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Connecting colonias with resources during the pandemic

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La Unión del Pueblo Entero, LUPE, on Tuesday distributed hygienic products to under-served populations struggling with the pandemic. Dozens showed up to receive their package at the San Juan office. 

Some of the people who showed up have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and the ensuing effects. 

Personal economies crumbled in the aftershock even as the wave of COVID-19 cases continues spreading across the Rio Grande Valley. People who live in colonias were at an inherent disadvantage when it hit them.

These neighborhoods are filled with families living with scant resources, meager wages, in multi-generational homes, and sometimes in the shadows of the law. 

Throw in COVID-19 in the mix and families in colonias can quickly be devastated economically and medically. 

LUPE is aware of these communities living in the margins and works diligently to bridge the gap between them and resources. 

Marcela Alejandre is one of the community outreach specialists. A lot of her time lately is spent less on the streets and more on the phone lines. LUPE started working from home, but it hasn't stopped them from scheduling appointments with families to provide daily education.

"The majority of people who are calling are asking about where there are sites offering cost-free COVID tests," Alejandre said.

Access to tests is the main concern for economically disadvantaged families who live in small spaces where it's impossible to social distance from a sick relative. 

"It's not only one family member who will get symptoms. It'll be several," Alejandre said. 

Quickly a family can be saddled with prohibitive testing costs. 

"The tests are between $75 to $85 and there's some sites charging $100 or more. So, trying to cover the cost for each family member is impossible right now," Alejandre said.

Recently, the surge testing at Bert Ogden Arena provided the opportunity for testing free of charge. 

Alejandre said it helped withe financial burden and access problems. "They offered free tests for those without symptoms. So, a lot of people were able to do it. Due to that, we saw a lot of people who tested positive."

Other calls they are also taking are people inquiring about rent and food assistance, especially with recent layoffs. LUPE will refer them to places like a governmental office or the food bank for help. A lack of ID stands between those living in the U.S. without legal status and resources. 

Membership cards are offered by LUPE at a nominal fee. It has the person's name, address, and photo.

"That identification is being accepted when they go get a test or to request food assistance," Alejandre said.

Anyone interested in getting connected to the right agencies or companies offering free testing or food donations can tune into LUPE's Facebook page. They host live streams daily to update viewers on the new places they can visit to seek help. 

Those without internet can call their office where they can help pre-register people for testing.

Between all these efforts combined, LUPE is hoping to keep families of all economic backgrounds survive unprecedented times.



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