Rafael Bullones knows firsthand the hardships immigrants can face when looking for a place to live. The 31-year-old, who moved to the United States from Venezuela in 2014, initially struggled and without some help, he said, it’s likely he could have ended up without a home at all.
Housing issues can abound for immigrants, he said. They may lack a credit score or could still be looking for employment while searching for housing. They can face discrimination and abusive landlords, he said. Language barriers can also make a difficult situation that much tougher.
Now Bullones is helping others overcome the obstacles. As a paralegal and outreach coordinator for the Community Justice Project, a nonprofit legal assistance firm, much of his job involves helping people navigate these complicated housing issues, connecting them to resources like rent relief, providing translation services and assisting in cases where residents may be living in substandard conditions. He also helps residents find resources and solutions regarding lead poisoning in homes.
Regardless of where they’re living, he said immigrants should know “they still have rights and they can demand to live in good conditions.”
The North Side resident plans to keep the Pittsburgh area his home, hoping to practice law and eventually own a farm. Bullones is an avid chess player and can often be found playing Downtown. He also practices ashtanga yoga and officiates the occasional wedding.