The Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden opened a resource center for Latino immigrants, Casa San José (House of St. Joseph), in 2013. It serves as a base of support for English language learners, helping them to access services – especially, services for children, youth, and families – in order to better acclimate to their new home in the Pittsburgh area and to know the experience of welcome here. The Sisters created Casa San Jose as an independent nonprofit with an independent board of directors in 2014. It now has a staff of six, with over 65 active volunteers.
This center was opened to support the ongoing and important work of Sister Janice Vanderneck, who has worked with the Latino community in the Pittsburgh region for many, many years. She has devoted herself to helping Latinos navigate the health system, social services, and the legal system to survive and to thrive in this community. More than 1,000 Latinos have benefited from her support over the years. Her vision has been to create a real community center for Latinos and to deliver the services that are needed as Pittsburgh attracts more and more Latinos to southwestern Pennsylvania. Her countless hours of support and commitment over many years has culminated with the founding of Casa San José as the trustworthy, go-to source of support to help underserved Latino immigrants access the assistance and services they need.
- Casa San José identifies social service needs for Latino immigrants and provides assistance with access to services, including transportation and interpretation and case management.
- Casa advocates for Latino immigrants and their rights.
- Casa works to protect Latino immigrants at risk of deportation, and to inform them of their legal rights and obligations. It provides legal clinics to help with documentation and answer questions.
- Casa serves as a service coordination site for immigrants and refugees in Allegheny County.
- Casa develops programming that addresses the needs of Latino children, youth, and families by providing tutoring and by hosting a youth mentoring program.
- Casa helps students get enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) opportunity and supports youth in pursuing job training and further education.
- Casa bridges the cultural divide between Latino immigrants and service providers by training staff and volunteers of the service-providing agencies to interact with Latino immigrants constructively.
- Casa hosts an annual Christmas event to provide gifts to children of 50 families.
- Casa participates in immigration reform education, outreach and events, including marches, press conferences, and speaking engagements.
- Casa hosts special events conducted in Spanish such as consular visits, health and wellness seminars, and cultural events and festivities.
- Casa also recently started a working group to empower Latino individuals to become active leaders in their communities,
- Casa works directly with job-seeking clients who may not be eligible for services from other career service agencies.
To model a strong culture of acceptance and integration in which immigrants and other newcomers are treated with dignity, respect, and kindness and can freely preserve and celebrate their unique cultures while adapting to their new lives in the Greater Pittsburgh area.