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OneRouge Community Check-In - Week 124



Week #124

This is a continuation of our series on the driver ‘Access to Affordable & Safe Housing’ with a focus on the challenges for the ESL and immigrant communities featuring speakers:

  • Dauda Sesay (President, Louisiana Organization for Refugees and Immigrants)

  • Marcela Hernandez (Program and Operation Manager, Louisiana Organization for Refugees and Immigrants

The current recession complicated by COVID has created a housing crisis. There have been a few articles that give a bit of information on how this is impacting immigrants. These articles generally provide overviews of data and how the housing market (read: money) is impacted. However, that doesn’t tell us anything about the actual challenges that exist for the people. We know there is a gap in affordable housing stock, but what does that gap mean to non-native English speakers and perhaps undocumented residents as they try to remain housed in South Louisiana? Well, that is exactly the conversation we intend to have on Friday.

Enlight, Unite, & Ignite!


Speaker Notes

Casey Phillips: You're about to get some information that you've maybe have never heard before. Or maybe thinking about things that you haven't really fully internalized before. And I think that's always a good sign for a Friday morning. So without further ado, I'm gonna turn it over to the co-conspirator co-facilitator and amazing human Ms. Pepper Russel.

Pepper Roussel: Thank y'all for being here and for spending part of your Friday morning with us, how much I love these calls and love spending my mornings with you. So today we are starting a series on the immigrant population that lives in that lives with us, that we have not spent as much time as we possibly could to understand how our same issues impact them a little bit differently. Today is housing. The question began around how it is that they are navigating the need to remain housed. Through gentrification through the recession, through COVID through all of the things. And on this fine Friday morning, we've got a couple of folks from Lori. And what I'm gonna do is to step back Marcela, we'll start with you. Please introduce yourself in the way that you would like to show up today. And not only let us know who you are, what you do, but how we can help.

Marcela Hernandez: Thank you. Good morning, everyone. I hope that you are doing wonderful today and that you're excited that it's Friday. Yay. My name is Marcela Hernandez. I am the programs and operations manager from the Louisiana Organization for Refugees and Immigrants for those who don't know who we are you should know that we are a nonprofit organization that seek to empower refugees and immigrants to attain self-sufficiency through economic empowerment, social integration, and civic engagement lower place a vital role in promoting diversity, advocating for human humane immigration policies. And we fight racist injustices by building power, developing leadership and driving a structural changes with, and for our refugee communities. In Louisiana. I just wanna say thank you for having us today .

Dauda Sesay: Good morning, everyone. My name is Dauda , it's a pleasure and grateful to be here today. And joining you. I do wanna apologize. I was having some technical difficulties, but it looks like I got it taken care of now. so thank you. I'm the the presidents and executive director of the Louisiana Organization for Refugees and Immigrants. As my colleague, I was also mentioned we use our stories and our lived experience in a way as how we uplift their voices and the struggle of the refugees and immigrant. And we use the same lived experience as well to promote the social and economic contributions that we have gave Louisiana Organization for Refugees and Immigrant. It is founded and led by refugees and immigrant people with lived experience and see how we can uplift their story amplify, the work we are doing and how we can build bridge. And so that we all feel belong. And we are part of the fabric of our great Louisiana. I'm originally for Sierra Leone and I resettle in the us in 2009 right here in Baton Rouge. And it has been my home since then. And before coming to the us, I was in the refugee camp where I stayed there for 10 years due to the horrific incident that happens to my home country, Sierra, Leon, where I lost my dad and my seven years old sister here in the us. Also, we face all the challenges and those challenges that has goes with racism, bullying, and also learning a new language, adapt life, those challenges. That's what, give the rise and the formation of slavery, how we can help our new Americans that are coming into our state and to our city, how they can adjust to life. Here in bat. So thank you all for having us .

Marcela Hernandez: So I did not introduce myself completely. Since Dauda said where he's from, I'm actually going to say where I'm from, because I am very proud of that as well. So I am originally from Columbia, South America. And I have been in the United States since I was 18 years old, which had been 16 years ago. So I just revealed my age. So anyways so going back to the initial question with Pepper first I wanna welcome you. I wanna thank you for welcoming us today in this platform. And I do want to make a acknowledge of your interest in becoming aware of the unique challenges that we as immigrants and refugees face on a daily basis. When I received that initial email and that invitation about coming and talk to them, it said that we were requested to be in talk about how that current recession complicated by COVID has created a housing crisis, but I should say. Made things worse for immigrants, families, and impacted tremendously our communities. However, this issue ha this crisis has been a crisis for many years is not something new. The crisis that we're facing in regards to housing, it's been for many years and it increased because of the COVID pandemic. Okay. But the difference is that it was not part of the agenda for many people. So this is why once again, we want to thank you for allowing us to be here and for allowing us to bring, to bring this information to you and to discuss these challenges which. . So let me start by saying we do face a lot of different challenges and I don't wanna bombard you with tons of different problems and issues that we deal because I will be here the whole day, but I just wanted to point out some things that are that we see on a, almost on a daily basis with our community. So you are start becoming aware of those challenges. And if you need some more challenges, if you want to dig into it more, I will be more than happy to talk about this at another time. But I will start with probably one of the greatest issues that we have seen is that, that the increased demand for cheap housing led to poorly and overcrowded homes. We see houses with 8, 7, 9 people, four babies. Three children. So they're literally overcrowded homes which created issues in regards to personal hyGuillene, a spread of illnesses, and of course, large numbers of undetected COVID cases. Also many of our community members have complain about living in places that regularly lack basic amenities, such as running water ventilation air conditioning, however, because of their legal status, their rights are often time violated. And I wanna share this with you. I had a lady calling three weeks ago with two babies, one infant for the whole summer. She was in her home without. But there was nothing she could do. She requested to have the AC change. She requested to have that situation sold, but the renter never did it. So she decided to stop paying for her rent. Then what happened a few weeks later, she got an eviction letter because she was not paying the rent. So initially she was violated her rights of, being provided in a place that it was safe for her and her children. And at the time that she made a decision, there was nothing, it could be done. She was evicted. So we see that a lot. Now we also see a lot of immigrants living in places with low quality of public services and detrimental environmental conditions. I have been in so many places around town where I walked down the street and I see trash that it was rarely removed from the streets. I've seen children playing among the waist and hearing people feeling that powerless because they just don't have a voice when they go and complain, they just don't have a voice and no one hears them. We also have problems with neighborhood crime and safety. I used to be a case manager for three years and one. The most amazing things that I that it was my job is that I had the privilege to interact very closely with my community. And one of the most common stories from my clients was how their husbands were getting robbed several times on a Friday after coming from work. And many of them had to deal with gunshots as well. And they could not move to another home because houses that were available were extremely expensive for them. So there had children, they had babies that, but they could not move out because of that economic situ. Now, even before the COVID pandemic, many immigrants were reluctant to access safety net programs, including housing assistance. There were fears around public the public charge rule and immigration enforcement efforts that discourage a lot of our community members from seeking support. Even those who were legible, family members. So we see that increase and we have to just change how the system works and how do we approach and how do we educate our communities? We also have, as Dowda was mentioning, we have a structural barriers and misinformation about housing programs. We see lack of information in languages, other than English. We have lack of helping people that helps them to navigate the system and limited availability of according housing and in neighborhoods where immigrants live. Sometimes there's awesome programs out there, but our immigrants don't even know how to read or write. If you go and tell them, go and fill up an application online, if they don't even know how to write and read, just imagine how difficult it is for them to actually complete and submit an application. Thank you,

