With Thanksgiving approaching fast, Juan Tuset wants to make sure all Hispanic residents in need receive enough information to register for a holiday meal.
And because of his efforts to bring together the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service and the local Hispanic homeless community and in-need Spanish speakers, he might see that goal achieved.
The Inter-Faith Council’s meal program allows those in need to register for a Thanksgiving, Hanukkah or Christmas meal.
Tuset, Hispanic services coordinator at the Council, said the number of Hispanics registering for holiday meals is at its highest level yet.
“This year, I made handouts to tell people to sign up to receive extra food during the holidays, in addition to their monthly food,” Tuset said.
He said the Council put the sign-up sheet up about a week ago, and more than 400 people have already signed up.
Tuset began working for the Inter-Faith Council three months ago to assist Hispanics and help them access resources in the community.
“Every year we get a new AmeriCorps member,” said Chris Moran, executive director of the Inter-Faith Council. “Juan is great because he is bilingual and Hispanic.”
The division Tuset now heads assisted 1,580 Spanish-speaking clients last year.
In Orange County, 8.2 percent of the population identified as Latino in 2010 — up from 4.5 percent in 2000 — according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Statistics on demographic trends among the homeless population are difficult to quantify, said Jamie Rohe, homeless program coordinator at the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness.
“A lot of Latinos live doubled- and tripled-up, and they may live with other families,” she said. “That makes it hard to count them because they don’t have their name on a lease.”
Rohe said many of the people the Council helps are not chronically homeless, but often are just in need of temporary assistance.
And during the holidays, they often face even more difficulties.
“I think the holidays focus the public’s attention more on not wanting the homeless to experience the holidays without food,” Rohe said.
“The holidays are special for everyone. It seems really sad to have Thanksgiving with no turkey or the rest of it.”
The Inter-Faith Council provides extra food, clothing and financial assistance to those in need in Chapel Hill and Carrboro during the holidays.
Tuset said the Council gives heaters to those who don’t have heat at home and coats and blankets to people who ask for them.
The Council gives holiday food to their clients that have been with them for a longer period because they want to give food to those people who need it most, Tuset said.
Moran said people can purchase a $25 coupon and provide one household with a holiday meal.
“People are hungry. They’re just plain hungry,” Moran said.
“Families feel a little abandoned around the holidays and they don’t have the resources to get a meal. The least we can do is provide a holiday meal.”
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