By Claire Lindsey, Journalism Intern
It has been more than a year since COVID-19 forced the world into an economic shutdown and a health and safety related panic. Even as more people are vaccinated and businesses re-open, communities are still struggling.
Health & COVID Services
“At this point, I feel like we are at the point of hesitancy,” said Claudia Sanchez, the Healthcare Navigator at Casa San Jose. “People don’t want to get vaccinated because they don’t have good information.”
Sanchez said there are not many Spanish media outlets available, so it’s hard for Spanish speakers to get accurate information about vaccines, safety precautions, and COVID updates.
The staff at the Latino Community Center has encountered the same issue of people having doubts about the vaccine. To inform the community, the LCC has put together a team to tackle any questions community members may have.
“We have a team of staff, we call them our COVID vaccine awareness champions.” said Alyssa Giron, the Director of Family Services at the LCC. They call them “champions” for short. They conduct cold calls to anyone who has concerns or questions about the vaccine, and they administer a short survey to collect information on people’s beliefs and behaviors around vaccines.
“We have gotten 205 survey responses and of those 205, 18% say they feel a little bit more comfortable getting vaccinated and 7.8% say they feel a lot more comfortable getting vaccinated just after a short phone call.” said Giron.
Both Casa San Jose and the LCC are helping community members get their shots. The LCC has partnered with Uber to provide free rides to vaccination centers.
“We have zero restrictions. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in Allegheny County,” said Giron. “We can go across counties if needed to make sure people get transportation, which has been a big barrier for our community.”
Casa San Jose is also offering transportation and translation services. Their team members will schedule vaccine or doctor appointments. They will also accompany anyone who needs a translator to their appointments.
Casa San Jose has partnered with Allegheny County to make vaccines free and accessible. Every Tuesday, Casa San Jose will host a vaccine clinic in Beechview.
“They don’t need to bring anything. They just need to tell us their name and date of birth.” said Sanchez. Anyone who would like to receive a vaccine should register here or visit Casa’s website for more information.
LCC and Casa San Jose will be delivering food and other supply kits to families who are quarantined due to a recent COVID infection.
Business & Financial Support
In addition to safety concerns, many communities and business owners are struggling economically. Guillermo Velazquez, Executive Director of the Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation, has worked closely with business owners experiencing hardship.
“It’s a combination of being able to pay rent and being able to keep their businesses moving forward.” Velazquez said about entrepreneurs. He said that about 50% of people who were struggling last year are still struggling today.
The PHDC has several programs to help families and businesses succeed. Their location in Beechview serves as a business incubator. They provide resources in Spanish, Portugese, and English.
“Being a business incubator, we didn’t want to be known as an institution that generates companies and then eventually these companies were not going to make it because of the pandemic,” said Velazquez. “We want to make sure they stay alive.”
During the pandemic, the PHDC helped businesses apply for loans and grants. For companies that did not apply, the PHDC raised money to assist with expenses.
For undocumented families that do not qualify for public assistance programs, the LCC has the Community Emergency Response Fund.
“Families who are having trouble making rent payments, utility payments, or anything like that, they can reach out to the LCC and apply for funding through CERF.” said Angelica Perry, the LCC’s Director of Development and Communications.
While the pandemic isolated people from one another and created new anxieties for many, there are several Pittsburgh organizations that are working to strengthen communities once again.
Anyone with questions regarding vaccines, COVID updates and precautions, financial help, or other should visit the websites linked in the story, or call the organizations directly.