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Winston-Salem Journal

Hispanic Outreach


December 21, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Piedmont Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

The burgeoning Hispanic population does much of the work that keeps this area moving and growing. But as Hispanics increase, some of them also experience the financial hardship that plagues the rest of the population. Fortunately, the local branch of the Salvation Army and other groups are doing what they can to help.

Because the help is sorely needed.

Last year, 2 percent of families served by the local Salvation Army's emergency financial-assistance program were Hispanic. This year, the figure increased to 20 percent.

The immigrants face the same problems as many other working folks. They get laid off from jobs and have trouble paying rent, heat and utility bills. They get help from the Salvation Army. But the money is given out judiciously, as it must be, since there's a lot of competition for a limited pot.

Outreach case manager Sibel Kiser, who grew up in Puerto Rico, travels around the area, meeting with applicants for help in Winston-Salem and in Yadkin and Davie counties. In the interviews with folks seeking help, she goes through their pay stubs and receipts. She wants to see the bills they've paid and those they haven't.Those who have been paying the cable bill but not the rent bill may not find much sympathy.

Other families might get half of the money they're seeking from the Salvation Army. The program isn't for those looking for a handout, Kiser said, and she wants to make sure that those asking for assistance have been making responsible choices.

"This is like giving you the one little push, so you can do it on your own the next month," she said. "The truth is, we're here just to give you one-time assistance. The next time, you're supposed to get it on your own."

She advises Hispanics on how to improve their financial management, at times referring them to other agencies for budgeting classes.

Sometimes, Kiser told the Journal's Lisa Hoppenjans, it's more difficult to help Hispanics because they lack the proper documents.

Kiser makes a wise sort of compromise: She doesn't ask about immigration status, but does ask for a photo identification card and a Social Security taxpayer card.

Although the economy may be slowly turning around, many people in this area - including Hispanics - struggle to make ends meet. To their credit, organizations such as the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust realize that. It recently awarded the local Salvation Army a grant of more than $260,000 for its emergency-assistance program, continuing its support of the program.

Individuals should follow suit - quite understandably in a much more limited fashion.


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