As soon as the United States started facing the COVID-19 pandemic, UnidosUS shifted gears, understanding quickly that Latinos were going to be disproportionately affected by the crisis, and seeing the key role its Affiliate Network was going to play in the lives of the hundreds of thousands of clients they serve. These community-based organizations have been on the frontlines supporting our struggling families. They have stepped up, and UnidosUS has stepped up for them. In May, UnidosUS established the Esperanza/Hope Fund, having awarded more than $1.5 million to 61 of its Affiliates and community-based organizations so they can continue responding to the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the Hispanic community. One of them was Northwest Side Housing Center in Chicago, and here is one of the stories of hope this fund has been able to provide.
By Beatriz Paniego-Béjar, Content Specialist, UnidosUS
Beatrice Salas is one of Northwest Side Housing Center’s (NWSHC) clients. She is a proud first-generation Latina from Belmont Cragin, the neighborhood where NWSHC operates. The pandemic found her at Georgetown University, where she is a rising junior majoring in human science: “As a first-generation low-income student, I am fortunate to have my financial needs met 100% with scholarships. Without financial aid, I would not have been able to go to college because of my family’s socioeconomic status,” she says.
She’s the oldest of three siblings—she has two younger brothers (16 and 9 years old) who look up to her—and her mother stays home taking care of them while her father works: “Ever since my family moved to the U.S., my father is the only financial provider of the family while my mother stays home to raise me and my siblings.”
However, Beatrice’s dad became unemployed due to the pandemic: he used to work at O’Hare Airport as a bartender and he was soon laid off after the stay-at-home orders were implemented, putting Beatrice’s family in a difficult situation. “My parents’ employer-sponsored health insurances were revoked. Thankfully, my younger brothers are eligible for Medicaid, and my university-sponsored health insurance is still valid,” Beatrice explains. That her parents lost their health insurance during a worldwide pandemic worried Beatrice. It was at that moment that she reached out to UnidosUS Affiliate Northwest Side Housing Center.
This organization is established in a ZIP code with the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Illinois at the beginning of the pandemic. Their community was in clear need, and NWSHC adjusted their work and services to attend to the most pressing needs of their clients. One of the steps they took was to apply for UnidosUS’s Esperanza/Hope Fund grant, with which they hoped to establish a cash assistance program to help families in their community meet their basic needs: housing, food, PPE, and health care.
When UnidosUS awarded them with the grant, NWSHC was able to put that program in place and help families like Beatrice’s access their emergency cash assistance.
A GREAT YOUNG LATINX EXAMPLE
For Beatrice, it was obvious how she was going to employ this fund: “I used this cash assistance to purchase individual health insurance for my parents. If my university does not offer me a health insurance scholarship for the upcoming academic year, I would use the remaining funds to purchase my own,” she shares.
NWSHC’s support helped her family take on this pandemic a little bit more calmly, and even though the pandemic has posed immense challenges on her family, they have still found ways to discover joy: every night, Beatrice and her family have dinner, and later on go for a walk around the neighborhood together.
Now that she’s back home after her classes went online because of COVID, Beatrice is taking on a new hobby to help her through this difficult year: “Occasionally, I paint with watercolors to relax my mind and be productive at the same time.”
She’s young, but Beatrice already shows her maturity: “Being the eldest child in my family, I have adopted the responsible mindset,” she shares. “For my parents, I want to earn a degree then get a job with a stable income to help my father with household expenses. For my younger brothers, I want to set high standards for myself so that they can follow my lead and become even more successful than I am.”
Beatrice clearly exemplifies the attitude many young Latinx in the United States also embrace: a willing obligation to her parents, a motivating role model to her brothers, and a deep gratitude for the opportunities she’s earned and been given in the United States.
This is only one of the hundreds of hopeful stories UnidosUS and its Affiliates bring thanks to the Esperanza/Hope Fund. This fund has helped Latinos all over the country through our network of community-based organizations.
UnidosUS continues to raise funds to grant more of its Affiliates and to support Hispanics through these tough times. You can learn more about UnidosUS’s Esperanza/Hope Fund and its grantees, and donate to this necessary cause, here.