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Engaging with Low-Income Latinx Communities in California: Best Practices in Response to Wildfires and COVID-19

Engaging with Low-Income Latinx Communities in California: Best Practices in Response to Wildfires and COVID-19
January 2021
Lila Mack

This community-based research project focused on identifying effective strategies for nonprofits and government agencies to better serve low-income Latinx communities in California, especially during crisis situations such as wildfires and COVID-19. The research was conducted under two advisors: Professor Leonard Ortolano in Stanford’s department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; and Alma Bowen, director of the nonprofit Nuestra Comunidad which aims to increase emergency-preparedness within Sonoma County’s Latinx community. The project was funded by a Bill Lane Center summer fellowship, and it culminated in a report which synthesizes findings from 15 interviews and a literature review of over 160 sources. The report explores two main questions: Which factors make Latinx communities vulnerable to crises such as wildfires and COVID-19? And what can be done to increase the resilience of Latinx communities during these crises? It also outlines three areas of focus to increase the resiliency of Latinx communities in the long term: food insecurity, affordable child care, and digital inclusion. The report contains three sets of recommendations: 

Reaching Latinx Communities Through Trusted Sources – As trusted sources of information, CBOs, community stakeholders, and promotores are excellent partners for serving Latinx communities. These actors thoroughly understand the communities where they are based, and can thus design tailored programs around issue areas that are highly relevant to the populations they serve. 

Multi-pronged approach for information dissemination – Communicating important information within Latinx communities requires a multi-pronged approach, such that content is shared in multiple languages and modalities (text, audio, video), both online and in-person, and at various locations and times of day. Using multiple tools and approaches is helpful because the Latinx community is very diverse in terms of language, literacy, and access to technology and transportation.

Communication and Coordination Across Organizations – Finally, coordination across organizations and agencies is critical to efficiently serve Latinx communities during times of crisis. Cross-sector coalitions are particularly effective, allowing multiple organizations serving the same population to share knowledge and resources and to delegate responsibilities.