Pepper Roussel: I wanna use this as a way to segue into lifting our, or giving some space for Alfredo Cruz who introduced us and Alfredo, if you wouldn't mind coming off mute and give us and some ideas around the housing situation and what does it look like in Baton Rouge, particularly for affordable housing in immigrant communities?

Alfredo Cruz: The overall the situation is one of demand versus supply. That's driving up the price and, our supply, as Marcella pointed out was already very low for affordable housing. And for families that essentially make below 50% of area media income, that spokes learning, earning less than about $30,000 in. the lower the income for families, the less availability of housing and for those to make 30% or less of median income the supplies even less. So that was the situation before COVID for some time. And the only option many families in those income brackets had was to rent the most deplorable condition homes and for immigrants, especially Latinx communities. A lot of those options were in trailer parks in very poor, poorly maintained trailer parks. I remember moving to Baton Rouge in 2011 and driving around and just trying to find my people, trying to find where our Latinos living. And somebody pointed out there's a trailer park here that it's full of families. And I started driving two trailer parks and seeing that was true. And now you're seeing a lot more Latinos living in Gardenier and in a lot of other communities concentrated, but not, not in in Broadmore, not necessarily in some of the larger neighborhoods where there's how much higher price for housing, especially for rental housing. But it is a supply demand situation. And it's exacerbated by the fact that there are a lot of folks being displaced around us from natural disasters, from flooding, from storms that are destroying a lot of the coastal community. And so we're receiving community receiving a lot of those. Folks being displaced from their own community. And then coming here with their own vouchers, their own insurance payments with some type of income that allows them then to purchase, if you will, at a higher price, what was already low income housing. And now, the folks that are at 50 and 30% income that were able to afford those homes in no longer, because the price has been jacked up. It's what happened in this economy when there's a much lower supply than demand. The demand is being driven up on more people coming to our community because they've been displaced from their own because of natural disasters. And also because they're even greater on ability have affordable housing cuz we're in back shape, but. People and communities around us are even worse shape. That is our situation here on a national level. We're seeing a trend where national origin is being used as a way to both evict immigrant families or prevent them from renting affordable housing. And there's currently a case that the national low income housing coalition has signed an Amicus brief with the national center for homelessness law to really defend the rights of immigrant families and also immigrant families with mixed status where you might have someone in the family that is on the lease and they have legal status. It might be a resident, a permanent resident, or even a citizen. They're in their home. There's somebody that just came here, it might be undocumented and the landlord thinks that's illegal. It's not understanding the law under the fair housing act that protects families from being discriminated against because of their national origin. So that's happening. It's a terrible trend. That's occurring because it's been allowing landlords to start evicting folks on the basis of their national origin or their perceptions that it might be undocumented so that they can then rent to somebody that's coming to our communities with more money to pay a higher price for those rental units. So Pepper. That's what I got to offer. And like I said, a bit more, but I'm glad to answer any questions. Thanks, Alfredo. And and what I like about this conversation, we're taking kind of the south Louisiana approach, not just bat Rouge, but the overall region. And as you expand that region this is a national issue. And we have a special guest. Who's not gonna speak today, but we, I would like to welcome the One Rouge family to welcome Ashley, the executive director of Housing Stability for the United way of metropolitan Dallas. And I really encourage you all to watch the work that the United Way of metropolitan Dallas is doing around housing stability in in one of the fastest expanding divides, a city in America. And Ashley is instrumental in at the heart of that work before COVID and especially after COVID hit. Ashley welcome for being here. And as we build on this conversation, we will look at it from the Gulf, south and Texas standpoint, all the way to New Mexico and Arizona as well. Pepper. .

Pepper Roussel: Yeah, so that's a lot. But so there are naively, I just presumed that folks were living with family because they needed some time maybe to save up, to move out to their own spaces. There were, but it sounds like this is far more complicated that it's not that at all. And so Marcella, can you please educate me? Because obviously I'm thinking of this from a very narrow view.

Marcela Hernandez: So oftentimes when we see crowded families, that's what we think it's just a temporarily situation that they're dealing with. But what we don't know is that it's an ongoing. Poverty crisis that they're facing and because of the employment situation and other social determinants of lack of health, they can't get out of that cycle. So I was, I told you I was a case manager and I think I had about five clients at a one time where they lived 10, 13 people in one house of three. In God, because there was no other place. There were, some of them were unemployed. They're also facing, they faced with a lot of other issues with employment. So some of them would go and work for a whole day and don't get paid. So then at the end of the week, they didn't have the money to pay there for their rent. So we kept on seeing this on an ongoing basis and we think that it's just a temporarily situation, but it's really not. It's more like a chronic condition that they leave like that they leave on a daily basis because of how the system is and how our resources so lacking for there.

Pepper Roussel: Got it. So we've got a question in the chat. That's asking about the relationship with Catholic Charities and the immigrant pathway. Is there a relationship that data you came off mute that you can share with us?

