By James Bash
For The Hollywood Star
Hacienda, a non-profit community development corporation, provides affordable rental housing, primarily in the Cully neighborhood. Hacienda also offers several programs that help homeowners and improve the lives of families. In today’s uncertain economic climate, those programs can make a big difference.
Still, because of its name, some people might think that Hacienda, located at 5136 N.E. 42nd Ave., serves only Latino-Americans.
“Hacienda is open to the public,” said Omar Martinez, who manages Hacienda’s home ownership program. “It helps all people, and a good portion of our customers are non-Hispanic.” According to Martinez, Hacienda may be the only U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-certified housing agency that has a bilingual staff.
Before the current economic downturn, the home ownership program focused on counseling and education for first-time home buyers. The counseling is one-on-one and covers financial aspects, such as budgeting and credit.
“The counseling helps people to prepare their applications for a mortgage and get through the home-buying process,” said Martinez. “Clear information about down payments and closing costs go a long way in helping people to make the right decisions.”
The education part of the program consists of a homebuyer education class that is required by HUD. Hacienda often works with other programs to find financial assistance for down payment for qualified buyers.
Hacienda also sponsors an annual Home Buyer Fair that connects trusted individuals in the real-estate field with interested home buyers. The next Home Buyer Fair will take place in May at the Oregon Zoo.
Hacienda also has a Foreclosure Prevention Program that has introductory meetings every Wednesday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Baltazar Ortiz Community Center (6736 N.E. Killingsworth St.). According to Martinez, that program has been very busy.
“People need to know that they can talk to their bank, if they have a problem,” said Martinez. “They don’t have to pay someone to do that for them.”
Linda Renn, a resident of the Concordia Neighborhood, discovered the Foreclosure Prevention Program on the Internet when she searched for help with her mortgage after she lost her job.
“It has made all the difference in the world to have the support and guidance of Hacienda,” said Renn. “They have certainly done a lot for me in the process, but I think that my success will depend on my being proactive and following up on things.”
Another successful program that Hacienda offers is an early childhood development program called Portland Niños, which helps parents with young children up to five years old. According to Tanya Wolfersperger, who directs Hacienda’s Community Building programs, the Portland Niños program uses a nationally based curriculum called Parents as Teachers to teach parents how to interact with their children in a way that will support their development. According to Wolfersperger, the program includes health screenings and literary readiness, to prepare children for kindergarten. Portland Niños, which is currently assisting 42 families, offers personal home visits and weekly support meetings for parents and their children.
“Any one can participate,” said Wolfersper-ger. “That includes pregnant women expecting their first child. Since we receive funding from the Portland Children’s levy, the parents must live within the Portland city boundaries.”
Hacienda also has an Afterschool Program that takes place at its community centers and housing-development sites. That program works with elementary and middle school students to improve their academic achievement by offering help with their homework, teaching them good study skills and providing access to the Internet to complete assignments.
“We also have personal development and civic participation,” said Wolfersperger. “We organize volunteer projects for their participation and bring in partner agencies for their personal development. We encourage parents to get more involved with their child’s education. This can be very helpful when there are language or cultural barriers.”
The United Way is a primary funding source for the Afterschool Program.
“This year we have 99 kids enrolled, and about 40 percent of them are Somali,” said Wolfersperger. “The program has benefited a lot from some volunteer tutors from Concordia University’s teaching program. We’d like to get a high-school program in place sometime in the near future. That would be terrific for the community.”
For more about Hacienda, visit haciendacdc.org.