A Community Relief Fund turned into esperanza

In a time of great need, our communities turn to our trusted, community-based Affiliates. For that reason, UnidosUS and our partners stepped up with our Esperanza/Hope Fund to support the critical and necessary work these organizations are doing. The pandemic has exacerbated those necessities in the Latino community, and in two rounds of grants, UnidosUS has supported 61 Affiliates and community partners in our network, having awarded more than $1.5 million so they can provide direct emergency assistance to families, keep their doors open, and/or transition to remote service delivery.

By Beatriz Paniego-Béjar, Content Specialist, UnidosUS

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One of the Esperanza/Hope Fund awardees is Erie Neighborhood House, who, being the oldest settlement house still operating in Chicago, has evolved in their 150-year history, but has always kept the same constant: being a home with no borders. Erie has adapted their services from a church delivering wraparound services to serving “immigrants and individuals from all backgrounds to help them thrive and build proud, powerful communities across the city,” as they write on their website.

Erie carried out their vision through the pandemic, and they stood by their community’s side during this extremely challenging time, creating a Community Relief Fund. They have been able to raise $160,000, including UnidosUS’s Esperanza/Hope Fund grant. Through this cash assistance program, they have been able to provide financial assistance to 250 families.

“These funds have been crucial for our families to cover their immediate costs like rent, groceries, utility bills, and more,” Erie’s team tells us. “Many of the people we serve are undocumented or typically worked for cash, so they were unfortunately left out of much of the relief benefits provided by our government. And others have faced not only a financial burden, but a significant health risk during the pandemic.”

Ready to serve

Understanding these very real challenges, the Esperanza/Hope Fund was created to serve families like the ones Erie assists.

Starting in April, Erie’s employees were conducting weekly check-in calls with the participants of their School Age Program. These calls were made to ensure their families were being safe and had their needs covered. In one of the first calls they made, their staff learned about the urgent need one of his students and his grandparents—who serve as his guardians—had.

“Due to health risks and advanced age, the student’s grandparents are part of the highest risk group for the coronavirus,” Erie shares. “They were running low on basic needs such as groceries and cleaning supplies,” but they were afraid of going to the grocery store for the risks involved. For this family, the fear laid in their undocumented status as well, which disqualified them for the federal relief package Congress passed in March.

“Staff quickly mobilized by helping them fill out the Community Relief Fund form and asked what their needs were for groceries and basic care,” Erie continues. “The family was also connected to additional external resources. Erie House staff hand-delivered not only cash from our Community Relief Fund, but food and supplies for the family.”

The next step

As they kept helping families like this, Erie Neighborhood House was also working on their plan for opening their doors again, for which UnidosUS’s Esperanza/Hope Fund was very valuable. They started reopening in August, with the priority of keeping all their staff and participants safe. “The Esperanza/Hope Fund Grant has been crucial for covering the costs of providing PPE and ensuring our spaces are well-sanitized for our team’s and kiddos’ return,” they share.

When they welcomed back a limited number of students in August to their School Age and Early Childhood Education Programs, Erie put together a video to highlight how the transition from virtual programming to reopening would look like. Since September, their School Age Program has been open for full-day programming “in order to best support our families during the remote school year,” Erie says. “To make this transition a success, we’ve invested in laptops, headsets, and expanded internet bandwidth to ensure we can accommodate our students and help them be successful.”

UnidosUS’s has stood by our Affiliate Network and our families through the COVID-19 pandemic, and we will continue bringing you success stories like Erie Neighborhood House’s made possible thanks to our Esperanza/Hope Fund. If you want to help us strengthen these community-based organizations, you can learn more about the Esperanza/Hope Fund here and make your donation today.

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