Dauda Sesay: Thank you so much. Catholic Charity they're doing an amazing work here in research and refugees. I'm a product of Catholic Charity. And I mentioned that I came in nine years ago. Yes, I'm a product of Catholic Charity, but the work and the service they do has a limitation as well. Because when you talk about the immigrants, we have different levels or different classification of immigrants Catholic Charities, some the refugees and Cuban migrants as well. And victim of domestic violence. Now, asylum people that are seeking protection, which is the bulk of what we are seeing. Why is now Catholic charity don't serve those ones until they have their assignment cases. But while that case is pending, so they don't have them. And that is the bulk and that's where the that's where the problem comes when it comes withs to the housing crisis that my colleagues we are talking about. So the pathway I wouldn't say the pathway to the immigration status, but the pathway to integrate and adapt into the life when it comes to Catholic charity, their services is limited. Now, when it comes to us, we are not a service provider, but we try to provide technical assistance to the refuge, refugees, and immigrant community in other financial access, those services. And I just wanna touch one thing quickly when you talked about the over crowded, how homes that you see just take for instance, these are individual that. Have experienced back in their home country, traumatic situations, and now they are looking for protection and a better opportunity. Sometimes the cost is one. And then also the are landlords are taking advantage of this immigrant because of one of their titles, their language barriers and their accents. So most of the time for immigrant to bulk together in one place, it is for multiple reason. One is safety. The sense of community, there will be there. Another one it might be out of eight is only one that can speak or hear little bit of English. So all of those will go and bulk with that and use that one as just a way for them to able to communicate that interpretation as well. And also if one thing, something happens to one and then there is another immigrant that will see and bring that up to attention. So it is that sense of safety, security, and also the ability to communicate and communication has been has been a serious concern as well, because most of the resources that are available, they are out there, but they are available in high level of English. even though if it's in English. So even for some of those immigrant that can speak a little bit of English, they have even difficulties comprehend and understanding the materials. So what we come in is to see how we can partner with those organizational institution that provide those resources and how we can get those information and break it down to the language people can understand, and also with a lower English language so that community members can understand. And housing crisis is for everyone, the black American, low income families. We all have that. And we seeing that across, even with my American friends. Now the one thing that is so unique and great about immigrants, we have the other barriers as well, the language barrier adjusting to new life, the culture, and we have to deal with immigration. So those factors add. To already problem our low income family facing. So if you add those orders that have just mentioned, it makes the situation worse for the American community. We are not asking for much, we are just asking to belong so that we can get support from everyone and see how we're able to help and assist immigrant like me in order to adjust so that we can give back to our community. We love giving back. We love to contribute to their social and economic fabric of our cities and states. So our pass it that continue. Thank you

Marcela Hernandez: I just wanted to point out something. One thing that you might not know is that many immigrant families have been excluded from previous COVID 19 relief efforts. So if you don't know, many of these families were actually excluded from receiving a stimulus checks and expended employment insurance. So which this made a big, bigger crisis regarding housing. So we go back to what DDA was saying and what I was initially saying, there are resources available for the general community, but sometimes we are not included in there because of legal status or because of different situations that impact us from obtaining those benefits that are awesome. They're wonderful, but not necessarily available for us.

Pepper Roussel: Wow. I did not know any of. Thank you for telling me cuz now I'm really confused by how it is that we are not caring for these, for the folks who come to our country, that we welcome with open arms. Our arms are open, but our pockets are closed. Just confusing to me. But there's a question in the chat. How are restrictive covenants? How are restrictive covenants, a further hindrance for non-US citizens to access programs and non-governmental entities for social housing. That might be a better question for Alfredo.

Alfredo Cruz: I think the rule, the general rule is you have to have legal status residency, temporary residency, green card valid to have access to those voucher programs, section eight if you have a voucher. And as I said, previously, several folks who do may have family members who don't have legal status. The federal government protect the voucher holder, regardless if they're family members that may live in the household. And so while, without legal documentation of status. While that protection exists there are many landlords who are evicting the whole family or even, trying to argue that they shouldn't have a voucher or any assistance because some of the family members don't have legal stats. And that's the train I referred to previously that is growing that perception that could be done. And it's leading into a lot of diversion. so do,

Pepper Roussel: There also a question from the chat, what housing assistance is available for immigrant survivors during COVID 19?

Marcela Hernandez: So I can take over that. And that's actually one of the action items that, that you requested us to have today. So basically just assuring that resources are shared to immigrant communities and that accessibility to programs are available for them. How do we do that? On this note we, LORI is actually working right now to complete this task. We are working diligently to close that gap in between our communities and the services. We're actually working on a new project right now that will connect immigrants. With those critical services in regards to housing we are going to be having a series of events in the fall, October and November. We have October, the 15th is gonna be in Lafayette November the fifth or the sixth in Baton Rouge. And then November the 19th in ?. And we are going to be facilitating events that will outreach and educate our immigrant individuals in regards to housing programs. So we are actually going to be assisting organizations to translate their flyers and their resources in different languages. We're going to be offering technical support during the event and even assisting with applications if it's needed. So if you are part of a housing organization that wants to be included in this project, please reach out to me SAP because we're already working on the translation of this material and we want to make sure that we close that gap and we include every single person that wants to help our communities in regards to housing,

Dauda Sesay: Thank you so much for that question and ask what are the housing program and that are available. And we know that the city has that emergency rental assistance that we are having, and we've witnessed immigrants that applied for those, especially those that they are documentation is spending. Like we talked about asylum seekers. They are not like undocumented. They are documented because they already apply for protections. But the status they apply for as not being granted yet is pending. Now that's, those are the majority of the immigrant that we currently have. And the backlog of the asylum case has been up to 10 years and above to the back club because we don't have enough judges. Now, those family, those individual, they can go back to their country and then they are here and the opportunity for them to adjust and getting some of those resources is not available now. We just found out that they just go with health. That is so critical that people that apply for asylum now can get health assistance, how that happens, those information that they, but they are not reaching out to the community. And so our goal now is to start, begin that work partnering with various agency, like the housing departments and with the city and the state, let find out where the resources are and how can we partner and make sure the ACC and the immigrant community have access to the resources and know where to go and how to get it help as well, which is part of the COVID all of those things.

