Pro Bono News

Report: CHA Doesn't Provide Adequate Language Services For Seniors (IL)

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Report: CHA Doesn't Provide Adequate Language Services For Seniors

"Maria Perez lives in a one-bedroom Chicago Housing Authority senior building on the city’s North Side. Perez says she went three months without hot water in her bathroom because of a language barrier to speak with building management. Perez speaks Spanish, and her English is limited.

Such language access issues and the hardships resulting from them — like those Perez experienced — are common in CHA senior buildings. That’s according to “Falling Flat: The Chicago Housing Authority’s Inadequate Implementation of Their Language Access Plan,” a new report released Thursday by the Jane Addams Senior Caucus (JASC), a multiracial grassroots group. Perez is a part of the group.

“This report finds that both current and prospective residents faced numerous barriers in obtaining assistance in their native language. Some residents felt that the consequences of their limited English was mitigated due to the supportive community in their building that could provide occasional interpretation,” the report said.

“However, many seniors trying to navigate the application from the outside were particularly vulnerable and did not have an internal community to support the process. Ultimately, their experiences — and any assistance they received — were contingent upon familial and community support, not a CHA process or structure. Residents, by and large, were not aware of nor did they have access to interpretation services.”

JASC members did something called participatory action research — where people most affected by an issue do the research, analyze and take action on it.

With help from the Loyola University Chicago Center for Urban Research and Learning and the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, 69 CHA seniors from seven language groups conducted surveys in senior buildings. The number one language spoken is Spanish, followed by Polish, Russian then Hindu/Urdu.

The CHA senior population tends to be more diverse than other public housing properties. Perez and other seniors want more bilingual staff, more training and a better language phone line..."

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