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Hispanic Outreach Center CEO talks COVID-19, equity and mission

Megan Holmes



The St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce presents: Coronavirus Impact Insights. Click the play arrow above to watch the full video.  

On this episode, Jaclyn Boland, CEO of the Intercultural Advocacy Institute joins Chris Steinocher, CEO of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce, and Joe Hamilton, publisher of the St. Pete Catalyst to talk about the Hispanic Outreach Center.

First, while reopening continues, Steinocher breaks down the number of new COVID-19 cases. The 14-day average of daily new cases now sits at 38.6, up 4 from Wednesday and the percent positive hovers at 2.24 percent, though Steinocher says he expects to see that number rise as previous lower average cases cycle off. Wednesday brought 124 new cases and another death was reported. Steinocher also notes that ICU beds are still available, but there were 18 fewer beds between Wednesday and Thursday, some of those taken up by COVID-19 patients.

The Hispanic Outreach Center was founded in 2000 in partnership with the Clearwater Police Department. The department saw a need in the community for better relationship building and communication between a growing Hispanic population and the public safety services surrounding them.

Thanks to extensive community partnerships, the Hispanic Outreach Center has expanded services to include youth programs, intensive family support, mental health counseling and more. Boland describes it as a one-stop shop for Spanish-speaking residents of Pinellas County, particularly in upper Pinellas, including Clearwater and Tarpon Springs.  The Hispanic Outreach Center is the only multi-service center of its kind in the county.

Boland says that since the Hispanic Outreach Center began in 2000, the Hispanic population in Pinellas County has doubled from 5 percent to 10 percent of the county, the fastest growing population in the county. Boland says most of that growth is coming from U.S. born Hispanic Americans. While Hispanic populations have traditionally been located in northern Pinellas, work at the gulf beaches and in other areas have increased pockets of Hispanic residents in mid-county, particularly Lealman and Pinellas Park. Boland notes the immense diversity of the Hispanic community, which she says is often incorrectly lumped into one bucket.

Boland explains that COVID-19 hit Hispanic populations in disparate ways, much like what has been seen in the African American community. She says that the undocumented status and distrust associated with healthcare and social services associated with legal status has made Hispanic residents less likely to seek testing and care. She also notes that Hispanic workers are more likely to be on the front lines as “essential workers,” or alternatively to be laid off because hotels and hospitality businesses closed so rapidly. She also says social distancing can be extremely difficult when extended families live together in one house.

The main concern, Boland says, is rent and utilities. The Hispanic Outreach Center is currently working with Pinellas CARES and other local programs to ensure Hispanic residents are receiving needed support and services.

Boland explains the Hispanic Outreach Center’s vision for a unified, peaceful and engaged community, shares some advice for local leaders to address equity, and explains how the Hispanic community fits in with the Black Lives Matter conversation.


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