And then one critical thing is the public charge rule, which is the fear. Fear and fear. There are immigrants that even know and are aware that these resources are available now to them is they go out and access these resources. It will affect their immigration status, or it will affect them to reunite with their family. So they chooses to live in those dance to live in so many human living in order for them to keep that status because they can go back. We had a from an original country because of the fear and because of the crisis that are going there and then here as well again, then you have a rule. Now, some of those public charge rules doesn't apply. so some of our community members, but that information is not transmitted down to the grassroot level for them to understand that, Hey, you can apply for this program and it's not gonna impact your immigration status or whatever status you going into. So this is where low comes in. We are new organizations. We are celebrating our five years, October 22nd. I hope you, as we come and celebrate five years of impact out of this five year, COVID took our to almost three years of it because we are young coming up and then the heat of COVID and it impacted us. But we definitely wanna take advantage of this opportunity and see how we can educate our community. One to diffuse the fear of accessing those resources. And then two, how. And where are the resources here and how you can access it. So it's not just access to the resources, but there's other things that preventing them from access the resources, which is the fear, the language barrier, the cultural adjustments swim. So those are those things. I just wanted to throw out swim and to educate how here, but for language. And I'm just gonna say this again. We are so happy and grateful that we are having these conversations. We might not be the experts and the expression, but we have an ex, we are expert of the lived experience because we lived with individual that going through this, we interact with them every day and we've become a trusted voice within the community. And when we are out there and let them know what is happening and they will get involved like COVID 19, when it came out, there was. Community vaccination going on, but there we not community vaccination specifically to target the immigrant community. And we stepped in and we able to host several community vaccinations and do all of process. We got immigrant comes out and we did all of those with 100% volunteering with no funding from the health department, from the city or from the state. We love our community. We love our state and we want to make sure that our city, as they comes back to Norma. So we hosted those events. So thank you.

Pepper Roussel: Yeah, thank y'all so much for lifting up the education component. And so there's a question in the chat about the language barrier in many ways, right? So the question is, do we need to expand our translators, but it sounds like it's not just translators. It's also the level of that at which the documents are written, that they may be written at a level that's a higher educational attainment than the reader may be able to understand. Can y'all help me understand how do we get to a place that we're actually giving people information that they can understand in a way that they can understand.

Marcela Hernandez: So I learned English when I was 18 years old and I'm still having difficulties reading. I went to school, I have two two degrees, a master's degree, and sometimes I even still have difficulties. So imagine if a professional like myself has difficulties in completing applications and understanding, imagine someone who didn't even go to first grade in school. One thing we need to do as organizations in general is to be first of all, aware of the challenges that we're presenting here today. And when it's time to develop programs include us to be inclusive of us. When you bring us into the table, we are able to bring those different perspectives that maybe you are taking for granted because of your educational background or because your language. So definitely including us into the picture. And then we can also give some feedback and contribute to this new programs that are being developed.

Pepper Roussel: Agreed. And yeah, nothing about us without us is exactly the sentiment that I am all about today. And every day, to be honest with you. All right. So it, we are at nine 10. If you have any questions that we haven't asked, please put them in the chat. Otherwise I'm just gonna keep going through and asking questions that either I see there, or I make up along the way before we get too far I do wanna make sure to thank our guests for being here this morning. I cannot express to you how much more impactful and useful this was for us to actually have folks with a lived experience here with, or without the language barrier, I assure you your Spanish and your French are much better than mine. So the fact that you can exchange and share from a lived experience is absolutely what we needed.

Alfredo Cruz: Thanks, Pepper. And thanks for putting together this program. I think it's very meaningful for us to just get to a place where we have a greater understanding of the barriers that immigrants face. It reminded me like in where I grew up in Miami there's a whole community called Little Havana on Eighth Street that is known to be the place where folks, when they immigrate to Florida to Miami. They can start out. There's affordable housing. There's jobs everywhere in cafeterias and just like different places just to start up. And then you saw a lot of families moving economically to other places in Miami. And, though that place still feeling a lot of economic pressure as a low income community where people can thrive and build up their financial security. It's still there. And, I'd love to see places like that. And just yesterday I wanted to lift up some folks that I met at our high healthy housing forum, Linda Lou, and Lisa, and a third partner that started a company that intention to help immigrants have access to housing, to have access to home ownership, which I found was really beautiful. And hopefully more people like that who are willing to, innovate start something that we don't already have in this community to help. Folks coming here have access to housing, have access to homes, can start the kind of place where folks can live and thrive and move financially. Anywhere they want. So I just wanted to lift up the company that these beautiful women started with this beautiful intention of health and immigrant communities in our area.

Pepper Roussel: So I've got a stupid question for you, Alfredo, Little Havana, is that a government supported or is it private industry? Who is responsible for putting together a community where immigrants can actually get that start and move up the economic ladder and out into other parts of the community. Once they've got a once they've got a foothold

Alfredo Cruz: I'm so glad you asked that question because it's a real demonstration that sometimes you don't need government to do these things. It's the immigrants that came settled there and began to just communicate to other immigrants coming. This is a place that has housing that has jobs, the community build that themselves. Others that's began to increase their financial footing in the area, bought problems that were able to be rented to others and preserve the community to be that kind of space develop businesses to serve those immigrants that were coming from Cuba at the time in the eighties and employ them. People that were immigrating here, just like people that immigrate people that were immigrating to Miami at the time, just like people who immigrate here now come here with a lot of skills and certifications and degrees from their own countries, but they have to take jobs that pay minimum wage. They have to take jobs, cleaning, doing whatever they can, but it doesn't mean that they don't have skills in careers from their own. and that's what happened in little Havana. People were given the opportunity to work in the careers in, in, in areas that they had expertise in and in that whole area thrive, but it doesn't have government support in the sense that, the government built that place. It was the community itself. And it's a demonstration that sometimes don't, you don't need government for these things to happen.

