Latinos sometimes dwell in overcrowded living conditions rather than allow family members or friends to live on the streets, masking the true prevalence of homelessness among Latinos. How would you address the specific challenges Latinos face with regards to accessing homeless services in Chicago?

Housing & Affordability

Since taking office, my administration has made significant investments in reducing homelessness, from expanding services for youth to adding beds to serve homeless families. We also worked with housing advocates to pass the Keep Chicago Renting Ordinance and are working with the coalition to implement the ordinance and ensure that tenants are aware of their rights. In my second term, we will build upon these efforts and work to improve our outreach and services in Latino neighborhoods.

With increasing unemployment and foreclosures in certain communities, as well as the closing of mental health centers, homelessness is a real problem for all of Chicago – particularly women and children across all communities. As Mayor, I would work to create affordable programs to; rehabilitate instead of demolish abandoned properties. I would also work with communities to ensure that all communities have equal access to all Chicago’s resources. I would work with CHA to make sure public housing policies offer equal access to all citizens. Latinos need access to housing programs and counseling. They need access to jobs and job programs. Students need quality neighborhood schools and access to after-school programs. The job market is tough but Latinos need free programs so they can enhance their leadership, communication and technical skills. I also strongly support the expansion of vocational education programs (specifically, bi-lingual programs) that will help the Latino community take advantage of jobs that are available in high value-add sectors in society. Bringing good high paying jobs means a better chance at permanent housing and stability. Additionally, partnering with non-profits and other agencies to make sure they are doing the appropriate outreach to the community is key.

In this economy, fighting homelessness also includes addressing the needs of Latino families who have lost their homes to foreclosure or can’t afford their rents and low-income families. As Mayor, I would fight to raise the minimum wage to $15, insist on balanced development across the city to address the need for affordable housing, and ensure that the city’s housing and development agenda is community driven, not just market driven. Balanced development across the city will have as emphasis closing the affordability gap for families earning less than $50,000, 34% of which are Latino households according to U.S. census data. I would also put to use current unused funding and resources from the CHA including unleased and unoccupied public housing units and unissued vouchers to immediately help thousands of cost-burdened and at-risk low-income families. Regarding specific challenges to homeless services for Latinos, I would start with the implementation of a language access plan for the city of Chicago, which includes offering culturally-competent, language-appropriate services and multi-lingual staff at shelters and homeless prevention call centers.

We will hire CHA Spanish speaking caseworkers to assist potential residents in their efforts to find a job, improve their skills, take advantage of educational opportunities, secure decent housing, repair their credit, and expunge their records.

The extended family is quickly becoming the nuclear family these days. Especially in minority cultures, the extended family plays a key role. We should look at making changes to the CHA policies that prohibit extended families from residing together in subsidized housing. We should encourage the family bond and work to ensure services are provided to all in need.