Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month is an annual celebration of the generations of individuals who have positively shaped the fabric of America through their many contributions. At Heartland Alliance, we celebrated by asking staff and volunteers what Hispanic Heritage Month means to them and how this understanding influences their work to support our participants. Hear from a few our team members what themes most resonate with them. 

Barbara Martinez

Manager, Asset Building, Heartland Human Care Services
Opening Doors, Creating Opportunity, Economic Justice

Noemi Salgado

Volunteer, Vital Bridges West Side Pantry, Heartland Alliance Health
Serving the Community, Culture & Language, Values & Traditions

JuanCamilo Parrado

Senior Attorney, Immigrant Legal Defense Project, National Immigrant Justice Center, Heartland Alliance
Honoring the Journey, Valuing Diversity, Immigrant Rights

Daniella Silva

Communications Officer, Heartland Alliance International
Immigrant Communities, Singing & Celebrating, Empathy & Investment

Guadalupe Barrios

Clinical Case Manager, Violence Recovery Services, Heartland Human Care Services
Connections & Partnerships, Pride & Resilience, Community & Hope

Poverty Awareness Month

January is Poverty Awareness Month, a month-long initiative to raise awareness and call attention to the growth of poverty in America. For 130 years we’ve been fighting to end poverty by creating equity and opportunity. This entire month, we’ve been talking about how and why poverty continues to impact so many of us around the globe.

From housing and healthcare, to education and opportunity – Heartland Alliance’s pillars of focus are how we help individuals achieve success – they’re also constantly under attack by inequity.


Housing is fundamental to exiting poverty. Without the safety, stability, and comfort of a home, achieving other markers of success – through education, employment, and wealth building – is much more difficult. In 2015, 38 percent of all “renter households” were rent burdened – and 17 percent of renter households that are severely rent burdened—spending 50 percent or more of monthly income on rent.

There are housing components in each of our five companies, providing either emergency, transitional, or permanent supportive housing to individuals as a foundational part of their success. For Heartland Housing residents Geraldine and her daughter Pryesha, the safety and stability of their Milwaukee apartment have led to very real successes – hear their story.


Poverty is increasingly linked to disparities in life expectancy. Low-income Americans have higher rates of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other chronic conditions, compared to higher-income Americans. Further, poor health also contributes to reduced income, creating a cycle often referred to as the health-poverty trap.

Heartland Alliance Health has been providing healthcare access to some of Chicago’s hardest to reach populations for over three decades. Most recently, our new south side health center has helped us serve hundreds more in the Englewood neighborhood. See how this has impacted families.


Nearly 70 percent of adults having less than $1,000 in their savings accounts, and almost a third of all Americans without any savings at all. Ending poverty will require that individuals have the capacity to build real wealth, and not just live paycheck to paycheck.

Our Asset Building program connects individuals to resources and education that many today never receive – learning how to build and maintain savings and wealth. See how some of our most recent Asset Building graduates feel about their financial futures in this piece.


Poverty can impact the ability to obtain employment – but it can also force people to stay in jobs where they are unsafe, mistreated or take advantage of.

When individuals don’t have access to employment that is fair and based in human rights, they can fall further into poverty. Income from work improves access to the necessities of life – and we must work to create a society where no one has to choose between their dignity or their paycheck. See Isabel’s story to learn more about how fair treatment in the workplace is a crucial part of ending and keeping people out poverty.


Violence and poverty often flourish under the same circumstances, including lack of access to jobs, inadequate investment in public services, poor health conditions, lack of educational opportunities, and more.

Poor households nationwide experience violence at the highest rates, regardless of whether they’re in urban, suburban, or rural areas. Addressing poverty is a key part of ending violence. By bettering underlying quality of life conditions— we can ensure that every person has an adequate standard of living, free from poverty and violence.

Read Tevin’s story to see the impact of second chances. His experience shows that when we give people real opportunity when they return from incarceration, they can not only rebuild their own lives but bring hope to communities.


There are 4.1 million adults in Illinois alone who have a criminal record. In the US there are an estimated 50,000 collateral consequences for those who have been justice involved – meaning they have been restricted from housing, employment, education and other opportunities that help lift individuals out of poverty.

About 30,000 people leave Illinois prisons every year, and nearly half of them return within three years. Making it easier for ex-offenders to work by removing these collateral consequences, would reduce recidivism and increase equity and opportunity. We ALL deserve the opportunity to provide for ourselves and obtain opportunity. For years, as a member of the Restoring Rights and Opportunities Coalition of Illinois (RROCI), Heartland Alliance’s Policy team has been working closely with anti poverty agencies across the state to increase opportunity for ex-offenders by allowing them better access to education and jobs.

Our policy team’s Quentin Williams has been leading the charge to help those living post-incarceration find real justice – through hope and opportunity. See his ideas in this Spotlight on Poverty piece.

Heartland Alliance Supports the National Prison Strike and Efforts Recognizing the Basic Human Rights of ALL Prisoners

August 23, 2018 —At Heartland Alliance, we believe that every person has the right to safety, opportunity and justice. That is why we support the National Prison Strike being held from August 21 through September 9th, which will be led by incarcerated individuals throughout the nation. Prison reform is essential to combating the poverty, racism, inequity, and disenfranchisement that millions, including many of our participants, face every day.

There are currently more than 2.3 million people incarcerated in the United States and many of these individuals face inhuman treatment, physical violence, sentencing discrimination, disenfranchisement and exploitative labor practices. These practices do not empower our communities; they only further the trauma, violence, and poverty that many people with justice-system involvement have experienced. If we truly want change, we must create a system that values humanity, rehabilitation, and restorative justice. We support those within and outside of the criminal justice system who are working to end the human rights violations that have permeated our criminal justice system.

Among the demands of the strikers include;

  • Rescind the Prison Litigation Reform Act, allowing imprisoned humans a proper channel to address grievances and rights violations
  • No imprisoned human shall be denied access to rehabilitation programs at their place of detention because of their label as a “violent offender”
  • Immediate improvements  to  the  conditions  of  prisons  and  prison  policies  that  recognize  the  humanity  of  imprisoned  men  and  women
  • An immediate end to prison  slavery – all  persons  imprisoned  in  any  place  of  detention  under  United  States  jurisdiction  must  be  paid  the  prevailing  wage  in  their  state  or  territory  for  their labor

These demands aim to recognize the basic human rights of all prisoners and address the pervasive racial bias and violence inherent in our prison system. You can read the full list of demands here.

Heartland Alliance strives to bring about a more just society; without a system of justice that is rooted in human rights and equity, our society will never truly be just.

Click here to learn more about the National Prison Strike and see how you can help.

Ending Unlawful Detainment

Through a nationwide class action lawsuit and after years of advocacy, our National Immigrant Justice Center and its partners reached a groundbreaking settlement on behalf of individuals who fear persecution or torture in their home countries and are facing final removal orders while in the custody of Department of Homeland Security.