A 24/7 Housing Interpretation Hotline has been launched to connect central Iowa landlords with residents who have language barriers. The effort is led by OpportUNITY’s New Iowans work group in partnership with the Iowa International Center, U.S. Committee for Refugee and Immigrants, HOME Inc., Polk County Health Department, the Iowa Department of Human Services, and the Bureau of Refugee Services.

 OpportUNITY’s New Iowans work group focuses on addressing issues refugees and immigrants face as part of a larger effort to fight poverty in central Iowa. Since 2014, OpportUNITY has united the entire community around creating opportunities for all central Iowans to thrive, especially the one-third who live below 250 percent of the federal poverty level and struggle to meet their basic daily needs. OpportUNITY is an initiative led by United Way of Central Iowa.

 “Being able to communicate is a major barrier that can prevent New Iowans from maintaining safe, stable housing and having a foundation to succeed in our community,” said Seth Johnson, director of OpportUNITY. “This hotline ensures landlords and tenants can communicate, and in the long run, will keep residents in their homes.”

The hotline provides an important service to a growing population in central Iowa. Forty percent of central Iowa’s population growth since 2010 has come from immigration, and 8 percent of central Iowans are refugees or immigrants.

To use the hotline, both the landlord and the tenant must be present. They can then dial (515) 282-8269, ext. 5. Once on the line, the tenant must say his or her language and someone can give the company code: 7092.

The New Iowans committee has created flyers in Nepali, Karen, Spanish, Somali, Burmese, Swahili, and Arabic to help a tenant tell a landlord when he or she does not understand. Flyers also provide information on how to call the 24/7 Housing Interpretation Hotline. Flyers and magnets are available to landlords to share when tenants move in or when they deliver information about lease renewals, safety notices, or issues that can lead to eviction.

“The 24/7 Housing Interpretation Hotline and the toolkit is a simple solution that has the potential to make a difference for so many people’s lives,” said Patricia Grote, executive director of the Iowa International Center. “Many landlords want to provide great communications for all their tenants. Bridging a language gap can keep a small issue from escalating.”

About OpportUNITY

OpportUNITY unites central Iowa to fight poverty together. The collective impact initiative is raising awareness that poverty and barriers to financial stability prevent central Iowans from thriving in the community and is engaging community members in reducing poverty through advocacy, education, and work groups focused on specific issues. Learn more here: 

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TAGS: opportunity

Seth Johnson

About The Author: Seth Johnson

Seth Johnson is program director of OpportUNITY.