News for Amigos de Casa San Jose: October 2021

How to Take Action:

  • VOTE on Nov. 2 at your polling place, or earlier by mail ballot (details here.)  All elections are important!  This one will determine Pittsburgh’s mayor and other vital city and county positions and Allegheny County judgeships. And crucially, the PA state Supreme Court, Superior Court and Commonwealth Court.  View your sample ballot here for Allegheny County (other counties’ ballots are on their election office websites here) and make a plan to vote!
  • Join the Tuition Equity and Inclusion Campaign and voice your support for PA HB-1576.  (More information here.) This bill offers immigrants and refugees equal opportunity to higher education, through access to in-state tuition and state-funded financial aid.  On Oct. 25, our Community Policy Organizer Billy and fellow advocates went to Harrisburg to talk to legislators and bring them testimonials from our youth.  
  • Keep up support for the Driving PA Forward bill, PA HB-279, a vital campaign to allow undocumented immigrants in PA to obtain driver’s licenses. Find easy ways to do that here. Denying them authorization to drive is unrealistic, harms public safety, and makes communities less secure. For many, it is impossible to work, shop, get healthcare, take care of kids, etc. without driving. 17 states have passed laws to allow this.  
  • SAVE THE DATE: Dec. 14th, for a March for Immigrant Access in Harrisburg supporting both these campaigns.  Please consider joining many allies from all over PA: Casa San José will coordinate transportation.  For more information or to help, email billy@casasanjose.org. And contact your state representatives here: both letters and calls are much needed!

How you can help:

Please mark your calendars: Giving Tuesday is coming up on November 30!  Check your email that day: there is a chance to help Casa San Jose raise $50,000.  If we raise $25,000, we have a $25,000 match from a family foundation!!  

News on what we’re doing:

Our Casa San José 2020 Annual Report is out!  Please click here or in the image below to read our Annual Report if you did not receive a copy in the mail.  If you would like to receive postal mail from Casa San José, please email your name and address to: srkaren@casasanjose.org.

Vaccination update: 

Those still unvaccinated can come to Casa San Jose any Tuesday from 9 am to noon to get a Pfizer or a J&J vaccine. We are also giving Pfizer booster shots to people 65 and older, or 18+ with underlying conditions, who got the Pfizer vaccine 6 months ago. Regular flu shots are also available for community members, in partnership with the Allegheny County Health Department.

An anonymous donor also funded a special short-term program to give a $100 cash incentive to community members who needed to miss work in order to come to the clinic. We worked with Allegheny Health Network, Bethany Community Ministries Homewood, and the Highmark Foundation to get this accomplished.

Casa San Jose continues to participate in the UPMC Health Plan COVID-19 Vaccine Education Campaign. We are part of a competent and diverse cohort of outstanding organizations that will help to execute a bilingual, educational marketing campaign that aims to overcome vaccine hesitancy in the state’s most vulnerable communities.

UPMC Health Plan shares :

Vaccine sites are safe spaces 
Find a free vaccine today 
Anywhere you get your vaccine is a safe space. You will not be asked any questions about your immigration status or have to show any documents. Getting a vaccine won’t affect your immigration status. And, it won’t affect your family members’ status either. You don’t need a government ID or a Social Security number to get a vaccine. It is a good idea to bring some form of ID, if you have it.  But, if you don’t have anything, don’t let that stop you. 

No matter which COVID-19 vaccine you get, it is free. You don’t need insurance. And, you don’t have to pay anything. There are a few easy ways to find a free vaccine near you: 

  • Search vaccines.gov.
  • Call 1-844-UPMCVAC (1-844-876-2822) (TTY: 711) seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. 
  • Call 1-833-660-2416 and press 1 to schedule in Spanish.
  • Schedule through a healthcare provider.

Keep in mind

  • Some vaccine sites offer information in Spanish.
  • You can always ask for a translator if you have questions when getting a vaccine. 

Get a ride to a vaccine site

If you need a ride to your vaccine appointment, ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft can help. 

On October 8, Casa San Jose, in conjunction with the Thunderbird Café & Music Hall, and presented a 3-hour Mayoral Debate, both live and broadcast on Facebook, with Democratic nominee Congressman Ed Gainey and Republican Tony Moreno, discussing housing, environmental, and economic justice.  Read the coverage here.

Our ESL classes have over 100 students studying this fall.  There are 4 virtual classes via our partnership with Duquesne University, and in-person classes for beginners in East Liberty and Brookline. They come from 15 different countries.  Here is Alin, describing her experience.  She doesn’t know any English speakers well and doesn’t get the chance to practice, so she is very glad that she has the chance to learn this way.  She likes especially that she gets instant feedback from the teachers, and that they are concentrating on how to communicate in everyday situations. 

Casa San José is holding a weekly Sewing Workshop on Thursday evenings in Brookline.  With the help of volunteers and sewing machines donated by Brother’s Brother Foundation, community members are learning how to cut out fabric, follow patterns, operate the machines and use different stitching techniques. Early projects are facemasks, tote bags, and aprons.  Later they will make kits for the international Days for Girls project, and with all this practice, become accomplished sewists. 

