Latino communities have been at a heightened risk of infection and death throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. But the coronavirus has not only endangered their health, it’s also harming their finances and making them more likely to lose their homes.
WBEZ reporter Maria Ines Zamudio says the financial outlook for many Latinos is dire.
“During the pandemic, workers have been either laid off or their hours have been reduced. And the reality is that the industries where a lot of Latinos are concentrated are the ones that have lost a lot of jobs. We’ve lost over 8 million jobs in the hospitality industry alone,” she said. “And when we look at the industries that are still doing really well, that haven’t seen a lot of layoffs. We also see that those industries just don’t employ a lot of Latinos. So as a result you’re seeing a lot of families struggling financially.”
Housing security has gotten some legislative attention since the beginning of the pandemic, including state and federal eviction moratoriums. But reporter Justin Agrelo says people are still getting evicted.
“I think people don’t realize that eviction court is still open, that landlords can file evictions against tenants who supposedly pose a threat,” said Agrelo, who reports for City Bureau. “Landlords never really needed the court system to displace Black and Brown people, and we’re definitely still hearing that now. Landlords are using Illegal lockouts, shutting off utilities, threats of violence to move people. We spoke with 30 different renters for a recent story called 'The Housing Cliff' and it really just highlighted how easily folks have fallen through the cracks and how ineffective the eviction moratorium has been at keeping people in place.”
Agrelo adds that factors such as immigration status can make housing insecurity even worse.
“I don’t think any poor or working-class renter in Chicago has much of a safety net,” he said. “When you add the layers of being an immigrant and being undocumented the protections are even fewer. As we know, undocumented people were shut out of the federal stimulus as well as cut off from unemployment benefits. …It’s also not uncommon for undocumented folks to be displaced just by the threat of eviction alone. And really the idea of having to go into a space like a courtroom in the United States can be very scary for immigrant communities regardless of status … A lot of folks will choose to move or double up with family rather than be in contact with the court system.”
South Side Weekly reporter Charmaine Runes says as a result of evictions and challenges in collecting accurate data, more people could be homeless in Chicago than are currently known.
“It is hard to say, but it does seem incredibly likely that we’ve seen an uptick in homelessness just based on the number of evictions and people not being able to make rent and not being sure where to go,” Runes said. “I think the trouble with documenting homelessness … is because the shelter system has experienced so much chaos because of COVID. The number of beds that you can fit in one space is no longer the same because of the need to social distance.”
She points to similar difficulties collecting data on food insecurity.
“A lot of the more granular administrative data in food insecurity comes from the 2014-2018 American Community Survey from the Census Bureau, so it’s not up to date,” she noted. “And even if the data were up to date, it might not capture certain communities’ needs and assets accurately.”