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Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 6.2.11




Support System

Centro Latino serves our entire community

By Gary Crum

I was saddened to read of Lane Countys recent defunding of Centro LatinoAmericano. I have dealt with the organization several times over the years and have been very favorably impressed with the organization and its service to both the Latino community and the greater community in the Eugene-Springfield area. I wish to express my personal respect, admiration and support for both our Latino community and Centro Latino as it helps that Latino community function successfully in the greater community.

For about 10 years, my wife and I owned and managed a 24-unit apartmentcomplex near the 1st and Jefferson street intersection. For the last five years of our ownership our tenants were almost exclusively Latino. When many landlords were working to find "legal” means to reject Latino applicants, I made the decision (one of the best personal/business decisions Ive made) to, instead, hire a bilingual on-site manager and solicit Latino tenants.

First, I must admit a prejudice. Ive always enjoyed Latino culture, respected the work ethic of Latino people and both appreciated and admired the warmth of the Latino family. Thus, on a personal basis, it was easy to rent to Latino families. Secondly, over those five years, not one Latino tenant "skipped” out on rent. On the first of the month, every month, tenants appeared at the on-site managers door with either a money order or cash. If youve ever been a landlord you know that having good tenants ã good people, good families and the rent paid on time every month ã is as close to Nirvana as most of us landlords will probably ever get.

When I decided to rent to primarily Latino tenants I requested assistance from Centro Latino to transition to such tenancy. I requested assistance in translating application forms, our rental agreement and our apartment "rules” into Spanish. They were both pleased and appreciative as they translated the documents for me. Pleased to have the documents in Spanish to help prospective tenants who couldnt read English, and appreciative that I wanted the documents in Spanish to better serve our tenants. On several occasions Centro Latino stepped in to provide financial assistance when a tenant "couldnt” pay rent (each time this occurred it was caused by an employers failure to pay wages on time or, on one occasion, a bounced paycheck). And, each time, the tenant repaid Centro Latino when their pay was received. That repayment showed two things: the respect the Latino community has for Centro Latino, and that the individuals receiving that assistance werent looking for "something for nothing.”

If I were living and working in a foreign country, or if I were a "new” immigrant working to become a citizen of another country, I would certainly want to have an organization such a Centro Latino as a support system. Moreover, as a businessman working with Latino tenants, I also benefited from that support system.

I recognize the fiscal issues and financial shortfalls facing our county as well as all governmental entities from school districts and cities, to states and our federal government. However, I also recognize that nonprofit agencies with a proven record of helping our community deserve as much support as possible to continue that service. I hope the county, the city and any other organizations in our community who might do so, find ways to help Centro LatinoAmericano continue to serve our community.

Gary Crum of Junction City is a retired teacher and counselor who worked with dysfunctional adolescents over a 28 year career in public schools, probation facilities and residential treatment facilities.