The Nuestro Center in suburban Highwood on Chicago’s North Shore provides a variety of social services to the city’s large Latino population, like after school programs for children of all ages.
Operated by Family Service of Lake County, the center works with families who “work in restaurants, hotels, housekeeping services, grocery stores, factories, landscaping firms and other service industry jobs,” says Arturo Medina, the group’s director of Latino and youth services.
But since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Illinois, Medina says more than half of the families the center works with are now facing unemployment, or a steep reduction of work hours.
“People were stringing together three part-time jobs and now they’re down to one with a couple days out of the week with a few hours on each day,” he said. “That’s 44 of our 82 families that we work with and are part of our programming. And we anticipate that that number’s going to continue to grow as more businesses are forced to close down.”
To help offset the harshest economic damage, the Nuestro Center has set up an emergency fund to provide basic relief to the families they work with.
“Our families need food, to fill the gap that exists between current available food pantries and other needs the families have,” Medina said. “We want to be able to cover our family’s medical costs, medicine and household supplies and toiletries.”
The Nuestro Center’s emergency fund has so far received support from both local churches and individual donors in the community. Medina says the group hopes to focus on shifting some of their after school programs online after basic needs are met.