Friday, May 02, 2008

Latinos Talk Housing, Puerto Rico statehood in Conference

Jason Hawk The Chronicle-Telegram
Monday April 28, 2008

ELYRIA — More than 40 million Latinos live in the United States, including more than 260,000 in Ohio.

But nobody’s paying much attention to the issues that affect them, said Joel Arredondo of the Coalition for Hispanic/Latino Issues and Progress.

That’s why his organization is stepping up this weekend to talk about how Latinos can cope with foreclosure, the “Latinization” of America and possible statehood for Puerto Rico.

The 13th Annual Hispanic Leadership Conference kicked off Friday night at the Holiday Inn in Elyria and continues today at Lorain County Community College. The most important issue of the year in Lorain — where 21 percent of the population is Hispanic — is foreclosure, said Mike Ferrer, coalition spokesman.

“Our conference is for the line worker who every day goes to work and tries to better their lives and their families’ lives,” Ferrer said. “We’re all family. We all need to work together to touch each others’ lives. If we can do that, our county will survive. We’ve got to break this trend, where everywhere you go there are empty houses.”

Paul Bellamy, former director of the Lorain County Reinvestment Coalition, is now an attorney for the Equal Justice Foundation. He’ll talk today at the conference about fair housing and mortgage lending inequity.As far back as 2002, Bellamy predicted a major lending disaster would take its toll on Ohio, and now he fights lenders who prey on disadvantaged and minority groups.

The keynote speaker at the conference will be Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro Cortés, who is the first Latino cabinet member in Pennsylvania history.

The foreclosure crises in both Pennsylvania and Ohio have decimated the Latinos in both states, he said. There’s a need for better education about lending, and it should be printed in Spanish, he said.

His advice to the Hispanic community in Lorain: Start putting money away for a rainy day and use tax refund checks this year to pay down debt instead of making expensive purchases.
“Use those economic stimulus checks from Uncle Sam to satisfy high-interest debt first,” he said. “That could save you up to 25 percent overall.”

Contact Jason Hawk at 329-7148 or jhawk@chroniclet.com.

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