El Centro Hispano needs a new Carrboro location — and it is quickly running out of time to find one.
The agency, which offers services aimed at Hispanic people in Durham, Carrboro and Chapel Hill, opened its Carrboro location in 2010. It came to Carrboro looking to expand its services, but now it needs to downsize.
“Even though they gave us a good deal per square foot, we are paying too much rent,” said Pilar Rocha-Goldberg, president and CEO of the agency.
El Centro’s Carrboro lease is up at the end of the month, and while administrators want to stay somewhere nearby, Rocha-Goldberg said they still haven’t found a place to go.
“We need to have at least two classrooms and the childcare space for the preschool and space for the support services offices,” she said.
Rocha-Goldberg estimated the new location will need to be about 2,000 square feet.
She said a major concern with the future location is its ability to offer a workers’ center, or a place where local day laborers can safely stand while they wait for a foreman to pick them up for a day’s work.
“It’s a good opportunity to open the workers’ center,” Rocha-Goldberg said. “Where we are at, they don’t allow us to do that. It’s a good opportunity to serve more community members and work with them.”
Rocha-Goldberg said the agency is planning on relocating to a space with parking for the community and access to a bus route.
Administrators are hoping to decide on a new Carrboro location next week, she said.
Devin Ross, an organizer at the Orange County nonprofit Justice United, said he has heard many complaints from the Carrboro community about the day laborers standing at a site known as “the corner” — the intersection of Davie and Jones Ferry roads where workers wait for offers of day labor.
“They fulfill a really important role in our workforce — but they are a really vulnerable population,” he said.
Ross said many of the workers face wage theft at the end of the day because the process of day laboring leaves the employers with little accountability and they can end up paying the workers less than they originally arranged.
But Ross said collaborating with El Centro Hispano has allowed the two organizations to help bring about systematic change, including finding the new location for the agency.
Even on days when it rains and days when it snows, the Carrboro day laborers stand at the corner determined to find work.
And recently, Natalia Lenis has been standing with them, hoping to help these workers find the resources they need. She said although the new location for the agency is up in the air, she has specific goals in mind for it.
“I work really close with them,” Lenis said. “The idea is to provide a safe place for them to stand and also connect them with other businesses.”
Lenis is the community organizer and specialist for El Centro, and she’s served as the main point of contact between the agency and the day laborers. She said she has been asking workers what they would like to see at the new location.
She said she hopes the new site will include enough space to continue the agency’s programs, like language and computer classes.
Rocha-Goldberg said the agency is trying to connect with more students and volunteers to help rearrange the building.
“The idea really is to have a center where people can come and have different activities.”
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