A local organization has been providing free services for Pittsburgh's Latino communities for almost 10 years, and they have no plans of stopping. Casa San Jose, originally created by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden in Beaver County, has since grown and settled into a headquarters of its own in Beechview.
Pittsburgh City Paper recently talked with two representatives about the organization's services, origins and overall mission. Intern Ladimir Garcia sat down with Edgar Andino, their community research specialist, and Spencer Mercado, their administrative assistant.
“Casa San Jose definitely works daily to continue forward with the mission, that we can empower the community we serve and reach a time in which the community reaches a level of self autonomy,” says Mercado.
Casa San Jose provides a range of resources and services geared at helping all age groups within the Latino community. Andino and Mercado emphasize that their services are open and free to Latinos in Pittsburgh and even those living out of state.
“The doors to Casa San Jose are open to the whole world, it doesn't matter where you live, or what state you’re from. If we can help you, we will gladly do it. If we can’t, we will find other resources, we never say no, we always can,” says Andino.
The organization hosts groups like Jovenes Con Proposito and Puentes Hacia El Futuro, in which they help younger members of the Latino community develop connections and prepare them for a better future. This is especially helpful to teenagers or children who are newer to the US and are trying to adapt to a new home.
Since the Covid outbreak, Casa San Jose has come into its own as a vital resource for those needing information about vaccines and other health measures.
According to Andino, during the height of the pandemic, Casa San Jose gave food to those who needed it and has provided vaccine clinics for the local community. The vaccine clinics are still ongoing and they hold them at their Beechview office on a weekly basis.
“Casa San Jose provides all of its services for free. We are a non-profit organization in which the only goal we have is to help the Latino community, to find one way or another to establish our community so they can bring on change and so the native population of the United States can observe and see that Latinos aren’t their enemies, we haven’t came here to take your resources, but to fulfill our dreams,” said Andino.
According to Andino and Mercado, Casa San Jose currently operates mostly on donations given from the community. People can donate to the organization through their website or through their financial office in Beechview.
Among the many challenges Andino and Mercado say the Latino community in Pittsburgh has has wrestled with in the years since they’ve been working Casa San Jose, a lack of translation services in government offices has been a persistent struggle.
“In the 21st century we are seeing a new obstacle and that's the right to language equality. Right now in 2022 there's a lot of institutions that used to provide interpretation services and now they don’t anymore” says Andino.
Mercado agreed, adding that a lot of the calls he receives are about documents that are in English and need to be filled out.
“For example help with medical resources, documents that are not available in the language, help with getting an education to move forward, either in the English language or gaining the best opportunities that their kids deserve here as residents,” said Mercado.
Andino and Mercado say much of the community comes to Casa San Jose for translation services, something government institutions are often lacking.
Casa San Jose is actively providing its services for free to the community. Andino and Mercado say no one should be afraid to reach out to them.