Immigrant numbers, needs grow |

Immigrant numbers, needs grow

Effect of changing demographics discussed at Hayden meeting

— More than 30 people gathered in the library of Hayden High School last week to discuss the growing number of immigrants in Routt and Moffat counties. Among them were people from Mexico and South America, and longtime members of the nonprofit social service, law enforcement and education communities from both counties.

The group has been meeting in Steamboat Springs and Craig to discuss what effect changing demographics will have on the economies and social structures of Routt and Moffat counties and what people in the community can do.

Anglos and Latinos at first met separately but Wednesday night they came together to compare their needs and decide which needs to focus on as a group.

On Wednesday, they agreed that the Latinos wanted help understanding the laws of the United States, and both groups wanted a place to disseminate information to Spanish speakers either through television, radio or newspapers. Although there already are several Spanish translators in Routt County, more are needed to accompany people on doctor appointments and during court proceedings.

Kevin Haynes is the office manager for Routt County Department of Human Services but also works part time as an interpreter for Spanish speakers. He attended many of the meetings to discuss the demographics change.

“The biggest reason I have been attending is because I work with so many Spanish-speaking clients,” Haynes said. “I know there are a lot of needs, and I am curious to see what resources are out there.”

Some of the first steps to integrate the Latino community into Steamboat began during the fall with events such as the Mexican Independence Day celebration at City Hall.

“They have a rich culture and a lot to bring to the table,” Haynes said. “I would like to see us level the playing field so we can include them.

“I know some people are bothered by the fact that some of them are here illegally. But they are here, and their impact on the community can be positive.”

Many of the new residents are undocumented, and those who are documented do not always appear in the census.

“I started working (at DHS) in 2001,” Haynes said. “Late that year, we were able to get a grant that resulted in a position for a person to work just with that population.

“We were able to prove the need for that position just through raw census data.”

Cody Reed, who has organized the meetings with Summer Laws, is filling that position at Routt County Department of Human Services.

She has watched her idea to open a community dialogue grow from an e-mail announcing the first meeting into a collaborative process with community members.

Reed expects people to take ownership of their needs and form an action plan, she said.

“I don’t know if this is the best process, but no one has done this before,” Haynes said.

The group will meet again at 7 p.m. Dec. 9 at Hayden High School. Call Cody Reed at 879-2141, ext. 27.

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