Building trust through conversation, knowledge, and mutual education is key to a strengthened partnership between ACLAMO and Legal Aid of Southeastern PA (LASP). Funded by a HealthSpark Foundation grant, ACLAMO and LASP’s collaboration is part of HealthSpark’s Blueprint for a Better Safety Net, updated in spring/summer 2020 to address issues exacerbated by COVID-19. According to the Brookings Institution and Pew Research Center, COVID-19 has had a profound negative impact on the economic well-being of Latino families.
The partnership connects ACLAMO’s trust within the Latino and non-English speaking community with LASP’s expertise in civil legal matters. The Latino population is frequently under-served by safety net providers, and LASP is committed to increasing access to its services for Montgomery County’s Latino population.
ACLAMO’s Executive Director and CEO since 2015, Nelly Jiménez-Arévalo has advocated for the Latino community in Pennsylvania since emigrating from Venezuela in 1998. Sharing her extensive experience in working with organizations to improve service delivery to Latinos, Jiménez has reviewed LASP’s language access policies and provided feedback. “We are excited to be working with legal aid to support building a lasting change around language access and equity,” Jiménez-Arévalo said. “Our partnership has helped us strengthen our relationship and trust. We are thankful for the opportunity to find ways to work and learn from each other.”
Shawn Boehringer, LASP Executive Director, said, “It’s important for strategic planning to get better connected with the community, to get a better sense of how we can do outreach and how we can address needs. … Starting with the recognition that everybody has implicit biases, a policy can show commitment to serving diverse communities, but we have to go beyond the policies, and get a better understanding of the communities from hearing people tell their stories and give their perspective. I think that’s really been valuable.”
Erica Briant, LASP Community Engagement Unit Supervising Attorney, said the partnership is already benefiting clients: “We’ve had a client who was having a hard time applying for rental assistance.” LASP provided warm referrals to ACLAMO staff, to connect the client with Emergency Rent and Utility Coalition (ERUC). ACLAMO is one of six nonprofits administering Your Way Home of Montgomery County’s COVID-19 program to help renters. “ACLAMO also works with people who are receiving rental assistance but still have a landlord-tenant action pending and need a legal advocate from LASP to help,“ Briant noted.
In addition, LASP attorneys presented trainings for ACLAMO advocates on landlord-tenant law and unemployment compensation, both which have been high-priority issues for LASP clients during COVID and are disproportionately impacting the Latino community.
At one of ACLAMO’s Facebook Live events, LASP attorneys Alexandria Baland and Lily Austin, Independence Fellow, who both speak Spanish, answered community members’ questions on landlord-tenant issues. LASP attorneys also will discuss public benefits at an ACLAMO Facebook Live event in the near future.
Boehringer noted, “The lessons that we learn in Montgomery County also will help inform our work with Latino communities in Lower Bucks County and Chester County, particularly in southwestern Chester County.”
- “COVID-19 is having a devastating impact on the economic well-being of Latino families” by Gabriel R. Sanchez, Edward D. Vargas, and Adrián A. Pedroza (July 27, 2020): https://brook.gs/3z5avb5
- “Coronavirus Economic Downturn Has Hit Latinos Especially Hard” by Jens Manuel Krogstad and Mark Hugo Lopez (Aug. 4, 2020): https://pewrsr.ch/3ipvAXN