Empire Justice Advocacy as Part of the Long Island Language Advocates Coalition Expands Access to Section 8 Housing

Cheryl Keshner, Linda Hassberg July 23, 2012

Wonderful news! Recently, the Town of Islip Housing Authority in Suffolk County started accepting applications for Section 8 housing subsidies for the first time in five years.  This was exciting news for low-income Long Islanders in need of affordable housing.  However, for those with limited English proficiency, the application process was not so easy.  Ana Giraldo, a bilingual community advocate from the Family Service League, a member of the Long Island Language Advocates Coalition (LILAC), attempted to assist clients to apply for a housing voucher and realized that the application had not been properly translated into Spanish.

Ana brought the translation problem to the attention of fellow LILAC member, Cheryl Keshner of the Empire Justice Center.  Together, they went through the Housing Authority’s website and realized that there were many improvements which needed to be made.  Cheryl and Ana wrote a letter to the Town of Islip Housing Authority detailing the problems and contacted the program’s executive director, Richard Wankel.  He immediately asked to meet with LILAC members and agreed to extend the Section 8 deadline by one month, until July 15th.

Cheryl, with Linda Hassberg (also from the Empire Justice Center), along with several other LILAC members, attended a meeting, at which the Housing Authority representatives agreed to have the Islip Housing Authority website and application professionally translated.  There was also some discussion regarding other issues which needed to be addressed for Section 8 applicants and recipients, including the translation of vital documents and more bilingual signage, as well as an increase in efforts to accommodate speakers of other languages besides English and Spanish.

We thank Richard Wankel, Executive Director of the Town of Islip Housing Authority, for being so receptive to our concerns and look forward to working together to help the program achieve a model LEP policy.  We also hope to expand our advocacy to other Section 8 programs.