Marcela Hernandez: So to put what he's saying in perspective, I wanna share with you a great example. My father is a physics mathematician. Okay. He was a professor for over 25 years in private schools back in Columbia. He moved to the United States five years ago. He does not speak English today. because of the lack of language. He is cleaning the floors from Goodwill industries. He's getting the bags of donations, starting up this donations that come through the door, cleaning toilets and doing anything he can just to get a paycheck. My dad is 75 years old and he leaves in an RV by Airline because there was no other affordable housing for him. So this is something real. This is not something, a story from very isolated. We see it every. and what Alfredo is saying is so true. We have amazing professionals, amazing people that add value to this community, but the accessibility to resources and the lack of language, it really impairs their daily lives and how they develop and how they live.

Dauda Sesay: These issues that we're talking about is so dear and personal to me and because of the community that we serve. And I just wanted to say that in as much as all the challenges that we face and like afraid men, child, which is immigrant, we come in, the doors is open and we have safety. And then we end up looking at, okay, yeah, gaps here, let go in and fill gap, let develop neighborhood related, let develop the community where related, let go out and contribute. That is the, that is one thing that we know of how we build our community so that they can be, we, it can be safe. And convenient for all of us. And we do appreciate the city and the state that we live in, the very good citizen that are helping us to feel belong because there is a different impact and feel belongs. And wherever we go, we wanna make sure that we feel belongs. And that is the reason why as an organization like us, we don't act any funding from the state or the government or the city. We don't have it, but we are going out there to help when all we can hire most recently hits. We are at the forefront to rebuild back, regardless of your status, when we issue food supplies and other basic amenities. So people impacted, we don't look whether you are immigrant or not. We give out to give back to our communities. All others comes. He came here with a skilled professional background, back home were unable to practice it here with other barriers. Now, our goal is how can we close those barriers? It began with this kind of conversation like we have, and that is where we are so grateful for having a space like this. We are venting out of the things that are happening. the place of event. And then also we can also have a conversation, meaningful conversation, how we can address. Those. So those problems that we identified today, and we are not just identifying problem, but also we are strategic thinkers and also we are partners and co collaborate, how we can address those issues. And that's, as she mentioned, as we mentioned earlier, the programs that are been coming up with is one is why is the lack of outreach? And now with the partnership of the the housing Alliance with Alfredo and the house in Louisiana and. how we can make sure that those information reach out to the immigrants and refugee communities and how aware of that. And also open up to provide some technical assistance as well, how we can connect always. So if you wanna learn more put information on the chat, reach out to her, and then we can actually discuss practical steps and how we all can make sure that everyone in the city, as you mentioned earlier, heavy, and we open our arms, but we close our pocket. so how we can, we are not telling you to open the pocket, but how we open our hands and then show us as well. This is will welcome you, but Hey, this is where you can go to get a, B and C and this so that you can fill your pocket again and at the community. , so it has, I just wanted to add, but I wanna express S of Alfredo as well for making these connections. Every immigrant, if you listen to our stories some weeks or the other. And intersect. And we have a deep history also in Louisiana here, which some of those history also connects with part of our history as well. So I just thank you all. And we are open to have additional conversation and how we can partner

Pepper Roussel: in the notes that will go out tomorrow we will have not only an announcement of Lori's five year anniversary, but we will share the white papers and the other information that Lori sent over in advance Marcella is gonna send me their community calendar or is through their event calendar. I will publish that, make sure that we keep that information going out. Where is there you are? Lisa, did you wanna come off mute and say, Hey.

Lisa Guillen: Hi. Hi, how are you? All? My name is Lisa Guillen. I'm born in the United States. Some of my family is from Honduras. I believe my grandmother is actually on this call also, cuz I invited her to attend the call because she's done. She is our anchor. She has done so much for our family coming from Honduras. And I'm sorry. I'm kinda, I'm so happy to me to this. I have no idea how much I've been wanting to like help in the community. Just watching all that my grandma's done for our family. So I'm just being, I'm sorry.

Pepper Roussel: Do not apologize ever for tears, you would not apologize if you were laughing, you would not apologize. If you were angry, it's just an emotion and we embrace you and we welcome you. Hey grandma, I don't know where she is, but I'm happy she's here and I'm happy. She, I am so thrilled that you do have an opportunity to give back to the community.

Lisa Guillen: Thank you. It's nice to meet you guys.

Pepper Roussel: All right, folks.

Casey Phillips: Alfredo, Little Havana and for, I think there's probably a lot of people on the call who are familiar with the shifting social dynamics inside of Miami over the last few decades, Alfredo, how do you, can you speak on maybe the shift in the transition of little Havana now, right? You have these thriving communities that have supported each other for generations, and as cities continue to develop and evolve, you're looking at a all out development attack on Little Havana, that's masked in public art and, and colonization that's masked in public art and reinvestment, but ultimately is destroying the fabric of of what was built there because they built it, the community built it and now other people want it. Can you maybe speak on that?

Alfredo Cruz: Sorry. No, it's exactly right. It's a displacement of immigrant low income immigrant community. It's happening in little Havana, which is right next to Little Havana and it's because the displacement of wealthier people from their own countries is causing them to then come to Miami, to south Florida, with their wealth and start businesses. And one of those businesses is development. And they've been buying up a lot of property from, wealthier people from south America and Brazil have been buying up a lot of property in south Florida since the early nineties. And now you're seeing the effects of that when there's been outside investors buying up cheap land, cheap properties in these thriving low income areas. And now they're using their political alliances and their wealth to drive out everyone who has lived there for generations. And that's what's happening in south Florida. I've been making the argument that the same can happen here. If we figure out how to deal with abandoned, vacant properties. And then we have all these outside investors buying all that up, just like they've been doing for years, buying up all the cheap houses, cheap land, and displacing the very families that live in these low income areas that are full of abandoned blighted properties. But once we're able to click the switch, cuz now we know how to do title clearance very quickly and put those properties back to market with clear title. Those outside investors will buy everything out and we have to have the right policy in place to make sure that people who already live here who are local residents. Have first right of refusal on those properties. It's the only way we're gonna preserve it. Unfortunately in Miami, they didn't do that. And so you have these outside investors bought up everything and they're, overdeveloping like you mentioned.

