Latino Town Hall- Tacoma, WA

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Project at a Glance

  • Issue Area Community vision and values, Education and youth, Racial equity and healing
  • Engagement Approaches Commissions/taskforces, Community conversations/dialogues, Community meetings (townhalls, forums, etc), Engaging non-English speakers, Engaging traditionally marginalized groups, Partnering with residents, Racial healing, Trust building, Visioning/ strategic planning
Project Description

Latino Town Hall

Rationale

While Tacoma-Pierce County is only 10% Latino, this population is growing, with many foreign-born residents.  

Goal

Create engagement avenues for this growing demographic group to build equity in community-decision making. 

Project Summary

In late 2015 a group of Latino activists worked with the City to hold a Latino Roundtable, which was attended by 40 people. One of the outcomes of the roundtable was to organize two Latino Town Halls in 2016, which attracted more than 250 attendees.  

During the first Town Hall in March at Mount Tahoma High School, over 150 people attended, which included Latino community members, including the Latino Task Force members and community leaders interested in hearing the voices of the Latino community. At the second Town Hall in May at Lincoln High School, approximately 100 attendees participated, including Latino community members, Task Force members and City Leaders and observers. Much of the discussion at the town halls centered around the lack of resources and services for the Latino community and the lack of a unifying agency.  

Three focus groups were conducted during each of the two Latino Town Halls at Mt. Tahoma High School and Lincoln High School for a total of six focus groups. Each of the three focus groups at each town hall targeted different demographics of the Latino community in Tacoma. The focus groups were divided into a) English language group b) Spanish language group and c) youth group. Interpretation services were made available for observers during each focus group, but observers were asked to not participate in the focus group.  

At each focus group, participants were asked four questions, which were modeled after questions the City of Tacoma used during the 2014-15 Human Services Strategic Plan data gathering process in order to ensure better reliability and validity of the questions themselves:

  1. What are issues affecting your ability to live the life you want to live in Tacoma?
  2. How can the Latino Community and the City of Tacoma work together toward solutions?
  3. What are the strengths of the Latino Community in Tacoma?
  4. What is your vision for the future of the Latino Community in Tacoma? 

Both Latino Town Halls, revealed high degrees of concern for a lack of availability of and accessibility to resources in the community, particularly in the areas of availability of health insurance, medical care, high quality education, and English classes. Many noted the absence of a unifying agency for Latinos that would serve the Latino community in the following ways: expressing Latino culture, advocating on behalf of the Latino community, and providing basic services for navigation of cultural systems, language services and cultural artistic expression. Both language and lack of culturally appropriate resources were seen as barriers and identified as having a significant impact on community members and the community’s quality of life. Education and economic/professional development remain a priority for participants, and many spoke to the concern for representation and inclusivity across the spectrum of services–judicial, law enforcement, education, housing, politics, etc. The cultural pride exhibited by the Latino community stood out as a strength for the majority, and participants expressed the desire for an increase in opportunities and services as representation improves.  

Engagement Strategies

The success of the two Town Halls were due in large part to the engagement strategies used in planning. To help overcome attendance barriers, free childcare, lunch and entertainment were included at the town halls. Locations were intentionally chosen to give access to both sides of town, one on the South End of Tacoma and one on the East SideEngagement efforts resulted in participants being representative of the broader Latino population in Tacoma based on their exit surveys. 

Outcomes

As a result of the Latino Town Halls, organizers formed their own group, Latinos Unidos del South Sound, to continue to work towards the goals of the town halls. The group has a dedicated liaison with the Tacoma City Manager’s Office to serve as a conduit between the Latino Community and the City.   

Another result of the town halls was an action by the Tacoma City Council in late 2017 to create the Commission on Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. The goal of the new commission, which is currently in formation, is to work with immigrant and refugee communities to identify needs and help achieve positive outcomes. The commission will study issues affecting immigrant and refugee communities and make recommendations to policy makers. Upcoming projects include the establishment of a citywide language access policy and recommendations for improving access to English language programs and capitalizing on the rich linguistic resources that immigrants and refugees bring to the community. 

Timeline of Project: Since 2015
Initiators: Community Organizers 
Additional Resources:
PBS Video
Tacoma Latino Town Hall Report
Tacoma, WA– 2018 AAC Finalist: Presentation
Local Contact:
Latinos Unidos del South Sound email  

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