El Rescate Celebrates Its Third Anniversary with an Entire Day of Events!

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By Jorge Cestou, Vida/SIDA

On March 3rd, 2015, El Rescate (The Rescue) celebrated its third year anniversary with a program open house at 2703 W Division St., Chicago, IL 60622.  This open house included other programs of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center i.e. Vida/SIDA, Batey Urbano, the Affordable Care Act, and the Diabetes Empowerment Center.

The celebration continued at the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture with a panel conversation titled ‘The Latino Housing & Homelessness Question: A Panel Discussion.’  Over 60 individuals attended the discussion. They were very attentive to the panelists’ insights on what’s affecting our communities.

The Panelists included:

Tracy Baim, Publisher and Editor in Chief of Windy City Times

Sol Flores, Executive Director of La Casa Norte

Dan Harris, Assistant Director at Illinois Department of Human Services and Angelique Miller, Vice President of Housing Programs and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.

Moderated by Jorge Cestou, Vida/SIDA’s Director of Programs and Services.

Participants were treated to the conversation that began outlining the basic definition of what a home consists of. “A home is not just a bed, or a roof. A home is stability, security, and the foundation upon which people can build their future.  A home is, quite simply, the most basic of human rights,” said Jorge Cestou, Director of Programs and Services at Vida/SIDA who served as panel moderator.

Tracy Baim described the various initiatives that were created from the 2014 LGBTQ Homeless Youth Summit. Some of these include the 750 Club for Apartment Adoption, the Chicago Storage Initiative, and may others that strive to alleviate challenges that homeless youth encounter in the City of Chicago.

Angelique Miller stressed the importance of facilitating services to those dealing with chronic diseases like HIV and AIDS. “We need to provide spaces for our clients to be supported on not to worry about where to spend the night. We need to allow them to concentrate in taking control of their health. Individuals living with HIV are at higher risk of homelessness,” said Angelique Miller.

Dan Harris of the Illinois Department of Human Services provided the panelists and audience with the funding plan from the state that will reflect a cut from $31 million to $16.1 million for all of the state of Illinois.  These news created concern among the panelists. Sol Flores demystified the idea that homelessness does exist in the Latino community. She urged for participants to talk about this issue with their families and their elected officials.  “It’s very important to let your legislators of these challenges that affect our Latino communities. If they don’t hear you, they won’t prioritize the needs that our communities have.” M Echevarria mentioned, “Spaces like El Rescate are very successful in helping youth transition from homelessness into independence.” She explained how clients of El Rescate have documented success of attaining better grades and improving in their health because of the supportive services that the program facilitates.

The group finalized the discussion by outlining the introduction of the Youth Vulnerability Index, a tool to identify homeless transition age, youth, and most in need of permanent supportive housing. After the panel, a reception was held in the gallery section of the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture. The event included addresses from Mona Noriega, Chairman and Commissioner at the Human Relations Commission from the City of Chicago, and Dan Harris from the Illinois Department of Human Services.  The attendees were treated to art human exhibitions that depicted some of the spaces  where youth from El Rescate previously lived i.e. a park bench, a couch, etc. The attendees were treated to delicious Puerto Rican food and to a melodic Flamenco Music and Dance Troupe.

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