Latino immigrant community responds to COVID crisis

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Latino immigrant community responds to COVID crisis

Volunteers distribute food during a monthly giveaway at Epiphany Parish, 2524 S. Keeler Ave. on Oct. 20, 2020, The food giveaway was started during the pandemic in partnership with Catholic Charities to aid the Latino community that has been hard hit by COVID-19. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
People wait in line, which wrapped around the church, to receive food. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Paz Ramirez sorts potatoes for those in need to pick up. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Lauren Jhin sorts through food that will be distributed. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Castula Estrada and Daniel Flores sort through food. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

To read this article in Spanish, click here.

The Latino immigrant community in Chicago has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, not just physically, with high rates of infections, but economically, with many people losing jobs owing to businesses shutting down.

The pandemic has been especially hard on those who are undocumented, according to people who work in the Little Village community.

“They are continually among the hardest hit. The disparities continue to exist,” said Marilu Gonzalez, City Southwest regional director for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago. “Little Village is one of the historical communities that exists where the Latino community is very present. Unfortunately, because the Latino communities are so vulnerable related to their immigration status, they don’t qualify for food stamps, rental assistance from the government or any of the services that may be made available to you and me.”

That means they also don’t have health insurance, Gonzales said.

“If they get sick, they are not going to go to the hospital,” she said. “And if they go, they have to go to Cook County, where they are going to wait to be seen and by that time it may be too late.”

Another hurdle arises when free COVID-19 testing sites open in the community and people are asked to register in advance of getting the test.

“Half of these folks don’t have access to the internet. Half of these folks don’t know how to use their phones to register. Then you have older adults, senior citizens, who are afraid to go out, and many of them still have to work,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez described other difficult situations, such as single parents having to take time off from work while their children are home doing remote learning. Those who cannot afford childcare and do not want to leave their children home alone have had tough decisions to make.

“How do they pay their rent? How do they pay their electric? How do they pay their gas? All those types of things are part of the challenge that they have because they don’t have that support mechanism that other families would have,” she said. “My experience with the Latino community is they are surviving, to the best that they can.”

These communities also have an increased need for food. Early on in the pandemic, Catholic Charities helped to establish pop-up food pantries at Epiphany Parish in Little Village and St. Paul Parish in Pilsen.

While the pantry at St. Paul has ended, Epiphany’s pantry has become an established parish program open on the third Tuesday of the month.

Run by volunteers, the pantry offers people one way to reach out through Catholic Charities to help those in the Latino community who have fallen on hard times.

Gonzalez also recommended reaching out to the agency’s regional directors to see what they need.

“For example, I would love to see someone come up with a ministry for the elderly that they can actually call people’s homes and see how they are doing,” she said. “I think that’s a ministry in itself that we need to pay more attention to.”


  • catholic charities
  • covid-19

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