San Francisco’s Latino population struggles disproportionately in key areas that determine success and stability, said a coalition of nonprofits that serve low-income Latino communities around the city.
The groups, under the name San Francisco Latino Parity and Equity Coalition, are calling for more funding to go to services for struggling Latino families.
The coalition held a press conference Wednesday highlighting the findings of its study of neighborhoods like the Mission, Excelsior, Bayview, Tenderloin and Visitacion Valley: Latino children lag behind in education, Latinos are more likely to have health problems and visit the emergency room for preventable conditions, and Latinos are overburdened by rent yet few of them are able to access affordable housing.
To begin addressing those problems with targeted services, education and outreach campaigns, the coalition has been petitioning Mayor Ed Lee for funding. Last June, it asked for $7 million, but Lee told them a month later that he didn’t have it.
Lee is expected to release a budget proposal on June 1, but his representative Hydra Mendoza said at the press conference that $700,000 would be set aside both this fiscal year and next year, for a total of $1.4 million, to begin addressing the coalition’s request.
“It’s been a good collaborative effort,” Mendoza said. “We hear you and we want to stand behind you.”
Coalition members were not entirely convinced.
“That’s kind of good news…kind of,” said Melba Maldonado, the executive director of La Raza Community Resource Center. “We’re just doing a crisis mode intervention. Now we have to plan for the future.”
“We proposed $5 million to the Mayor’s Office and we got 700 [thousand],” said Monica Chinchilla, who works at Mission Neighborhood Centers.
The coalition, which consists of more than a dozen groups and includes the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN), Jamestown Community Center, the Mission Language and Vocational School, the Mission Economic Development Agency, the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District and La Raza Community Resource Center, is also recommending tweaks to city policy to better address the needs of the low-income Latino community.
In its report, the coalition recommends constructing more affordable housing for the population making less than 50 percent of the Area Median Income (currently about $80,000 for a single person), because Latinos statistically earn less than other groups in San Francisco. According to a 10-page brief about the coalition’s study, the city’s overall median household income is more than $77,000 a year. For white people, the median income is about $98,000 a year. For Latinos, it is around $54,000. In the Mission specifically, median income among Latinos is less than $44,000.
Mario Paz, executive director of the Good Samaritan Family Resource Center, said housing is fundamental to the stability of a family, but that many Latino families frequently face the awful choice of whether to pay for food or housing.
“That is just unconscionable in one of the richest cities in the world,” he said.
The group is also calling for increased funding for legal defense for families threatened with deportation, an ongoing effort that has already resulted in partial funding and the creation of a deportation defense team within the Public Defender’s office.
“Even in San Francisco, immigrant mothers and parents are afraid to send their kids to school,” said District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen. “This is real, as real as it can get.”
Another recommendation was to educate Latinos about healthcare options available to them – including Medi-Cal, the state’s branch of the federal Medicaid program. In part, the aim is to reduce emergency room visits for preventable problems, which the study found to be particularly high among adult Latinos in San Francisco.
To decrease obesity, which according to the study affects 72 percent of Latinos in the city, compared with 56 percent of whites, the authors called for better bilingual nutritional education in schools, improving access to healthier foods for Latinos in the city, and holding health fairs.