This year has been difficult for families across southern Illinois and across the nation. With continued job loss and lower wages in highly affected industries like food and service, people are going through hardships to make ends meet. Luckily, they have some assistance through unemployment benefits and federal stimulus programs.
Now imagine yourself in this position as an immigrant or refugee with limited English proficiency. You are still new to the United States and because of your status, you are unable to receive the same assistance as others in your community.
There are many residents in southern Illinois that fall within this underserved population that are in need of the very basics to get through the pandemic. Luckily, Puentes de Esperanza (Bridges of Hope), a program developed by Illinois South Conference (United Church of Christ) and Hoyleton, can assist with the COVID-19 Housing and Utility Assistance program.
A bridge to hope
Puentes de Esperanza was founded in 2004 to bridge Spanish-speaking neighbors to resources that improve the quality of their lives. The program was developed after the Illinois South Conference (United Church of Christ) and Hoyleton recognized the lack of bilingual services available for the growing Hispanic population in the region.
Over the years, the program has brought valuable resources and assistance to many families to help them establish citizenship, build a family, find employment and more.
Providing assistance during pandemic hardships
The COVID-19 Housing and Utility Assistance program is funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services, and offers financial assistance to immigrants, refugees and LEP (limited English proficient) individuals by paying rent, mortgage and/or utility bills during the crisis.
Eligible households (in Clinton, Madison, Monroe, Randolph and St. Clair counties), who did not receive a stimulus check, unemployment or other form of relief, can receive up to $5,000 in housing and utility assistance, or no more than three months of assistance.
“The help Puentes has provided us has helped my family a lot. Financially, we have been behind since my husband is not working, and it has avoided our bills to go to collections.” - Female, age 27
“With utility companies and landlords starting to send shut off and eviction notices, this funding is vital to the livelihood of so many Hispanic families in our southern Illinois communities,” says Kristen Shinn, . “It is also imperative for those with school children who are studying virtually and need internet assistance.”
“Puentes has helped me a lot! They have helped me with my bills, and it has helped me not get behind.” - Female, age 26
How to request for assistance
The goal of the program is to assist 75 families with assistance. If you or someone you know are experiencing hardships during the pandemic and have not received financial assistance, please reach out as soon as possible to the following phone number: 618-398-0557
Please leave a message, and someone will return your call quickly to help you determine if you are eligible for this program assistance. If you are not eligible, they can refer you to another agency that might be able to help.
This is a time to come together and help our neighbors in need. To learn more about this program and how Hoyleton helps the Hispanic community in southern Illinois, please visit: https://hoyleton.org/programs/hispanic-community-support/