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Headshot of Sophia Wrench

Sophia Wrench

  • Hosted by Public Counsel
  • Sponsored by AT&T, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
  • Service location Los Angeles, California
  • Law school Loyola Law School, Los Angeles
  • Issue area Community/Economic Development, Immigrant Populations
  • Fellowship class year 2023
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Sophia (she/her/ella) will advance economic justice for low-income street vendors through direct legal services, community education, and policy advocacy.

Los Angeles County is home to over 50,000 street vendors, the majority of whom are women and people of color who earn only about $15,000 a year. Street vending is an economic driver for vendors’ families and their entire community, offering a path to build a business, create jobs, and circulate capital in disinvested neighborhoods. Despite many benefits of street vending, California has a long history of criminalizing and excluding street vendors from the economy with devastating consequences. Two recent California laws could make street vending easier and less expensive. Without the infrastructure of legal support to assist with implementation on a local level, however, the laws will be ineffective, and vendors will continue to struggle with navigating bureaucracy and potential criminalization. Economic inclusion is within reach for LA’s street vendors, but vendors need specific legal support to make this a reality.

Fellowship Plans

Sophia will build on her previous work during law school with Public Counsel and the Los Angeles Street Vending Coalition to expand grassroots vendor-centered advocacy. Sophia will provide direct services to vendors through representation in enforcement actions, hold health food permit clinics, and conduct Know Your Rights workshops. She will monitor and provide technical assistance to cities and counties related to the implementation of their local street vending regulations. Lastly, she will build out infrastructure projects around vending that were enabled by the passage of SB 972 in California, such as the expanded use of commercial kitchens as commissary kitchens and facilitating the development of a new vending cart prototype with direct vendor input.

Street vending is a way that low-income immigrants of color can sustain themselves in an economic system that is heavily weighted against them. Doing this work fulfills and motivates me because I am helping others succeed and build something of their own that can help break the cycle of poverty.

Sophia Wrench /
2023 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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