PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The Western Illinois Dreamers Welcome Center opened in August of this year, and the facility is already providing relief for local immigrant communities this Hispanic Heritage Month.
The center aims to empower immigrants by providing services such as financial aid with rent and bills, as well as connecting clients with medical services in the area.
“Well, it’s a challenge to face every day. It’s difficult not to understand English and not to speak it. But, well, with strength, anyone can do it,” said Yolanda Vasquez, a political asylum seeker. Vasquez spoke to WMBD through a translator.
Vasquez has been in Peoria for seven years, and with the help of the center, she and her children have been able to stay afloat.
“Right now, I’m waiting for rent help. They supported me with help for my lights and now I’m waiting and I hope it comes soon,” said Vasquez.
Western Illinois Dreamers Vice President Andrea Escobar said they have helped more than 100 people in the past month. She credited this success to the fact that the welcome center’s office is more welcoming than just providing a hotline.
“People have the need to see something in person as compared to picking up the phone and calling, because you don’t know who is calling at the other end but you can see someone when they come in an office,” Escobar said.
Escobar said the center is a great asset to the community, as connecting with residents can be hard due to fear.
“With Latinx clients or the immigrant/refugee population, they are very hesitant to come out of the shadows, they don’t want to overstep, they don’t want to ask for something because they are scared it might come back to bite them,” she said.
To learn more, visit Western Illinois Dreamers’ website.