Casey Phillips: Thank you Alfredo. And I just wanted to make sure to build, again, it's not to deflate the enthusiasm of communities taking care of one another, but given the topic of last week on the redevelopment in north Baton Rouge same conversation that's having in south Dallas, the same conversation is happening in east Denver. All these different communities, every city there's like the same maniacal unintended consequences or intended consequences, depending on how you look at it, folks, that's why we're gonna keep hammering it. Policy work has to be done on the front end. It has to be proactive, not reactive. And I said, and that's why it's important to have community conversations for a hundred twenty four, a hundred twenty five weeks in order for everyone who's work doing this work to be aware of the 360 degree ramifications of the most well intended effort without policy in place. You ultimately wind up hurting the exact same communities you're working with. And I said, and that's not an acceptable outcome and you don't get to, you don't get a pass by making a mistake and saying, oops this destroys generations. And for folks, especially that Marcela had brought up and some of our speakers had brought up today is that you have families that have been living through trauma for decades and coming in and to be able, and then to build on that trauma. It's inhumane. So anyway, thank you for the for the space and everyone's insights today. Incredibly insight.

Lisa Guillen: So my grandma is on, I saw her she's Ernestina she? I don't know if she knows how to take herself off mute. We were having difficulties morning, get her on zoom. But yeah. So the, I just wanted to tell you guys about my team. They're not on here, cuz we all running crazy.

What Alfredo was talking about was so me Linda, she's Vietnamese, my little sister and Rosetta she's, African American, we all came together and we have formed this company called Eden's Capital Investment Group. And what our goal is to go in. And this is how we connected with Alfredo because we've been attending mayor Broome's Healthy Housing forum. We'll attend the blighted event that they have Saturday, and we're just really trying to learn and connect with the community to go in and essentially bring equity to community in low income areas where they're run down. But yet, being fixed up, they can become affordable housing for people. Rosetta, she's also a mortgage loan officer. And so the company that she's doing a franchise for they're out of NAS, Mississippi, and they're an African American family that basically started this company to help people especially minorities who were not able to get approved from conventional mortgage loan officers and brokerages or lenders and brokerages. And so they really go the extra mile to, look at every aspect of their income and so on and so forth so that they can get them improved, approve for homes and down payment assistance, so on and so forth. We really feel like we have a power team to just really give back to the community, cuz we all have, powerful stories.

Pepper Roussel: I'm so glad that you remembered that is a wonderful story. And if I can't have a little Havana, then I am happy to have your Edens group.

Alfredo Cruz: It's a start. And I think connecting folks like Lisa and her partners to capital that we know exist and those kinds of investments is gonna make this possible to have our own little Havanna here.

Lisa Guillen: Before we started this company, I started essentially doing it on my own. And I have a group of contractors that they're from El Salvador. When I tell you, they're so amazing. And the mom, the daughter just got her social security and her paperwork, and I'm trying to show her and her how to build credit. But the mom who's been here for a long time. She doesn't have her papers or anything, and she's a hard worker and she's working for a construction company and she's got a ton of money to put down on a house. And I was actually really fortunate that I was able to find a house for them in Glen Oaks, a pretty decent house where the owner is willing to do an owner finance for them. Oh wonderful. And even though they she doesn't have a social or anything like that because they have such a large down of payment and I've pretty much vouched for them. And I'm like, they're my family. he is willing to do this. And we're gonna walk through the steps in the process and they were just like, okay how much are we gonna pay you for this? And I was like, you're not gonna pay me anything. Just keep. Just keep showing up and helping me do what we're trying to do in the community. That's it. And they're like, oh my God, thank you, everyone literally wants to squeeze the dollar out of a penny. And we're so happy that we've met you. And these are the type of connections that we wanna make in the community.

Pat LeDuff: I also have a great discussion. It just brings me way back to if we had fixed it long time ago, we wouldn't have a problem now join us and fighting for the same issues. We gonna get through this because the more we expose folk to, to, to the real deal the better we are in place to change policy to make a difference. But I have a guest with me today. I have Ms. Zaria Cherry. And Zaria, you wanna say good morning.

Zaria Cherry: Good morning. Hi. My name is Zaria Cherry. This is my book. I am currently in the state and I am about to go to in frog, Dufrock elementary and talk about my book is a group of second grader and your 10 years old.

Pat LeDuff: So she's the author of Lulu, the lollipop book,

and and she's dyslexic. So she's known as the author that couldn't read. So lift her up. She will be at Buchanan, Dufrock, and this afternoon we will be at the Jewel Newman Center with Councilman Banks. Children's Palace has children's place. We got a grant from them to do a reading center, so she will be presenting her book this afternoon at four o'clock at that ribbon cutting. So thank you for that space.

Pepper Roussel: Bravo, the author who couldn't read. All right. Before we moved into community announcements. So key those up. I want to make some space for Lisa's Nana, Señora Ernestina, since you are off mute, would you please share with us some of your experience?

Ernestina Heller Kutz: Let's see if I can just, yeah, you're already off mute. You're good. Okay. Very good. as you can see, my accent is very heavy accent. I just started learning English in my forties. It has been very difficult to learn the English phonics, but I am here and by listening everybody's experience, I understand how difficult is it is when you come to another country. Without learning knowing the language even, I agree with my father. When I came to this country, I was already a school teacher and I have to start working cleaning houses, babysitting, working at the store. And through the Catholic charities, I started learning English. I used to go every single day to in merchant English classes. And I started learning English and later I went to Tula university and so on, and I started learning the English. It was not too easy. And talking about housing, it is very difficult for people who lives here in this country. People who are already a citizens, poor people in this country are having the faculties to find a house sometimes to rent the house. And in other words, if they want to buy a house, it is very difficult. Even for people who were born in this country. Now, if we are talking about foreigners nurse, foreigners first, they do not speak the, in the language. Secondly, they cannot prove that they have two, at least two years working in the same place. Third, they maybe they do not have the complete paper working information required for apply for for a mortgage and some organizations as a humanity. What's the name? For humanity, Uhhuh yeah, they have requirements too. They have to look on if they have a good credit record. I remember at the time I didn't have any credit. When I applied, they denied it to me even when they came to my house and they saw that I have so many kids in my house and say, oh, we cannot give you the credit. You cannot participate because you don't have credit. We have to find all those details in order to help the people who are looking for housing, it was very difficult for me to sign for my first house. In other words, my son's ma two of my son have to consign for me later. I have I help her to consign to one of my daughters. And but it has been so difficult. I can tell you so many stories about the different how I can say difficulties for housing. As a matter of fact, right now, I have very house and I rent part of my house downstair for a, for nurse who have problem to sign a contract in a regular apartment housing. so I hope that this organization that you are leading, will help immediate to find affordable housing. And going back to Cuba, I really admire the Cubans. Cubans are very unique community. They help each other immediately, especially the older Cubans. The older Cuban really are, were very unified. They help each other. Now they have great businesses in helping others and will be nice for their communities. Like Colombian, hon Julian Salian and all together, we become as a group to help each others. So thank you very much. God bless you. And I will continue participating in this meeting and especially helping my granddaughter, Lisa, which is my very first granddaughter. I love her, so God bless you all. Thank you so much,

