too young to help.”

“I volunteered, but you had to be ten,” Jonas said. “I didn’t want to wait four years. It made me mad six years ago.”

He then asked if family would help out if he started his own foundation. He chose a name, “Love In the Mirror.”

“At age six, he said ‘everybody should look in the mirror and love what they see,’” said Renee, 43, who helped with the paperwork and had him write a letter, explaining the why of the foundation request. The response was his own 501(c)3 status.

Renee dropped out of law school to help him and is on the board of directors along with his brother Maximus. Now 13, Jonas gives talks at schools. As for his own schooling, Jonas attends the California Virtual Academy (CAVA), an online, independent charter school.

To date, “45,000 people have been helped by the foundation. We have drives year-round for necessities, clothes, toiletries, learning materials and toys. We get Disney, which donates mostly food. They have those peanut butter and jelly sandwich events all the time. JetBlue donated hygiene kits, pillows and blankets.” In the case of JetBlue, “They came to us.” However, Jonas is not shy about approaching any business he believes can help.

The volunteers come from his speaking to schools, groups of office workers, girl and boy scouting organizations: any group he can recruit to learn about the need to help with the homeless. “We love to have children as volunteers,” said Jonas, whose next activity is a school supply drive in July. “We hope to give supplies out to a lot of people in Long Beach and Inglewood.” Jonas is encouraged by the success of his foundation.

Jonas has obviously given thought as to some of the whys of homelessness; Whether it’s by choice, wanting to avoid society or alcohol and/or substance abuse. “It could be half and half. It could transfer from one to another. If they get drunk a lot, by being homeless, it can lead to mental illness. Someone might get homeless one way and stay homeless another way.”

His strategy is to figure out their needs. What’s the reason they’re homeless? Is it housing or food, or maybe it’s food for their pets. Some homeless won’t accept some shelters because they don’t take pets. “I went to shelters in England,” said Jonas. “They allow pets in their shelters. We started helping out homeless with pets, collecting dog food and other pet food.”

In certain blocks of downtown Los Angeles, “there are no sidewalks in sight, just tents with 300 or more people waiting to get help.” Jonas uses social media, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to find more ways of helping out in Long Beach, where he estimates there are about 3,000 homeless. “There’s a freeway near where I live. They go anywhere they can get out of the weather.

“I play tennis eight hours a day.” His favorite is Spanish player Rafael Nadal. “He’s fierce on the court,” said Jonas, who has a similar spirit. On May 1, 2017, Jonas flew to Sacramento to receive the Dynamic Youth Award at the 16th annual Latino Spirit Awards at the State Capitol.

“We don’t overwhelm him with it,” said his mother, Renee. “I regularly ask him, does he really want to do this. Do you still want to do this?”

Apparently the answer is always in the affirmative.



Thank you! As a family of seven with five children that has been attending K12 or some form of (currently Inspire) we have unfortunately been homeless ourselves for the past four years. We have lived in motels where people were killed in the room above us and the man next to us would stand in the doorway holding an ax 24/7. [Living in] our car with threats of having it towed away. In the back of our shop when we had one [sleeping] on the concrete floors. In shelters, in trailers, and now at a church. [My son] learned to walk in some cruddy hotel. He and his seven-year-old brother think this is norm; it's all they remember. Its been really hard. So thank you for all you do.

One K12 family to another.

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