At our newest location in Ambridge, Casa San José staff is holding 3 pláticas (talks) for new members joining the Latino community in the area, primarily Coraopolis, Ambridge, Aliquippa, and Cranberry Township.  At the first welcome event, topics were about how to navigate in the new environment: driving, taking the bus, registering for school, enrolling in English classes, finding a job, etc.  The second was a Know Your Rights session, presented by Laura.  The third will cover job-related documentation: how to pay taxes and get ITINs (Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers.) Everyone got lots of groceries, and coats, hats, and gloves for the children.

Laura Perkins, Emergency Response Organizer, leading the Immigration talk for community members in Ambridge

Casa San José Obrero (House of Saint Joseph the Worker) is the new name of the house in Swissvale, formerly the rectory of the Madonna del Castello church, which has been generously donated to be used as free transitional housing for asylum seekers.  It has numerous bedrooms and baths, is furnished and has a fully equipped kitchen. It is also very conveniently located, close to transportation, and within walking distance of Edgewood Towne Centre and the Swissvale commercial streets.  Sr. Janice is managing this project, and it is almost ready to be moved into!  Stay tuned.

We now have a Before-School Program.  

On Monday-Friday at 8am, we have students from Beechwood and Banksville Elementary Schools come to our office. We help them with homework, make origami, sometimes play on a nearby playground, and share about our days (like how much we all love scooter soccer). We have breakfast snacks (mandarins and green apples are their favorites.)  At 9 am, we head out in the Casa van together to get everyone to school on time. 

New office space for Casa San José!

We are so excited! The URA Board has approved the sale of 1602-1606 Broadway Ave. in Beechview to Casa San José to be used as a new office space, community gathering space, and for programming. We hope to move in by the end of 2022.  See a picture here, and hear the WESA broadcast interview with Monica here (at 8:08.)  As she says, “Casa means home”, and this will be a new home for us to keep serving our Latino community and continue fulfilling our mission.  

Nuestra Casa Nueva Rendering

Congratulations to our Executive Director, Monica Ruiz, for receiving the “2021 El Sol” award by the Hispanic Attorney Committee of the Allegheny County Bar Association.  Monica was recognized for her amazing efforts on educating the Latinx community on COVID-19 and the vaccine, supporting the Latinx families that were impacted by COVID-19 (both financially and with groceries), and being instrumental in the vaccination of Latinx community members.

Our story, in celebration of Case Management Week, Oct. 10-16:

Every day brings a new family to Casa San José, who find immediate help with their new life from our hard-working and dedicated case workers: Monique HerreraGrace McHaleAna BakhtarJenny DíazDora Tenjo and our administrative assistant, Teresa Parra.  Here are just a few of their stories (the names are changed.)

Nelson, a Mexican immigrant, moved to Pittsburgh so that his daughter Eva’s complex medical needs could be treated at Children’s Hospital. She is a stomach, liver, and intestinal transplant patient, admitted in early July for her surgeries.  Nelson took a leave from his job to stay with her in the hospital full-time.  Luckily, she is eligible for health insurance, though living expenses have nearly exhausted their family savings. Since COVID-19 happened during this time, the parents are hesitant to go to work lest they bring the virus back to Eva or her sister. Nelson came to Casa San José when they had nowhere else to turn.  Casa was able to find him financial assistance to pay mortgage and utility bills, with assistance from the generous donations of Casa’s supporters.  

Ernesto traveled here from Colombia with his pregnant wife (who is a US citizen) and their 3 young children. They were staying in an in-law’s basement, but as soon as their new baby was born, there was an argument and they needed to leave quickly.  They came to Casa in urgent need of a temporary home – they plan to return to Colombia as soon as they get the newborn’s birth certificate and passport.  On their own they soon relocated to Columbus, OH, but what they appreciated most was the caring response they found here in the interim.  Ernesto texted: “I am enormously grateful for your follow-up and support.  For me it was very special, particularly the kind reception that we were given in your office. In the future I hope to be able to return to the US and then I’ll contact you to be part of the network of support to be able to help others who are in need as I was.”

A Mom, Dad and their 4-year-old arrived last month from Cancun, Mexico, and came in to ask for a few items.  While they were there, the little boy shyly asked if Casa could request something for them from Santa Claus.  He said that they were sleeping on air mattresses and his Mom wakes up in the night because it keeps needing to be blown up.  Could they get a real bed?  A brand-new bed was delivered last weekend, and the child has started school at Beechwood Pre-K.  The Mom sent in a heartfelt message of thanks.  

Sonia came with her teenage son Oscar three months ago from Guatemala to Washington County. She needed food, a job, and a way for her son to attend school. She was promptly enrolled in Casa’s food distribution program, and through Casa’s referrals, got a job in a cleaning company. Oscar has begun school in the 9th grade at Washington High School, with his new backpack and school supplies, and is learning English and making new friends. They are adapting well, and Sonia said that above all, Casa has given her relief, and a better understanding of what she has to do.  

Maria and her 3 children came to Dr Diego’s clinic. While she was exiting her car to walk to the mobile clinic the key fell out of her pocket and into the storm sewer.  We called the water and sewage utility, and they were here to help within the hour. The workers opened a hole in the street, retrieved the keys, the boys were dropped off at school and all were very happy with the outcome.  

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