Pepper Roussel: And Alfredo's absolutely right. Cubans have political representation in Congress and we all know how important it is to have representation and a place of power

Zoom Chat

08:31:27 From One Rouge to Everyone:

Good Morning, OneRouge!

08:31:48 From Manny Patole to Everyone:

good morning from the crisp (finally) north east.

08:31:57 From Morgan Udoh (She/Her/They) to Everyone:

Good morning 🌶 ❤️

08:32:18 From K M to Everyone:

Happy Friday all! Hope you had a great week.

08:32:40 From Carrie Patterson (she/her) to Everyone:

Good Morning! Happy Friday.

08:33:02 From Judy Touzin to Everyone:

Good morning everyone

08:40:20 From Ashley Brundage to Everyone:

Hi! Thanks! I’ll just listen in today as I have to hop soon for a nine am call.

08:40:33 From Morgan Udoh (She/Her/They) to Everyone:

Affordable housing turning into a speculative risk for capital gain by private equity firms… seems to be a HUGE factor as well. Maybe legislation should be presumed to limit their stock.

08:41:43 From Helena Williams to Everyone:

I know OSHA protects workers from inhumane working conditions, is there something similar to protect renters?

08:45:52 From One Rouge to Everyone:

Baton Rouge has trailer parks????

08:47:33 From Summer Dann La STEM Reg II to Everyone:

Yes many of the EBRPSS hispanic students were in trailer parks. There are alot of them north of Fl blvd

08:47:43 From Morgan Udoh (She/Her/They) to Everyone:

Many. They’re just tucked back into random alcoves. There’s atleast one in Gardere.

08:47:56 From Patrick Tuck to Everyone:

What is your relationship with Catholic Charities in the immigration pathway?

08:49:31 From Morgan Udoh (She/Her/They) to Everyone:

Our affordable housing stock is abysmal and yet ANOTHER luxury housing Al complex just popped up on bluebonnet at Burbank… WHY?! there’s no way that there’s that many “luxury” salaries to go around.

08:49:56 From Morgan Udoh (She/Her/They) to Everyone:

Are these units just sitting open?

08:50:52 From Ashley Brundage to Everyone:

Thanks for having me!

08:52:01 From Casey Phillips to Everyone:

OneRouge community, please begin placing your questions for our speakers in the chat.

08:52:56 From Morgan Udoh (She/Her/They) to Everyone:

Reminiscent of the NY tenements of early 20th century. 😞

08:55:26 From Helena Williams to Everyone:

The current economic climate and rules don't allow for anyone to start from scratch. I've heard so many stories of the past that start with "I moved to X with $2 in my pocket” now that is impossible.

08:55:27 From Manny Patole to Everyone:

Noncitizen Eligibility for Federal Housing Programs (from 2020, perhaps our speakers know more about any recent updates) -

08:56:14 From Manny Patole to Everyone:

@Morgan's comment - the NYC Tenement museum is a great resource about the social cultural history of immigration -

08:57:44 From Manny Patole to Everyone:

Q: How are restrictive covenants are a further hindrance for non-us citizens to access programs from non-governmental entities for social housing?

08:58:57 From Manny Patole to Everyone:

08:59:05 From Manny Patole to Everyone:



09:00:08 From Marcela Hernandez, LMSW- LORI- to Everyone:

Marcela Hernandez,, 225-328-8830

09:00:37 From Morgan Udoh (She/Her/They) to Everyone:

Do we need to greatly expand our interpreter contract services in specific industries?

09:02:21 From Lisa Guillen to Everyone:

Will these events be on a calendar sent out to us ?

09:03:10 From One Rouge to Everyone:

@lisa, i will include all the info in the weekly notes that go out.

09:04:04 From Manny Patole to Everyone:

@Morgan, yes. For example, here in NYC which has received an influx of people from Equador, the primary language is not Spanish and is in fact Quechau. What is more complicated is that languages like that are not always having a written form. This is an extreme case but understanding language, not just speaking it, is a different type of inclusionary policy that is an emerging concern.

09:04:05 From One Rouge to Everyone:

@marcela, does LORI have an event calendar that we can share?

09:04:25 From Lisa Guillen to Everyone:

Thank you so much ! I am new here, thanks to Alfredo letting me know about this beautiful program :)

09:04:33 From Manny Patole to Everyone:

*Quechua (Kichwa)

09:05:30 From Lisa Guillen to Everyone:

LA has an influx of Cubans

09:07:23 From Morgan Udoh (She/Her/They) to Everyone:

@manny thanks for that insight. I think there also has to be cultural training as well. Regarding naming conventions and records. I had to help a guy get his medications at CVS bc the pharmacist didn’t understand how family and surnames are listed differently for some folks of Hispanic origin and kept saying that the name didn’t match and the guy was struggling to explain in English.

09:07:44 From Patrick Tuck to Everyone:

Must head out early today. Thanks so much for your work!!!

09:07:47 From Manny Patole to Everyone:

Very true @Morgan

09:08:57 From Manny Patole to Everyone:

The other issue that is connected to our day to day lives, many of the immigrants that are experiencing these issues are also those agricultural laborers who are working many farms, orchards, etc across the country.

09:09:30 From Manny Patole to Everyone:

09:09:44 From rodneyna to Everyone:

Nothing about us without us.

09:09:46 From Morgan Udoh (She/Her/They) to Everyone:

And cultural translation of document meanings. Some government terms don’t translate well across countries.

