Interdisciplinary team studies impact of housing on Latino health in Washoe County

An interdisciplinary team of researchers from the University of Nevada, Reno, the University of Utah and the Hispanic/Latino community of Washoe County is conducting a research study to examine the effects of housing instability on Latino and Hispanic family health in northern Nevada. The study is funded by a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Interdisciplinary Research Leaders Grant, the first to come up in Nevada. The highly competitive award brings together academic and community partners to work on important health research as equal partners while developing the skills to become community leaders and policy advocates.

Nevada’s housing crisis is multifaceted in character and impact and manifests itself in different ways across communities. While state and local responses prioritize housing stock and affordability, housing instability takes all forms, including displacement, lack of proximity to services, overcrowding, and poor home and neighborhood quality.

Nevada’s Hispanic/Latino community is a population that is largely underrepresented in traditional housing metrics that focus on shelter as a primary marker for housing stability. Nationwide data show that Hispanic/Latino people rely less on public services, instead turning to social and family networks for support rather than homelessness resources. As a result, Latino and Hispanic households are more likely to live in overcrowded homes, are more likely to rent and are more vulnerable to market forces that contribute to the burden and displacement of higher housing costs. How and where Latinx families engage with services is complicated by immigration status, language, and ethnic discrimination, according to a study published in the Journal of Social Distress and Homelessness.

Housing instability resonates in all aspects of economic, social and material life for Nevadans. As a social determinant of health, housing instability in the Hispanic/Latino community affects mental health and well-being at an individual and family level, according to Salud America. Denied mental health care and support disrupt networks that build resilience through crisis. During the pandemic, black and Hispanic households experienced the highest levels of housing instability, including the risk of eviction, according to the United Center’s housing study.

Despite what is known nationally about ethnic and racial disparities in housing instability, there is little systematic data to understand the cultural, ethnic, and legal constructs of housing instability and the health consequences for Latino households in Nevada. Washoe County now comprises approximately 25% of the Hispanic/Latino population, largely concentrated in a few zip codes. These are the zip codes that have experienced the highest rates of COVID-19 according to the Reno Gazette-Journal, scored highest on the community needs index according to Washoe County, and have the highest rates of gentrification according to this Reno reporting via Community Stories There are goals. In addition, undocumented Nevadans are excluded from all federal and many state and local aids and services, with federal sources being the primary source of housing support for the undocumented population.

The grant was awarded to a team of three fellows: Jesse Clark, associate professor in geography, Julie Lucero, former director of the Latino Research Center at UNR and current associate dean of diversity, equality, and inclusion in the College of Health, University of Utah, and Victoria Rios, former director of Northern Nevada at Faith in Action NV and community research and engagement lead.

The project uses a community-based participatory research (CBPR) mixed-methods approach that centers the voice of the community throughout all phases of the research. Critically, a seven-member Community Advisory and Research Board (CARB), composed of both Latino individuals who have experienced housing instability and those who work in key areas in the community, meets monthly to guide research. . The project was drawn from the work of Faith in Action (formerly ACTIONN), which led the creation of Washoe County’s first Affordable Housing Trust Fund in 2019, and Rios’ ongoing community organizing efforts in the Hispanic/Latino community.

One of the Community Advisory and Research Board meetings that will help improve the allocation of critical community health resources.

Through community engagement, it became clear that Washoe County’s Hispanic/Latino and undocumented populations faced a unique set of challenges regarding housing and health. Ongoing knowledge gaps at the institutional level and pandemic-induced disruption of services exacerbated these conditions. The concentration of resources available to undocumented persons and those without housing means those who are in shelter but living and working on the margins are overlooked.

“Amid the ongoing housing crisis, thousands of immigrants are living in fear of eviction, permanent job loss and even deportation,” Rios said. “Housing justice is an essential part of racial, social, and economic justice. Addressing housing inequities requires transformation of institutions and systems that have historically and today contributed to racial dispossession of land, home displacement, and social insecurity in Nevada. promote. Every child’s first experience should be in a place, a home, where there is love and care. They should never learn about the pain their parents are forced to migrate because His house is no longer safe.

Initial qualitative research began in the spring of 2022 with agency interviews and family focus groups. Mixed-method approaches include census-based map analysis, agency interviews, and community-based focus groups and mapping. The team anticipates using the data to support fair housing legislation, the expansion of Spanish language services and information, and better representation for the housing challenges of undocumented individuals.

A woman in rust-colored pants and a white shirt stands near a podium and speaks into a screen microphone.  reads the header text on the screen,
Francesca Rodriguez-Hart presented about the team’s work at the university’s GIS Day celebration, hosted by the Delamare Library, University Libraries, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, and Department of Geography.

Cecilia Alonso, Juan Manuel Briones, María Fernández, José Neri Jiménez, Oscar Macias, Ebert Rodríguez and Fátima Rivas are CARB members. In addition to CARB, the team is supported by a cross section of academic and community collaborators. At the University of Nevada, Japheth Sanchez, director of the Latino Research Center, is a co-investigator. Master’s student in geography Francesca Rodriguez-Hart and project mentors librarian Chrissy Klenke and geographer Scott Kelly guide the geospatial components of the project. University of Nevada alumni Abigail Navarro-Munoz and Carla Rodriguez serve as community research organizers. The project’s storymap is designed and managed by Francesca Rodriguez-Hart and Jesse Clark.

Focus groups for participating families will be held in the winter and spring of 2023.

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