How to engage Latinx communities during COVID-19

COVID-19 has deepened existing inequities in Black and Brown communities across northeastern Illinois. For Latinx residents, avoiding exposure to the coronavirus has proven particularly challenging.

Studies have shown that Latinx communities have a higher rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases than any other racial group. In Cook County, for example, the five ZIP codes with the highest rates of confirmed cases are all predominantly Latinx, according to a WBEZ analysis of data from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the U.S. Census Bureau. Those areas include Chicago neighborhoods like Little Village and Hermosa, as well as west suburban Cicero and Stone Park.

Social factors, including employment and housing patterns in Latinx communities, may contribute to this higher experience of COVID-19. A recent Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning analysis found that many essential jobs in the region are disproportionately held by workers of color: Although Latinx/Hispanic workers make up 21 percent of regional workers, they are especially over-represented in construction (39.3 percent) and food service occupations (38.1 percent), making it more difficult to avoid exposure.

Furthermore, financial need may also drive Latinx residents to continue working during the pandemic. Latinx workers who are not yet U.S. citizens do not have access to support through unemployment or stipends from the CARES Act.

Multigenerational housing also presents a challenge specific to Latinx residents, who make up 21 percent of homeowners and 13 percent of renters in northeastern Illinois. National trends show an overall increase in multigenerational housing in recent years, with rates increasing fastest among Latinx populations, according to an AARP report. A single Latinx household, therefore, may be more likely to include children, retired grandparents, and parents and other family members who are essential workers, allowing the virus to spread more easily and reach higher-risk older adults.

Community leaders must understand these unique challenges and respond to the specific needs of the people most impacted by the pandemic. Public engagement with Latinx residents remains important. As the pandemic continues, communities should find ways to disseminate materials and public service messaging that is culturally and linguistically appropriate for all residents.

Here are three steps that local leaders can take to better engage Latinx communities during their COVID-19 responses.

 

Cast a wide net for both broad and targeted engagement

Many Latinx residents receive information through their churches or at social service agencies and community meetings that provide materials printed in Spanish. Unfortunately, many of these places have either shut down or severely limited their services as a result of the pandemic, leaving Latinx communities even more vulnerable. As such, local governments and leaders must find new ways to disseminate critical information in Latinx communities.

For projects and other important news, work with key community leaders to expand the stakeholder list, ensuring you reach the broadest population possible. Identify gaps in your outreach efforts to better engage people of color and other underrepresented groups, such as through immigrant-related and Latinx-specific service providers.

 

Create materials accessible to Latinx populations

A primary goal for all CMAP projects is to elevate community engagement in planning, particularly for communities of color. For more inclusive growth, we must be intentional about the tools, strategies, and stakeholders involved in planning. That includes producing online and printed materials that reach partners and residents who live and work in the affected neighborhood.

One resource that can support local governments in engaging Latinx communities is the Immigration Integration Toolkit. The toolkit, created by CMAP and the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, addresses common challenges associated with engaging immigrant populations and non-English speaking residents who face language barriers.

 

Find creative ways to engage with residents

As part of its public engagement efforts, CMAP sometimes invites residents to participate in an interactive mapping exercise where they put colored dots on a large map, identifying places of concern, areas to preserve, and sites in need of investment. Another activity involves asking community members to take photos on their phone of what they like and dislike in their neighborhood. These creative approaches can be a good way of engaging young people, as well as Latinx residents who may experience language barriers with traditional print materials.

Communities must find more equitable ways to engage and support all residents to ensure our region thrives. Inclusive growth — one of the three core principles of ON TO 2050 — leads to longer, stronger periods of prosperity and fewer, shorter periods of economic stagnation. To achieve equity and fully address the COVID-19 pandemic, communities must understand and respond to the particular needs of Latinx residents, improving quality of life for them and all residents throughout northeastern Illinois.

 

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How to engage Latinx communities during COVID-19

COVID-19 has deepened existing inequities in Black and Brown communities across northeastern Illinois. For Latinx residents, avoiding exposure to the coronavirus has proven particularly challenging.

Studies have shown that Latinx communities have a higher rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases than any other racial group. In Cook County, for example, the five ZIP codes with the highest rates of confirmed cases are all predominantly Latinx, according to a WBEZ analysis of data from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the U.S. Census Bureau. Those areas include Chicago neighborhoods like Little Village and Hermosa, as well as west suburban Cicero and Stone Park.

Social factors, including employment and housing patterns in Latinx communities, may contribute to this higher experience of COVID-19. A recent Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning analysis found that many essential jobs in the region are disproportionately held by workers of color: Although Latinx/Hispanic workers make up 21 percent of regional workers, they are especially over-represented in construction (39.3 percent) and food service occupations (38.1 percent), making it more difficult to avoid exposure.

Furthermore, financial need may also drive Latinx residents to continue working during the pandemic. Latinx workers who are not yet U.S. citizens do not have access to support through unemployment or stipends from the CARES Act.

Multigenerational housing also presents a challenge specific to Latinx residents, who make up 21 percent of homeowners and 13 percent of renters in northeastern Illinois. National trends show an overall increase in multigenerational housing in recent years, with rates increasing fastest among Latinx populations, according to an AARP report. A single Latinx household, therefore, may be more likely to include children, retired grandparents, and parents and other family members who are essential workers, allowing the virus to spread more easily and reach higher-risk older adults.

Community leaders must understand these unique challenges and respond to the specific needs of the people most impacted by the pandemic. Public engagement with Latinx residents remains important. As the pandemic continues, communities should find ways to disseminate materials and public service messaging that is culturally and linguistically appropriate for all residents.

Here are three steps that local leaders can take to better engage Latinx communities during their COVID-19 responses.

 

Cast a wide net for both broad and targeted engagement

Many Latinx residents receive information through their churches or at social service agencies and community meetings that provide materials printed in Spanish. Unfortunately, many of these places have either shut down or severely limited their services as a result of the pandemic, leaving Latinx communities even more vulnerable. As such, local governments and leaders must find new ways to disseminate critical information in Latinx communities.

For projects and other important news, work with key community leaders to expand the stakeholder list, ensuring you reach the broadest population possible. Identify gaps in your outreach efforts to better engage people of color and other underrepresented groups, such as through immigrant-related and Latinx-specific service providers.

 

Create materials accessible to Latinx populations

A primary goal for all CMAP projects is to elevate community engagement in planning, particularly for communities of color. For more inclusive growth, we must be intentional about the tools, strategies, and stakeholders involved in planning. That includes producing online and printed materials that reach partners and residents who live and work in the affected neighborhood.

One resource that can support local governments in engaging Latinx communities is the Immigration Integration Toolkit. The toolkit, created by CMAP and the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, addresses common challenges associated with engaging immigrant populations and non-English speaking residents who face language barriers.

 

Find creative ways to engage with residents

As part of its public engagement efforts, CMAP sometimes invites residents to participate in an interactive mapping exercise where they put colored dots on a large map, identifying places of concern, areas to preserve, and sites in need of investment. Another activity involves asking community members to take photos on their phone of what they like and dislike in their neighborhood. These creative approaches can be a good way of engaging young people, as well as Latinx residents who may experience language barriers with traditional print materials.

Communities must find more equitable ways to engage and support all residents to ensure our region thrives. Inclusive growth — one of the three core principles of ON TO 2050 — leads to longer, stronger periods of prosperity and fewer, shorter periods of economic stagnation. To achieve equity and fully address the COVID-19 pandemic, communities must understand and respond to the particular needs of Latinx residents, improving quality of life for them and all residents throughout northeastern Illinois.

 

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How to engage Latinx communities during COVID-19 - CMAP