09:11:12 From Morgan Udoh (She/Her/They) to Everyone:

Yes. Us monolinguals are the issue. We’re the barrier.

09:12:30 From Manny Patole to Everyone: Keep this in mind... think about the sacrifice and courage it takes to uproot from your comfort zone to a place where you don't know anyone, know the language, and have nothing. What is that like? It is how this country was built.

09:13:01 From Lisa Guillen to Everyone:

i'm so humbled. thank you Alfredo 😍

09:15:33 From Manny Patole to Everyone:

I have to hop off (student office hours). Great conversation and hopefully it opens the eyes of others.

09:19:18 From Alfredo Cruz to Everyone:

hoping we can better connect with Louisiana's Refugee coordinator.


State Refugee Coordinator (Interim): Amber Hebert 225.376.6807 

State Website: Louisiana Office for Refugees Visit disclaimer page 

State Refugee Health Coordinator: Michael Lacassagne 504.568.5010

Louisiana Department of Health/Office of Public Health 

09:20:02 From Karla King - concerned citizen to Everyone:

Marcela, thank you so much for sharing your Dad's experience. I wish he were on this zoom group with us where he would be welcomed and listened to.

09:20:37 From Alfredo Cruz to Everyone:


09:22:06 From Alfredo Cruz to Everyone:

We are here for you!!!

09:22:06 From Ebony Starks-Wilson Foundation to Everyone:


09:22:13 From Morgan Udoh (She/Her/They) to Everyone:


09:22:27 From SHERRETA HARRISON to Everyone:


09:25:47 From Morgan Udoh (She/Her/They) to Everyone:

Isn’t capitalism great? 🙃

09:26:40 From One Rouge to Everyone:

capitalism is the gift that keeps on giving!

09:26:43 From SHERRETA HARRISON to Everyone:

So grateful to be able to listen in on this discussion. I learned so much. And now I want a "Little Country" too!

09:26:54 From Pat LeDuff's iPhone to Everyone:

Absolutely!!! And Amen!!

09:27:21 From Dominique Dallas to Everyone:

that reminds me of tightening up opportunity zones so people can’t easily take advantage of communities because of economical advantages

09:27:44 From SHERRETA HARRISON to Everyone:

Need to jump to a 930. Happy Friday, One Rouge!

09:28:04 From One Rouge to Everyone:

THAT part!

09:28:34 From Pat LeDuff's iPhone to Everyone:

Yes, Hurting the very communities we are trying to help

09:29:24 From Dauda Sesay to Everyone:

Glad to connect today


09:30:04 From Alfredo Cruz to Everyone:

I love this story!!

09:33:40 From Morgan Udoh (She/Her/They) to Everyone:


09:34:04 From Casey Phillips to Everyone:

welcome young creator

09:34:12 From Morgan Udoh (She/Her/They) to Everyone:

Way to go girl! I wanna be like you when I grow up!

09:34:53 From Jen Tewell (she/her) to Everyone:

Have to head to the next, thanks y'all!

09:35:21 From Morgan Udoh (She/Her/They) to Everyone:

Beautiful accent!

09:36:54 From One Rouge to Everyone:

leerning another language is not easy. i admire anyone who does!

09:37:06 From Karla King - concerned citizen to Everyone:

Pat, Red Stick Reads is a wonderful new bookstore - (emphasizing children's books, right by BR High School. They would be interested in finding out about the book.

09:41:14 From Alfredo Cruz to Everyone:

And Cubans have political representation in Congress!

09:41:43 From Pat LeDuff's iPhone to Everyone:

Awesome!! Keep up the wonderful work!!

09:42:01 From Tristi Charpentier (she/her) to Everyone:

. The Foundation is pleased to announce a new funding opportunity will launch on October 1, 2022, to serve families and individuals below the ALICE threshold and/or returning from incarceration. The Engage pillar focuses on our most underserved populations with these specific goals:

• Decrease percentage of families who are liquid-asset poor

• Increase healthcare utilization by families below the ALICE threshold

• Decrease recidivism rate

The Foundation will kick off the application cycle with an applicant workshop on Wednesday, October 5, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., at the East Baton Rouge Parish Library’s River Center Branch at 250 North Boulevard. Organizations interested in being a partner in Engage are strongly encouraged to register and attend this workshop.

09:42:10 From Tristi Charpentier (she/her) to Everyone:

09:42:46 From Mary Stein to Everyone:

BR Concert Band offers a free concert at the Main Library on Sunday afternoon at 5... outside in the PLAZA

09:44:17 From Dauda Sesay to Everyone:

LORI 5 years Gala

09:44:31 From Marcela Hernandez, LMSW- LORI- to Everyone:

oct. 22

09:44:47 From Pat LeDuff's iPhone to Everyone:

Live after 5 today

09:45:13 From Tristi Charpentier (she/her) to Everyone:

09:45:19 From Morgan Udoh (She/Her/They) to Everyone:

Oh pepper…. We gotta get you out

09:45:41 From Marcela Hernandez, LMSW- LORI- to Everyone:

Thank you so much for inviting us!!!

Community Announcements

Pepper Roussel: The Huey and Angelina Wilson foundation will launch on October 20, October 1st, 22nd new funding opportunity. There's an application cycle with an applicant workshop that begins that, or rather that occurs October 5th from 10 to 1p, I will be there with some of my favorite people probably causing confusion in the back, but I will take notes too.

Baton Rouge. Concert band is a free concert. The main library and Sunday afternoon outside in the Plaza.

Casey Phillips: I did wanna make sure and lift up there's the mayor. Mayor Broome's Blight bootcamp is tomorrow at the River City Library. It starts at 8:00 AM with a breakfast and then panelists include community organizations including Helena Williams will be speaking on community beautification. And then the lunchtime session will be about coalition builders. I know that he from Together Baton Rouge, Jared from Geaux Get Healthy BR and several others will be speaking at the lunchtime panel. It's a free event, so I recommend everybody registering and coming out to the River City Library tomorrow. If you wanna become part of the solution and not complain about the problem,

Pepper Roussel: Lori's five year gala. We've got the link to the event, that just disrupted to the chat.

And Live After Five is back downtown.

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